Sailing back to memories

Walter Forrester
Walter Forrester
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A FORMER merchant seaman enjoyed an emotional voyage back to his days as a teenage adventurer.

Walter Forrester was just 16 when he signed up to serve on the Royal Research Ship (RSS) Shackleton – named after the famous explorer – bound for the Falkland Islands and Antarctica.

Walter next to Shackleton Cross

Walter next to Shackleton Cross

Mr Forrester, of Fatfield, Washington, now 71, was one of a number of young men who answered the call to serve from a Captain Charles Brown, of Blaydon, in September 1956.

The teenage seaman soon experienced a whole new world, swimming in waters off the Falklands and hunting for food for husky dogs brought along on a trip that included scientists carrying out various types of research, in often sub-zero temperatures.

Mr Forrester, now a grandfather, was this week allowed to visit his old bunk on the ship – now called the MV Sea Profiler – when the ship was docked in Hull.

He said: “I was a catering boy and my only previous time at sea was a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

“But the Falklands and Antarctica was a completely different experience, in a whole other world, and it’s something I’ve never stopped talking about ever since.

“It took about a month to get down there and I remember swimming off the ship in the Falklands.

“We had a lot of scientists on board, who were carrying out all sorts of meteorological and seismic research work.

“Apart from working on supplies and carrying sheep to South Georgia in the Falklands, I was dispatched to hunt seals and even penguins on the rocks, which were needed to feed the husky dogs used by the scientific teams.”

The five-month trip included a rough trip around Cape Horn.

Just over a year ago, Mr Forrester and his wife, Amelia, 68, took the chance to visit the former scientific vessel while it was berthed in Great Yarmouth, during an extended holiday, which took in the Falklands and South America.

Mrs Forrester said: “He’s never forgotten his trip to the the Falklands and Antarctica as a young man.

“We contacted the ship in Hull and they agreed to let Walter visit and even sit in his old bunk on the former RSS Shackleton.”

Mr Forrester said he wanted to visit his old ship one last time, before it is scrapped.