Crazy Over A Fridge
Our new Events Secretary has heeded my call for newsletter items and has provided this contribution (The Pictures are ones I have acquired from the internet of liners used on the same service).
Many years ago I was an Engineer Officer on Cunard ships, and for a time was on the Quebec/Southampton service.
Amongst my various jobs was maintaining refrigerators and one day I had a call to repair a 'fridge where vaccines were stored. outside the ships hospital.
I was dressed in a white boiler suite and an officers cap, and when I arrived one of the hospital doors close to the fridge. was open.
I had just started to look at the machine when the hospital door was violently slammed, and when a nurse tried to open it found that somehow it had been locked .
The door could not be opened, but it was possible to look through an adjacent pipe hole into the locked room, and the resident had a knife and was threatening to kill himself.
It appears that the man had escaped from one of the Communist countries, and was returning to Europe. He had mistaken me for a prison guard or something similar and thought that I had come to return him to a prison.
We were concerned in case he threw himself out of one of the open portholes, and so the crew lowered a long ladder horizontally over the side of the ship so that a rung was blocking the port-hole - it was of sufficient length to secure the ends to two other port-holes either side of the room. It has to be remembered that this was in the middle of the North Atlantic!
After some debate it was decided to get two of the ships policemen (known as Master at Arms) ready to stand by, holding a mattress with the intention of rushing into the room and overcoming the man with the mattress, as soon as access was obtained.
To gain access two of the ships carpenters tried to open the door, without success, so the Master at Arms broke the door down and overcame the man, who burst into tears.
They put the man into a straight jacket, but international law prevented keeping anyone in this constraint for more than about eight hours, so the man had to be held in the ships isolation hospital which was at the extreme stern of the ship, directly above the propellers and subject to violent vertical movement. Two stewards were given the job of continually keeping watch on the man, until we got to Cherbourg. The stewards were less than pleased.
This was the most peculiar 'fridge job that I ever had to do.