06 September 2010

The Master

From The Sunday Morning Star on this day in 1936:

Sea Queen's Captain.

If the Britten family of Yorkshire, England, had had its way, son Edgar might now be a captain of industry. It would be nothing but a landlubber captaincy, however.

But the elder Brittens didn't have their way. At 18, Edgar ran away to sea. Now he is a real captain. The big figure of Sir Edgar Britten strides the bridge of England's pride and joy, the Queen Mary. He is the master.

At 62, Sir Edgar can recall voyages on most of the seven seas. Like most veteran mariners, he has had his share of adventure and danger. As a matter of fact, he was steeped in risk from the outset. His maritime life began with an apprentice's job aboard the barque, Jessie Osborne, trading between England and the west coast of South America.

There wasn't a Panama Canal in those days. From England, the ship made its way down the west coast of Africa and struck out across the South Atlantic.

But the hazards were all part of a seaman's life and that was the life Edgar Britten wanted. Doggedly he stuck to his tasks. His spare time was devoted to study. When he joined the Cunard Line in 1901, he had his master's certificate.

The outbreak of World War found him master of the Phrygia, engaged in Mediterranean service. Before that he had served aboard the Lusitania whose name, two years later, was seared into the memory of millions as a German torpedo sank it.

During the war occurred Capt. Britten's most nerve-wracking voyage. He had to take a cargo to the Russian port of Archangel, on the White Sea. This meant steaming deep inside the Arctic Circle. It was late in the year and the ship, the Lycia, barely made port before the ice closed in.

Capt. Britten was trapped. For five months the ship was ice-locked. When it did get out, it had to push through ice at the rate of about five miles a day until the open sea was reached.

Since those days, the strapping skipper has issued orders aboard most of the prize ships of the Cunard Line. In 1931 he reached the pinnacle of Cunard posts-the mastership of the Berengaria, then the flagship of the line.

Three years ago he was knighted. Since the Cunard and White Star lines merged in 1934, Sir Edgar has held another title. He is Commodore of the line's fleet.

No comments:

Post a Comment