(For news items up to and including June 2010, please visit the Archive)

Brian Slater

posted 21 May 2017, 02:26 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 21 May 2017, 02:28 ]

We have received the following sad news from Bob James, former Fleet Personnel manager (OCL/P&OCL):   
I regret to inform you that Chief Engineer Officer Brian Slater passed away at home on Wednesday 17 May. Brian transferred from P&OSNCo to OCL/CFL in 1968. He stood by the buildings of Flinders Bay and Discovery Bay in Hamburg. 

Brian's funeral will be held at Hereford crematorium on Wednesday 31 May.

Bob James.

100th Anniversary of the sinking of the s.s. Otaki

posted 29 Apr 2017, 04:51 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 29 Apr 2017, 08:07 ]

2017 marks the centenary of the sinking of the New Zealand Shipping Company vessel s.s. Otaki by the German surface raider SMS Moewe.  The Otaki was a refrigerated cargo ship which in early 1917 was under the command of Captain Archibald Bisset Smith, sailing from the UK for Australia via the USA and the Panama Canal.  

On 10 March, while on route from London to New York, the Otaki was attacked by the the German surface raider, the Moewe. Rather than attempting to flee, the Otaki turned to engage.  Despite only being lightly armed, the Otaki managed to inflict serious damage on the enemy vessel before she was sunk. Captain Bisset Smith went down with his vessel and four other crew also lost their lives.  The remainder who had been on board were taken prisoner.

"The sinking of SS Otaki by SMS Mowe" by K.T. Rousell [

For his role in this action Captain Bisset Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross (the award being made in 1919 following a posthumous commission as a temporary Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve).  The citation for the VC reads:

For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the S.S. "Otaki," on the 10th March, 1917.
At about 2 30 p m on 10th March, 1917 the S.S. "Otaki," whose armament consisted of one 4.7 in gun for defensive purposes, sighted the disguised German raider "Moewe," which was armed with four 5.9 inch, one 4.1 inch and two 22 pdr guns, and two torpedo tubes. The "Moewe" kept the "Otaki" under observation for some time and finally called upon her to stop. This Lieutenant Smith refused to do, and a duel ensued at ranges of 1900-2000 yards, and lasted for about 20 minutes.
During this action, the "Otaki" scored several hits on the "Moewe," causing considerable damage, and starting a fire, which lasted for three days. She sustained several casualties and received much damage herself, and was heavilv on fire. Lieutenant Smith, therefore, gave orders for the boats to be lowered to allow the crew to be rescued. He remained on the ship himself and went down with her when she sank with the British colours still flying, after what was described in an enemy account as "a duel as gallant as naval history can relate."

Captain Bisset Smith's Victoria Cross is part of the P&O Heritage Collection in London.

Captain Bisset Smith had been a pupil at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen and since 1937 that college has awarded the Otaki Shield and a travel scholarship to one pupil.  The trip from the UK to New Zealand and back was originally provided by the New Zealand Shipping Company but with the introduction of containerisation on the ANZ route Overseas Containers Limited (OCL) took on that role.  Many will remember how OCL (then P&O Containers and then P&O Nedlloyd) carried the Otaki Scholar out to New Zealand and back.  From 2002 the tradition of the sea passage was broken with the recipient of the Otaki Shield award travelling by air.

Robert Gordon's College has produced a very interesting video covering the story of the s.s. Otaki, their illustrious former student Captain Bisset Smith and the history of the Otaki Shield award: 

Aberdeen City Council have released a video showing how that city has marked the 100th anniversary.  Again, well worth a watch:

To commemorate the centenary the shipping magazine Seabreezes has published an excellent article which is well worth a read.  A section of that article can be accessed via the link below:

PONL Heritage would like to thank Ken Allwyn and SCARA for the suggested news item.

Beagle/Maersk House - A historical survey

posted 22 Apr 2017, 14:25 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 22 Apr 2017, 14:51 ]

PONLHeritage and SCARA have been contacted by a team who are in the process of recording the history of Whitechapel, the area of London chosen nearly 50 years ago as the home of the HQ for Overseas Containers Limited (OCL).  One of the individual buildings that will be covered by the project is Beagle House (now Maersk House) and they have asked us to publish this request for photographs, memories and other information.   

Maersk House - Photo courtesy of Derek Kendall

(Maersk House - Photo courtesy Derek Kendall)

The Survey of London has recently written up a short history of Maersk (formerly Beagle) House ( as part of its current research into the history of Whitechapel, work that will eventually result in the 54th volume in the Survey’s long-running series dedicated to London’s architectural history. It contains a number of evocative interior photographs of the building in 1974.

The Whitechapel project is a departure and an experiment for the Survey which is now part of University College London. Its present research phase is based on an interactive website funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The map-based site is compiling contributions from the public that embrace personal memories as much as expert knowledge and images, whether photographs or drawings. Launched in September 2016, our website will remain live up to the end of 2018.

If you have any information, research, images, or memories of working in Whitechapel, you can sign up and start contributing them here: or email

Survey of London

PONLHeritage - 10 years

posted 8 Feb 2016, 08:52 by Mike Chapman

Although the takeover commenced in 2015 most see 2006 as the final year for our old company, making 2016 the 10th anniversary of P&O Nedlloyd disappearing from the shipping scene. Our company may be gone but it is definitely not forgotten!

PONLHeritage was launched exactly 10 years ago, on 8 February 2006.  Some of the senior PONL management had recognised that the takeover would result in not only the loss of a company with a significant history but also the end of the contact that we had with colleagues around the world.  PONLHeritage was set up to preserve and communicate our shared history and to give people a way of keeping in touch. Some funding was organised to get this website off the ground and to cover the first few years of operation (that funding including a generous donation from the Beagle House Sports & Social Club).  As well as the website, the LinkedIn PONLHeritage group was created with invites to join the network being sent out worldwide.  

Another initiative that started around the same time was the formation of SCARA, the association for former employees and contractors of OCL, P&O Containers, P&O Nedlloyd and associated companies. From day one, SCARA and PONLHeritage have worked closely together to achieve the common aims. 

So where are we after ten years?  This website is still very much up and running with just over 3,000 visitors and 18,000 page views in 2015.  We also get 2-3 email enquiries per month.  Some of those messages are rather speculative (sadly we can't offer people jobs on ships!) but we've been able to provide assistance to people trying to trace their pension by pointing them in the right direction and have also helped a few times with research for a book or magazine. The PONLHeritage LinkedIn group has 750+ members but with the growth of that social media site over the years it's fair to say that the number of people now connected is far greater than that.

SCARA has also grown from strength to strength since its first reunion lunch in 2006.  Sadly many of the communications we post on this website on SCARA's behalf  relate to funerals but with the new faces that appear at its events every year the membership is clearly growing.

While the above story is about objectives successfully met, what no one could have envisaged was how informal networks would spring up to also help keeping us together.  The PONL Facebook group with its 2,000+ members and regular posts about reunions aropund the world is perhaps the most obvious and it is great to be able to read about the events being held in Hing Kong, Japan, Milan, New York, Rotterdam, Singapore, Sydney to name just a few of the venues.  It was that Facebook group that was used to bring over a hundred people together a couple of weeks ago for a gathering linked to the imminent demolition of our old London HQ, Beagle House (now Maersk House).   

The PONL Facebook group is just one of several which are being used to keep people in touch around the world.  There are groups related to locations and roles (the Bay Boats Facebook group has nearly 550 ex-seastaff members).  There was a time when we tried to keep a track of them all but that's now become an impossible task!  

Who could have imagined at the time of the takeover that in 2016 we would have such a thriving community around the world, staying in touch and sharing news?  The bond that exists between former colleagues is surely a reflection of how special that company that we all worked for was.

PONL Heritage - celebrating the past, staying in touch in the future...

Last few weeks for former London HQ...

posted 6 Jan 2016, 08:31 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 6 Jan 2016, 09:00 ]

The occupants of Maersk House (ex-Beagle House) have been given notice to vacate the building by the end of March so that demolition can commence in Q2 2016.

Multiple planning applications have been submitted for the development to replace Beagle/House House but the replacement of our old HQ building (see see Beagle House - Gleeson Propertieslooks to be part of the overall redevelopment/regeneration plan for the Aldgate area (Costar Finance - Aldgate Developments & Aldgate Tower)
Beagle House was originally built for Overseas Containers Limited (OCL) with the HQ staff relocating from various offices on and around Bevis Marks on what was considered at the time the edge of the City of London.  The site on the junction of Braham Street and Leham Street which was then known as Gardiner's Corner was selected 1971 with the chosen architects for the nine storey building being Richard Seifert & Partners, a firm which also worked on Centre Point and the NatWest Tower.  The construction work was completed in time for Beagle House to be occupied in June 1974.  

The name taken for the building is thought to have come from a former Brown & Eagle warehouse which known as 'Beagle House' which was originally on the same site.

The 'Braham Street, London E1 8EP' shipping HQ building, which was designed to accommodate 900 staff, was originally on a 99 year lease with Town & City Properties which in turn had a 999 year lease from Hambro Life who owned the freehold.  The chairman of Town & City Properties at this time was Jeffrey Sterling (later Sir Jeffrey then Lord Sterling) who of course became P&O group chairman a few years later.

Prior to the merger with Nedlloyd Lines (following which the HQ function was split between London and Rotterdam) Beagle House housed the European trade divisions (FET, ANZ, etc.), Fleet Management Division (FMD), International Container Management (ICM), the Information Technology Division (ITD), Group Commercial and other key functions such as HR (probably then known as 'Personnel'!) and the Company Secretary's Office.  The boardroom was on the 8th floor as was the senior management dining room (closed down along with the ground floor staff bar following the appointment of Tim Harris as chairman).  A single storey extension was built to the west for the staff restaurant and as numbers grew Central House just a short walk away on the other side of Camperdown Street was secured to provide additional office space.

Following the A.P.Moller-Maersk takeover in 2005/06 the building was renamed Maersk House and downgraded to regional office status.  Over the years various functions have been moved elsewhere and at the time of writing it is understood that Maersk occupy only 2-3 floors. Other tenants are the media/technology companies Sky and Huddle.

Paul Lydon

posted 27 Nov 2015, 13:02 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 6 Dec 2015, 10:02 ]

More sad news...  Paul Lydon, ex-ITD London has passed away.  Paul joined P&O Containers in 1989 and took on many roles in the IT division until his early retirement from P&O Nedlloyd in 2006 at the time of the A.P.Moller-Maersk takeover. 

Since leaving Beagle House for the final time Paul has spent the last 10 years gaining an MA in History from the Open University, learning to play the saxophone, travelling to exotic locations with his wife Carole, and generally enjoying life with his family (as he puts it, his "wonderful wife, 3 great children and 5 superb grandchildren") and friends.  

Paul used to talk about his rugby but in more recent years he was also actively involved with the Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers Running Club.

This news has come to us via Paul's Facebook page and funeral details have not yet been provided.  An update will be provided here when that information becomes available.  

See also:

UPDATE: Paul's funeral takes place at Crownhill Crematorium, Dansteed Way, Crownhill, Milton Keynes MK8 0AH at 10am on Friday 11 December 2015. After the service there will be food and refreshments from 11:00 - 15:00 at Flitwick Football Centre (92 Ampthill Rd, Flitwick, MK45 1BE opposite One-o-One Shell Petrol Station). The bar opens at 12:00.  The family have said that the dress code is whatever makes people comfortable. Black is fine, but something colourful will be fine too.

Geoff Bolton

posted 13 Nov 2015, 13:09 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 13 Nov 2015, 13:23 ]

We have been passed the very sad news that former OCL/P&OCL veteran Geoff Bolton passed away in hospital in Shoalhaven (New South Wales, Australia) on 5 October 2015 following a fall at his home.

In recent years Geoff has been very active keeping people in touch, organising events and circulating news about reunions etc.  He set up the OCAL People site ( and has submitted several news items that have been published here on  One of those items was a report of a reunion that he attended in Tokyo last year which included this summary of his career in shipping:

"November 2014 saw a long-wished reunion in Tokyo: Geoff Bolton,
OCL/P&OCL veteran of thirty years from the 1967 startup of the OCAL head
office in Sydney, had moved to Japan soon after the first ‘Encounter Bay’
voyage arrival from Europe - for a 3-year secondment to the Swire Shipping
Tokyo office during 1970-73. Geoff was systems project manager alongside
local Swire Systems department manager Teru Noma for the initial AJCL
(Australia-Japan Container Line) container trade to Australia from 1970,
followed two years later by the OCL Europe-Japan trade.

An additional New Zealand service by CSCS (Crusader Swire Container
Service) was also supported by this department in later years.

After his later return to OCAL Sydney in 1973 Geoff became commercial
manager for the AJCL trade for six years, then later becoming Australian
Container Manager for a similar term."

In the picture on the right which accompanied the reunion report Geoff is pictured third from the left in the back row.

Harold Anderson

posted 15 Apr 2015, 12:26 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 15 Apr 2015, 12:28 ]

We have received the sad news that Harold Anderson who managed the Port Adelaide office for many years passed away yesterday, Tuesday 14 April 2015.

More details have been posted by Rob Bryson and David Baker on the OCAL PEOPLE website.  Harold was the former mayor of the City of Charles Sturt.  The council has published an obituary - See Former Mayor Harold Anderson AM, JP.

Australia Day award for Mike Coffey

posted 26 Jan 2015, 00:14 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 26 Jan 2015, 00:14 ]
We have received the following great news via Geoff Bolton:  

"Today's Australia Day (26 Jan) Honours list includes a Medal of the Order of Australia award (OAM) 'to Michael Francis Coffey for services to business, commerce, and the community' - for which congratulations from all his former OCAL colleagues."

We would normally provide a short biography for Mike here but we don't think we can do better than publish a link to the Australian Daily Telegraph article:

We are sure that all of Mike's former colleagues worldwide will want to add their congratulations.

Cabers to Australia

posted 15 Nov 2014, 14:32 by Mike Chapman   [ updated 15 Nov 2014, 15:24 ]
Three weeks ago we put out a plea for information on behalf of an Australian Scottish Highland Games enthusiast (see Were you working for OCL in the early 1970s?).  James Grahame is in the process of completing a book on his sport and was looking for information on the shipment of some cabers from the UK to Melbourne by Overseas Containers Limited (OCL) in the early 1970s.  

Being honest, expectations weren't high on this but we had underestimated how effective a network of ex-colleagues could be!  

James had been hoping to secure a copy of an article covering the shipment that appeared in the OCL in-house magazine.  After SCARA kindly circulated the request for information to its members former General Manager of Group Commercial Division Dennis Greenland stepped forward and sent a scanned copy down to James (to access a legible version of the image, please click on the picture below).

The next breakthrough came from Australia and again showed how useful email can be!  Via Paul Windfield, Geoff Bolton, Charles Burne, and Don Bienvenu contact was made with Barry McDonald who provided James with the following account:

"Yes,  I  remember  these  cabers  well.  I  was  with  OCAL  at  the  time,  being  involved  with  the European  trade  in both  directions.

"Billy  Binks  approached  me  all  those  years  ago  to  see  if  we  could arrange  the  delivery  of  the cabers  used  at  the  Braemar  Games, as they wished  to  use  them  at  the  Highland  Games  at Maryborough, Victoria,  held  every  year  on  New  Years  Day.  These  games  still exist,  but  I  don’t know  where  their  cabers  come  from  now.

"The  fact  that  these  cabers  had  been  used  at  such  a  renowned Games  at  Braemar  brought  a  lot of good  publicity,  and  I  have  a feeling  the  TV  channels  were  alerted  in  that  area  around Bendigo.  

"I  arranged  with  the  late  Eric  Watson,  the  marketing  manager  in  Scotland, for  OCL,  to  provide  a forty  foot  container  to be  used  as  FCL,  and  he had dealings  with  some  of  the  Braemar  people. As a  result,  the  container was  delivered  as  an  FCL   from  Melbourne  to  Maryborough,  and Billy arranged  the  unloading,  amid  the  politicians  and  photo  opportunists!   

"We  carried  these  cabers  for  several  years,  and  I  recall  Billy  telling  me that  most  of  the cabers  “failed”  to  be  thrown  properly  at  Breamar,  and at  Maryborough !

"As  I  recall  Billy,  he  was  a  fearsome  looking  big  man with  red  hair and red  beard,  but  the nature  of  a  thorough  gentleman.  I  think  he  had  a home  in  Benambra,  in  the  hills  north  east  of  Melbourne.

"Hope  this  recollection  helps.    Cheers

"Barry  McDonald"

In his response to Barry, James confirmed that Billy Binks is still with us and continues to referee/run the heavy events at Maryborough, Geelong and Beechworth every year.  He has several of the cabers under his house which he selects from for the games.

We've also had a note from James in which he says::

"I just wanted to thank the PONLHeritage website for helping me in my research.

"My quest for a copy of a 43 year old article from an OCL internal magazine was always going to be tough.  I had already researched the various Highland Games book which referred to it and failed to find a copy of it anywhere online.

"I could not have anticipated the friendly and prompt assistance I received from PONLHeritage.  This resulted in contact from one of the original men involved in the shipping of the Cabers.  I also received a copy of the article from a couple who had (amazingly!) kept every copy of the OCL magazine in their loft.

Thank you all for taking the time to help.

"All the best


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