A  brief  Autobiography

by  Richard Lowery O.C.
 


"ONE LIFE TO LOVE"


      My career as a Naval Architect has been one of interest, excitement and joy to me. I cannot imagine being so happy in any other profession. I was fortunate in the fact that I was trained at a time of great technological change.
      Today's commonplace was then very new. For example, I grew up with the beginning of the common use of hull and propeller, model "basin" testing; the extended application of electric arc welding, with its attendant effects upon structural design; the escalating use of Diesel and Steam Turbine propulsion; of machined bronze propellers etc.
      This, at the time when Great Britain was the acknowledged leader in shipbuilding and ship operation.
      More important however, in my opinion, was the increased awareness that individual ship designs and machinery and equipment choices should be based upon "cost effectiveness." Naturally, as a pupil naval architect, I took these changes in stride; and, as a pupil, I wrote technical papers and, (I believe) introduced the technique of determining best ship dimensions, power and layout etc. on a "cost effective" basis.
      In those days many senior Naval Architects had a pupil N.A. at their side. This was very good for me, as I accompanied Sir John T. Batey (a famous Naval Architect of that time). I accompanied him on many of his travels and business trips. This meant that I had to carry his briefcase and do any errands he ordered.
      The overall idea, however, was that so far as business was concerned, I would see and hear what he did or said. I would therefore acquire a faster appreciation of the fact that being a Naval Architect was not just understanding hydrostatic curves or stability calculations etc.
      Before I was 21 years old I had, for example, visited the National Physical Laboratories in Teddington, London, many times;, had journeyed from Paris to Athens on the luxurious "Orient Express", attended a meeting with King Farouk of Egypt--for whom we had built a private yacht; and had received about $1.50 "danger money" for being on the first test dire of a new submarine which our company had just built.
    Five years after graduation I married, and my wife Dorothy and I spent our honeymoon, passage paid, on a slow boat to Singapore, where, due to a series of circumstances I became Assistant General Manager and Chief Naval Architect in 3 months.
      While we were in Singapore, Japan was at war with China. As a result I was on a ship called "Hecla" where the Chinese crew decapitated the Captain and Chief Engineer and escaped ashore.
      My other experiences in Singapore, included being on a ship boarded by Chinese pirates; seeing (in 1940) a 30,000 ton passenger liner, full of passengers sail at speed into a minefield, blow up and sink while hundreds of small craft and a few thousand people watched, helpless.
      I also remember being in hospital a couple of times as the result of burns received while fighting shipfires started by fifth columnists.
      After the fall of Singapore, my wife and I ended up penniless in Australia, where I became Naval Architect and General Manager of the Melbourne Harbour Trust and Technical Advisor to the Commonwealth Salvage Board.
      In Australia, I had a busy time, being responsible for building two shipyards and also being involved in many ship salvage operations.
      Two of the ships we built each had six propellers abreast, which unique fact got me into the "Guinness Book of World Records".
      I met and worked, for both General Douglas McArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz.
      The war over, as "displaced persons," my wife Dorothy and I, with baby daughter Jane, were obliged to leave Australia for the U.K. on a troopship with a very mixed bag of passengers, including about 1000 Australian "War Brides", some of them with very young children; also about 200 unrelated passengers including the Bishop of Singapore, the Head of the Salvation Army, six enemy spy prisoners etc. etc.--and about twenty nuns.
      The voyage was a nightmare. Due to breakdowns, it took 8 weeks. We had one murder, one suicide, one Airforce Officer who went crazy etc. All of this against the background of a crew neglecting their work in order to have time to pursue "brides" and later to engage in virtually public, gymnastic, sexual activity with them. They appeared to use every available location on the ship, including one couple who specialized in the "Crows Nest."
       In England, I found no suitable employment, but for reasons not clear to me then, the Royal Navy and Lloyds Register obtained employment for me in Canada as V.P. and Naval Architect of Canadian Vickers Ltd., Montreal, Canada.
      My first job was to build a "Central Naval Drawing Office". Employ from Great Britain and France some 300 draughtsmen to produce the working drawings for the first Royal Canadian Naval Vessels designed for A.B.C. warfare (Atomic, Bacteriological and Chemical). The ships to be built in Canada.
      While at Canadian Vickers I visited South America several times and we built ships for Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Columbia etc. and for France and Holland as well as for Canada.
      During my time at Canadian Vickers, when visiting Argentina, I had one experience involving Evita Peron and "Gearing" Class U.S. Destroyers.
      After 5 years I moved to Canada Steamship Lines with its own large fleet of ships and five shipbuilding yards etc.
      Even since I retired, I have seen an old ship which I had built some 40 years before; stripped, gutted, blown-up and sunk to form an artificial fishing reef within sight of our winter home in Florida.
     Most of these "adventures" are set out in more detail elsewhere.
      Coincidence has been a great factor in my life! So has my wife Dorothy--without her there were times when I might have said, "let's just take it easy!"
      I would ask anyone who reads these accounts to realize that they are written from memory and without notes.
      Whenever, for the sake of the narrative, I have used proper names of people, the names are almost certain to be inaccurate as I have a poor memory for proper names.
      The sections dealing with Mr. Peter Miller, General McArthur, and General Steele are however, really about those gentlemen.

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