From Hardships to Steamships

From Hardships to Steamships


From Hardships to Steamships: Memoirs of a Merchant Seaman During World War II

The hardships of Charlie Workman’s early life during the 1920s and 30s in Barrow-in-Furness, were a good grounding for his wartime experiences in the Merchant Navy. 

With two sisters and two brothers, those early years were particularly difficult, as his father had lost both legs in a shipyard accident and there was little help at that time. However, his father did instil a strong sense of social justice in him which is reflected in this book.

From experience gained working in the docks, Charlie knew that he wanted to become a merchant seaman. With the imminence of war and conscription making the issue more pressing, he managed to convince the captain of a Norwegian ship, the SS Fidelio, to sign him on, destined for Canada. 

His next ship was the SS Llanstephan Castle, taking servicemen via South Africa to the Middle East and India. Then he joined the MV Winchester Castle, firstly taking marine commandos on training exercises around Scottish islands, then, in ‘Operation Ironclad’, back to South Africa.

Experiences at sea and in foreign ports are relieved with occasional return visits home where, of course, the war was also having its impact on family and friends. 

Life became ever more hazardous when the Caledonian Star was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat off America; Charlie and the crew escaping on lifeboats. Then on the hospital ship Llandovery Castle he witnessed many of the terrible injuries inflicted through war. 

For a few years after the war Charlie Workman continued as a merchant seaman, but he finally left, with no regrets; he had taken the path of his choice and seen the world in a way otherwise impossible to him.

ISBN: 9781852001087 

Size: 217x140mm 

Binding: hardback 

Length: 211pp

Add To Cart

About the author:

Charlie Workman

The author was born in Barrow-in-Furness and was a merchant seaman from 1940 to 1952. From being a seaman he became acting foreman handling ship movements for Vickers-Armstrong. 

He has a wife and two grown-up children, and over the years has also worked as a rigger, a golf club steward and a hotel chef. 

This book was written to help explain how, from the abject poverty of 1930s working class life, the Second World War changed many people’s lives forever.