Capt. Arthur David LINKLATER

Captain Arthur David LINKLATER 1879 - 1955

World War II (iii)

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

Dum's more-or-less final appearance as Captain Arthur David Linklater was to offer his services and parade his achievements before the powers that be for one last time. In the following letter from 26 Chepstow Villas, London NW11 undated by him and a lapse not improved by “Central Registry Headquarters No. 18” who for ‘DATE’ wrote 5/4 1202/14. Presumably May or April but in any event their reply was dated 8th July 1939.

The Air Ministry, Dunfermline.


I understand the Ministry employs some men with sea experience in connection with floating docks etc for flying-boats. I am looking for employment in some form, and am prepared to do any thing and go any where. Briefly my experience and qualifications are these.

I have a Square-rigged Extra Master's certificate, and served my time in a square rigged ship. I was afterwards nine years with the British India Steam Navigation Coy. mostly on the Indian Coast, and transferred when Chief Officer to the Port Commissioners Calcutta in which service I was for seven years.

For six years I was in charge of the Commissioners Despatch vessels and the Port approach Department, the whole of the salvage work on the Hoogli, the bouyage,* light-house and light-ship services, tide semaphore, leading marks, gas and water barges etc

From here I transferred to Bombay as General Manager to Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji, the Royal Indian Marine, Port Trust, and British India Steam Navigation Coys contractor. We were the sole contractors for the Bombay Graving Docks, and for the docking, undocking, and shoring of vessels including the cleaning and painting of the same. Oiling, coaling, provisioning and fitting out of Troop-ships was largely done by ourselves.

I was in charge of this work for seven years during which period we carried out large reclamation works for the building of docks, coal bunds etc. From here I came home and was in charge of Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji's English estates at Windsor, Harrogate, etc till his death two years ago. I hold a complete set of first class testimonials for ability and conduct. For some years I was a member of the Royal Meteorological Society, and held a Commission in the R.N.R. before coming ashore. During the war I was engaged in towing barges, lighters stern-wheelers and various river craft from Calcutta and Rangoon to the Persian Gulf, and for a time in charge of the boarding and examination vessel in the Hoogli for vessels entering the port, and later with the dry-docking of vessels in Bombay.

I have been responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of large plants of marine gear such as dredgers, light-vessels, light- houses, bouys, chains, salvage gear etc, and was employed on troopships during the Boxer rising in China, the Boer war, and the Somaliland expedition.

I am 60 and have never been ill, and good for several years active work, and am prepared to take any job, however small the remuneration, you may consider I am suitable for.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your Obedient Servant


* This is a frequent mis-spelling which crept in after he had left the Hooghly. In other words; don't shoot the messenger.

He was jumping the gun a bit. He may have wished to be their humble servant but it required reciprocal enthusiasm on their part for him to serve. The trouble was, in 1939, he was 60 - hardly the prime of life even though he still claimed never to have been ill. Malinger he did not. Their reply dated 8th July, exactly on Dum's 60th birthday, was not encouraging. Dear Sir,
With reference to your letter returned herewith, it is regretted that it is not possible to offer you employment at this Headquarters.
It is felt, however, that with your splendid record of service and qualifications that your services could be usefully utilized in one of the Services, although in most cases the age limit regulation is 60, exemption may be made.
It is therefore suggested that you send a copy of the attached application to the Air Ministry and/or The Admiralty, London, where your application will receive consideration.

He wrote to “The Officer Commanding, Labour Branch, The Admiralty, Whitehall” on 14 July 1939 a letter very similar to the one he had written to The Air Ministry. On this occasion he asks specifically for “any job in the nature of ship-keeper of old mercantile tonnage” and continued;

I served my time as apprentice in sail, and then was about nine years in the B.I.S.N.Coy, mostly on the Indian coast, and transferred from this to the Port Commissioners of Calcutta in their Port Approach Dept. I was Master of their Despatch Vessels on the Hoogli for about seven years and was responsible for the salvage work on the river, and the maintenance of the Light-ships at the Sandheads and also for the upkeep of the whole of the bouyage system from the Garden Reach to the sea. During the first part of the war I was employed towing river craft from the Bay of Bengal to the Persian Gulf, and for a time had charge of the examination ship in the Hoogli for vessels entering the port.

[There follows brief details about his time with Dhunjibhoy.]

I have my name down on the Mercantile Marine War Service List, my registration No. being 32664, and would like if possible to avoid having to go to sea, as I have been away from it for so long.

I have been in charge of the maintenance and upkeep of large plants of marine gear such as dredgers, light-vessels, light-houses, bouys, chains, salvage gear etc, and have been employed in troopships during the Boxer Rising in China, the Boer War, and the Somaliland Expedition, and have been in hospital ships, horse ships and camel ships, the control of labour, provisioning of ships and such like.

He got a pretty terse reply from The Admiralty dated 8 August 1939 suggesting he get down to the labour exchange. It might have been a mistake to seek work with The Admiralty while in the same breath admitting that he did not really want to go to sea because he had been out of ships for so long! In fact it was probably more than twenty years since Dum had been Captain Arthur D. Linklater in any real sense; as far as I am aware his work with Dhunjibhoy was essentially a desk job requiring “a horse and cart or car” rather than a pinnace for getting about. From here on Dum was strictly a landlubber, and a poor one at that.

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