HMS Wren was a Black Swan Class sloop commissioned by The Royal Navy in February 1943 and paid a formal visit to The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman in July 1948.
My Dad took these photographs during their stay, especially on the arrival on the ship of Sultan Said bin Taimur.
The British Government at the time were supporting the Sultan in his claim for independence from Saudi Arabia – that independence was granted just a few years later in 1951, much to the discomfort of surrounding states and Egypt, who saw this as Western interference in local affairs.
The prize was oil revenues – then a relatively new discovery.
My Dad’s photos of the town beneath the Fort show a ramshackle collection of properties that contrast with the modern city that sits there now – oil revenues have revolutionised the area.
The Sultan was deposed by his own son in 1970 and spent the last two years of his life living in the Dorchester Hotel, London.
Charlie had fond memories of his time in the Persian Gulf and he found the people warm and friendly, even if the climate was almost intolerable.
He told us stories of cans of Carnation evaporated milk that would sit, opened, in the ship’s galley and the feelers of cockroaches that would appear out of the top of the tins when they were lifted to pour.
Many tales also of the daily “tot” of rum, given out at mid-day and often used as barter between the crew for other “luxury goods.” like tobacco.
At every available opportunity, Charlie would send notes and postcards to Norma, back in the UK – I’ll share some of those with you over the days ahead.
Charlie was serving in the Gulf on 9th September 1953 – the day I was born – and there is a long-standing story in the family (never refuted by him) that he blacked out whilst working on deck, was carried to the ships hospital to recover and only later discovered by telegram that the moment of his collapse was the moment of my birth.