The Glory Hole

In January 1935, Australian journalists Noel Monks and John Hetherington signed on to the passenger/cargo ship Largs Bay to work their way to England, where they hoped to find a job on a Fleet Street newspaper. Monks remembered the crew quarters in his book Eyewitness, published in 1955.

“It was twelve years since I had been to sea, when British merchant ships were notorious for their shocking crew accommodation. Time seemed to have stood still, for it was the same old slum that John and I were bundled into…. In our section of the Glory Hole, the hell where all British merchant stewards live, twenty men were accommodated in tiered bunks. There wasn’t enough air, good or foul, to interest a canary, and the stench nearly lifted you off your feet. So far below the waterline that port-holes were out of the question, the Glory Hole was ventilated by shafts bringing wind down from the upper deck. If there was no wind, then there was no ventilation. On the Australian run, that is a condition that exists for days on end. There was some sort of forced draft contraption that either blew you out of your bunk, or scorched you. It certainly never helped you to breathe. There was nowhere to put your belongings, and a conscientious shore sanitary inspector would have had a seizure at the toilet arrangements for a hundred men.”

This accommodation, remember, was for stewards – men who handle food!

Compare this description of life below decks to the company’s advertising brochure for passengers, and here is a more detailed history of the ship.

These conditions in the Glory Hole were not so far removed from those on some ships three decades later when the long steel corridor linking, admitedly smaller, cabins was commonly known as the Burma Road.

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