iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for The Yellow Fleet

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Last on

Wed 10 Nov 2010 11:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 10 November 2010

In 1967 a convoy of cargo ships from 8 countries, including Britain, were trapped in the Suez Canal during the Six Day War. They were to remain there for 8 years, becoming covered in windblown desert sand, giving them the nickname "The Yellow Fleet". For the men involved this was an often dangerous but exciting time which many describe as the best of their sea-faring lives. Yet their stories have gone untold, until now.

Peter Flack was on the Agapenor, a ship heading for home with a cargo of plastic toys for Woolworths. It had been an ordinary sailing until the morning of June the 5th 1967. Peter was on deck when suddenly he saw Israeli jets streaking out of the rising sun towards Egypt. John Hughes was an electrician on another ship, The Melampus. He was at the top of a mast, fixing a light, when -glancing down- he saw Egyptian soldiers dug-in along the banks of the canal pointing their guns directly at him. Shortly after his speedy descent from the mast, the Israeli air-raid began. As his colleague, Graham McMorine, remembers the jets used the ships as cover, crossing the canal at mast height to bomb the Egyptian air-base.

As the war continued, Egypt decided to close the Suez Canal. It remained closed even after the war ended, trapping the ships and their crew. After a while the men were allowed home and relief crews arrived. As the long war of attrition rumbled on, the sailors caught in the middle began to swap cargo and have parties. There were onboard football tournaments, archery, sprinting and water-skiing. Ships from east and west took part, despite the ongoing Cold War.

After a while the ships were abandoned, and covered in windblown desert sand becoming known as The Yellow Fleet.

producer: Karen Gregor.

  • Captain Brian McManus 'water-skiing'

    Captain Brian McManus 'water-skiing'

    Thanks to Capt McManus for permission to use this photo.

  • Football on board the Port Invercargill

    Football on board the Port Invercargill

    Thanks to Captn McManus for permission to use this photo.

  • Goal-keeping on board the Port Invercargill

    Goal-keeping on board the Port Invercargill

    Thanks to Captain Brian McManus for permission to use this photo.

  • The 'PortStar'

    The 'PortStar'

    The Port Invercargill and the Scottish Star anchored together. Thanks to Captain Brian McManus for permission to use this photo.

  • The Great Bitter Lakes Association buoy

    The Great Bitter Lakes Association buoy

    Thanks to Captain Brian McManus for permission to use this photo.

  • Peter Snow and Captain Graham Botterill outside Broadcasting House

    Peter Snow and Captain Graham Botterill outside Broadcasting House

  • The Scottish Star

    The Scottish Star

    Thanks to Captain Brian McManus for permission to use this photo.

  • The Scottish Star

    Thanks to Captain Brian McManus for permission to use this photo.

Broadcasts

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss