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News > Pangbournian Stories > Book Reviews > Adventures of a Lifetime by Richard Brook-Hart (64-69)

Adventures of a Lifetime by Richard Brook-Hart (64-69)

ADVENTURES OF A LIFETIME by Richard Brook-Hart (64-69) is the story of a true seafarer, one of the final Merchant Navy officers produced by the NCP.
18 Feb 2022
Written by Robin Knight
Book Reviews

by Richard Brook-Hart (64-69)
ISBN: 978-1-6655-9557 (Author House, 2021)
Available through Amazon (£27.95 hardback; £3.99 Kindle; £13.99 paperback)

This is the life story of a true seafarer – one of the final, select few Merchant Navy officers produced by the NCP who, since going ashore in 1981, has spent most of the rest of his life working in Africa, first as a harbour pilot in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and latterly as a shipbroker in Durban, South Africa.

Today, Richard and his wife Claire live in retirement in Lymington in Hampshire having concluded in 2018 that they had enjoyed the “best” years of South Africa before, in their view, violent crime and rampant corruption began to cripple that country. Throughout, Richard sailed the sea in one form or another (currently in a 32-foot yacht), and the sea forms the backbone of this memoir, written principally for his family. Divided into neatly into three parts – P&O; Tanzania; South Africa, it is written in a conversational, inclusive style that makes it clear that the author has few regrets and much that he looks back on with pleasure. 

During his career Richard visited more than 100 countries, sailed the seven seas and became a Master Mariner. In total, he spent 12 years with P&O after Pangbourne and reached First Officer rank. In 1981 he married and, believing that life at sea on passenger cruise liners had become “too predictable,” and knowing that married life and long sea absences were not a good mixture, took a job as a harbour pilot in Dar es Salaam. This lasted to the end of 1989, by which time he had divorced and re-married (a South African) and decided to start life again in South Africa. Here, for the following 30 years, he worked for a variety of Durban-based shipping agencies, eventually setting up his own shipbroking business Alpha Shipping and become International Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. 

As the 306 pages of the book underline (no Index!), this was far from an uneventful life. Surviving in the shipping business is not for the faint-hearted given the industry’s abrupt cyclical ups and downs, varying international interests and often unscrupulous characters. But he came through at least half a dozen company upheavals and, in the end, was able to sell his ownership share of Alpha Shipping for its full value in a management buyout. He left South Africa for England in 2018.  

Such a sea-shore career has been duplicated by many older seagoing OPs down the decades, and it is one that was familiar throughout the 1945-1970 era even as the UK-flagged shipping industry went through its death spasms. In the end, this decline spelt the demise of MN training establishments such as HMS Conway and HMS Worcester, whereas the NCP evolved into the Pangbourne College we know today. Richard Brook-Hart, knowingly or not, has thus written a valuable historical record of a life that no Pangbournian is likely to emulate today. 

by ROBIN KNIGHT (56-61)

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