She listed and went over Crew mem­ber re­calls how half his col­leagues lost their lives

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - THE HERALD -

THERE can never be 100 per cent clo­sure. Th­ese are the words of Clive Bush, who was work­ing on the Her­ald of Free En­ter­prise on the night of March 6, 1987. His wife, Pat, lost her aunt and un­cle when the Her­ald cap­sized. The cou­ple, from Hythe, say their mem­o­ries can be as painful and as raw as they were 20 years ago. Clive, now 70, said: “When a dis­as­ter like the Her­ald hap­pens and peo­ple die, there can never be 100 per cent clo­sure.” Pat, 64, added: “When you start talk­ing in depth about it, some­times you do not re­alise how emo­tional you re­ally are. Even now, I have to try to keep my emo­tions in check be­cause it is still raw.” Clive was a mer­chant sea­man for nearly nine years. Be­fore be­com­ing an as­sis­tant stew­ard he worked as a soft fur­nish­ings sales­man, but long hours trav­el­ling were not for him. As he be­gan his ca­reer at sea, he re­alised he loved the close­ness of be­ing part of a crew and that sea­far­ing was in his blood. Clive was also a Na­tional Union of Sea­men rep­re­sen­ta­tive and had the role of a con­vener. Ev­ery one of the 80 crew mem­bers on board the Her­ald had a nick­name, based on a per­son’s looks or a char­ac­ter trait. Clive’s was The Rabbi. He said: “The crew were like a sea-based sec­ond fam­ily. You have to re­mem­ber that with the shift pat­terns, we spent a lot of time to­gether and you be­came in­volved with what was go­ing on in peo­ple’s lives.” On the evening of March 6 1987, Clive, like many other crew mem­bers, had gone to the mess to have a meal. At that time, the crew were half way into a 24-hour shift. He had only been there a few min­utes when the ship be­gan to list. As the Her­ald went over, Clive was pinned against the port bulk­head un­der a pile of chairs. He man­aged to get out af­ter a crew­mate rigged up a line with a piece of hose looped around. and dragged Clive and sev­eral other crew mem­bers through the wa­ter, inside the ship. When they emerged onto the up­turned side of the ferry, crew mem­bers were met by bo­sun Terry Ayling, who had or­gan­ised peo­ple into teams of eight to lower ropes through the port-holes that had been smashed, and pull pas­sen­gers to safety. “Terry was amaz­ing,” added Clive. “When I emerged to safety, he had worked out what needed to be done and how to do it. “One of the few for­tu­nate things was that there were some sol­diers re­turn­ing from leave who were also in the teams. They were strong guys and were a tremen­dous help in sav­ing so many lives.” Clive and the crew stayed with the Her­ald for sev­eral hours, pulling peo­ple to safety. Even­tu­ally, he was over­come with tired­ness and was put onto a res­cue tug. He was taken, with other sur­vivors, to a bar­racks near Zee­brugge. That night half of the Her­ald’s crew of 80 lost their lives. Pat was hav­ing her hair cut at home, when Clive’s son came down­stairs to say a ferry had turned over in the har­bour at Zee­brugge. Then the phone rang. It was the cou­ple’s eldest son, who asked if his dad was work­ing, as he had heard a ferry had cap­sized. The cou­ple’s fam­ily drove to be with Pat. “All I could see in my mind was a pic­ture of Clive in his coat, in the wa­ter,” said Pat. She tried to ring the help line num­ber, but could not get through. There was also false in­for­ma­tion be­ing ac­ci­den­tally given out, as sur­vivors thought they had seen cer­tain peo­ple. It was not un­til 10.30am on the Satur­day that she knew for cer­tain Clive was alive and safe, when he was able to call her. “It is hor­ri­ble not know­ing if some­one is alive,” she added. Clive re­turned to Dover around mid­night on the Satur­day. De­spite pleas from sur­viv­ing crew mem­bers to travel from Calais, they had to leave from Zee­brugge in the dark, know­ing they had passed close to the stricken Her­ald. Many of the re­main­ing crew went back to work very soon af­ter the dis­as­ter – Clive only had two weeks off. They were trans­ferred onto a req­ui­si­tioned ship called the Vor­tigern and many of the Her­ald’s crew were pleased they were back work­ing to­gether. But it was to be a tem­po­rary il­lu­sion of nor­mal­ity. Clive said: “Af­ter two months we trans­ferred onto the Pride of Dover – the first of the new ships. I had started to no­tice things were not right with peo­ple. “I spoke to my man­agers about it and they ar­ranged for a naval com­man­der, ex­pe­ri­enced in coun­selling, to visit us. “Many did have the coun­selling. At first I thought I was OK, I did not need it. Then I re­alised I was just as much in need as ev­ery­one else. “When Janet John­ston and her team at the Her­ald As­sis­tance Unit, set up at Cam­bridge Ter­race in Dover, it was a life­saver. “I am a very laid-back per­son, but I was get­ting more and more ag­gres­sive. The

At first I thought I was OK and didn’t need coun­selling, then I re­alised I was as much in need as ev­ery­one else

coun­sel­lors in Dover were amaz­ing and it is fair to say Pat and I may not still be to­gether if it was not for them.” Pat added: “Wives had their own coun­selling. I had started to feel Clive was shut­ting me out of things – like there was noth­ing I could do to help him. We owe a lot to the as­sis­tance unit.” By June 1987, Clive was de­clared un­fit to serve at sea. It was the end of his sea­far­ing ca­reer. Only a hand­ful of the Her­ald’s orig­i­nal crew re­mained work­ing at sea. P&O tried to help Clive by ar­rang­ing a work place­ment, to see if there was a land-based job he could do. For nine months P&O paid an an­tique re­storer to train Clive. He set up his own busi­ness, but had to give it up as he could not face work­ing long hours on his own in a work­shop. The cou­ple also re­ceived a fi­nan­cial do­na­tion from the Her­ald As­sis­tance Fund. To­day, Clive says ma­te­rial things do not mat­ter to him. He said: “It is like my thoughts have be­come po­larised, into be­fore the Her­ald and af­ter. Things that con­cerned me 20 years ago, would not now.” Clive adds that thanks to the coun­selling, he is able to deal with his thoughts. He had what he calls a “hic­cup” a few years ago, but was able to recog­nise the signs and sought help. But he added: “It may be 20 years ago, it can still feel like yes­ter­day.” Many peo­ple say the crew were he­roes. When Clive is asked if he thinks this is the case, his an­swer is: “The crews were just do­ing their job.” He added: “To me, they were do­ing what was right in an emer­gency – to save as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. “Glen But­ler – he was a hero. He was in the wa­ter and he waited for other peo­ple to be res­cued. By the time he came out, it was too late, he had hy­pother­mia and died.

Saved lives

“While I am not sure if we should be called he­roes, I don’t think the work the crew did do has been prop­erly recog­nised. “The Her­ald’s crew saved so many lives, be­fore res­cuers had a chance to get on the scene. The per­cep­tion was that the crew got out first and left the ship. The Bel­gian emer­gency ser­vices were also won­der­ful. “The chair­man of P&O did once say to me qui­etly: ‘Thanks for what you did on the night’. “It was lit­tle things like that which meant a lot.” Thanks to the coun­selling and their quiet re­solve, Clive and Pat are still hap­pily mar­ried and now have a grow­ing brood of grand­chil­dren to en­joy. To­day, Clive and Pat both feel that in some re­spects they have been lucky. Clive said: “At times we do be­lieve we are for­tu­nate in that we were both faced with ad­ver­sity and we now know that we can deal with it.”

SU­PER FERRY OF ITS TIME: A rare pro­mo­tional pic­ture of the Her­ald of Free En­ter­prise, which came into ser­vice in 1980

HAR­ROW­ING: This book was pro­duced by the Na­tional Union of Sea­men, and fea­tures Clive Bush’s story

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.