Apart from the sailors there were other less welcome residents in our living space. I mentioned earlier that we made coffee from our own supply. The silk stocking was necessary to prevent coffee grounds going through. There were weevils in the coffee and the filter prevented them going through too.
Each man had a small locker about 15 inches x 10 inches in a bank of such metal lockers on the bulkhead in which could be kept personal items. These were homes to cockroaches. Early in my work with rubber dinghies I had made for myself a folding pouch of rubber-ringed fabric in which compartments I kept toilet items such as soap, razor, toothbrush etc. It was normal to find when I opened it several cockroaches would fall out. They could not be eradicated and so you had to put up with their presence. Of all insects, I disliked cockroaches the most.it was
Another regular resident was the rat. The air conditioning in the mess deck was pretty useless but nevertheless it was there in the form of overhead trunking about 18 inches wide and about 6 inches deep extending along the deckhead.
My particular hammock space was alongside this trunking so that when lying in my hammock my head was about level with and six inches from the top of the trunk. It was not unusual to open your eyes and see a rat sat on the trunking looking you in the eye with its mates trotting along the top of the trunking. The only thing to do was to shoo it along past someone else’s hammock space. Food was never left about on the mess deck but as far as I know the ship just ignored the presence of rats.
Talking of food, when at sea at the end of each meal any excess food was put in a common container and the contents dumped overboard. The only change in that routine was when we anchored in Malta. Then at mealtimes Maltese people would be allowed to come on board carrying containers. These they placed strategically about the mess decks and any excess food we had was placed in their containers which they took ashore. The majority of the Maltese population were extremely poor and the food in the “gash bins” as we called them was taken to be eaten.
Food could never be dumped in harbour anywhere and could only be dumped at sea.