Bandar Shahpur - World War II - Persian Gulf CommandPhotos By: Eugene Warren
You can see what a desolate place Bandar Shahpur was when I was there. This shot shows the tracks leading out of the place. There was no roundhouse. In order to turn the locomotives around a Y track arrangement served the purpose. Cargo loaded onto the railroad cars were sent up north to be received by the Russian allies. This railroad was all of German, Krupp, construction. It was narrow gauge. The locomotives were all diesel. The engineers were US troops from an engineer battalion.
All these show activity on the docks at Bandar Shahpur....Note the absence of trucks and that the rails are at the level of the dock. Cargo was unloaded using ship gear and loaded directly onto railroad cars situated at each hatch. When the rail cars were filled they were withdrawn by a locomotive and empty cars replaced. If it became necessary to shift a car it was done manually by inserting a very long crowbar at the junction of the car wheel and rail to get the car to start moving, after which it could be pushed by the men working the hatch.
Before starting a shift I worked with the engineers to provide railroad cars at the various hatches of the type needed to handle the cargo. The cars loaded by the previous shift were pulled out and the empty cars put in according to what I ordered. It was also necessary to unload all the dunnage before "working the hatch". This required flatbed cars to accept the loads before positioning cars to accept cargo. There was no provision to pull cars individually. What I tried to do was to try to arrange things so that all or most of the cars would get loaded at about the same time so that an entire line could be pulled and new cars installed with least loss of time. Whenever cars had to be shifted the hatch had to be shut down.
Each ship being unloaded had five hatches. If we were unloading more than one ship at time, which was the case most of the times, arranging the railroad cars involved careful planning. To do this we studied the ship manifest and figured out what was needed from the content shown. I preceded the crews so that I could look into each hatch and estimate what would be needed on my shift. Cargo consisted of large items that were lashed to the deck with cables and turnbuckles. Before starting to unload the hatches the booms had to be raised and set in place and the deck cargo had to be unloaded. The deck cargo was the heavy stuff. The standard booms could handle up to five tons. The mid ship hatch had jumbo booms that could handle up to 20(?) tons For the most part deck cargo consisted of truck chassis and bodies in wood containers. Below deck cargo consisted of everything else. This cargo was stowed in layers. The dunnage, consisting of poor quality wood, was used to create a floor between the layers of cargo. The tide varied twice a day by 16 feet. We could go to work by climbing ladders to board ship. At the end of the shift we had to step up to the dock from the deck of the ship which was now below dock level.
When I obtained a camera and some film I climbed a tower in order to get a panoramic view of Bandar Shahpur. The buildings seen were constructed of the bricks seen in another photo. We lived in tents during the time construction was going on to build these barracks. Each company fit into one row of buildings - At one end was the orderly room or headquarters of the company. At the other end was the mess hall and latrine buildings. The land consisted of sand that turned to mud when the rainy season hit. Notice no trees or vegetation of any sort.
This theatre was built to provide a place for USO shows to perform. My memory recalls only two such visits. One was a Russian circus group and the other a group that sang some of the popular tunes of the day. From time to time we received movies that were screened on the side of a warehouse after sundown. And then of course we had what could be done by ourselves.
Since Bandar Shahpur was a below sea level piece of land it was necessary to build building with water sinks and latrines with sinks and disposal lines high enough to create gravity flow to the sea. What you see in this image are men whose job it was to empty these lines. Note that the lines are well above ground level.
The temperatures at Bandar Shahpur were well documented by official weather reports. As for the water, eventually the engineers built a water tank and we had running water that was supplied from a source about 30 miles distant from BS. This was not drinking water. We had lister bags that were suspended from poles into which chemicals were added for purification purposes. Before the advent of running water we had a ration of one helmet full per day that was acquired early in the morning. It was amazing how we learned to function with this limited amount. Lister bags were semiporous so that the water sweated through the fabric. As the water evaporated it cooled the water in the bag. We learned how to get along with all the limitations. As an alternative to the fabric lister bags we used clay urns made that were supported in an iron stand. The clay was not given a finish so that it was porous and worked the same way as the lister bag.
On the heat item, the high temperatures were accompanied by high humidity at night. In the daylight hours we placed our cots out in the sun to dry out. We had to sleep under netting to avoid being bitten by the "no see um insects" Each cot had a T bar at each end that supported the netting.
The sea water was so salty that we could not use it for swimming. The ships were unable to use the sea water to desalinate so that it could be used aboard ship.
Behind each mess hall was a set up of a place to wash the mess kits. It consisted of a garbage pail for uneaten food, hot soapy water for the first dip, second pail for rinsing off the soap and a final hot water dip for the last cleaning before the next meal. A note regarding feeding of the men. Because of having night and day shift it was necessary to provide meals in accordance with the shifts worked. Meal designation was determined in accordance with the hours the men went to work.
The officers' quarters consisted of a U shaped building open on one side facing the embankment surrounding the island. The open side had a latrine building with sinks, showers and lavatories. The latrine was built high off the ground so that drainage could take place by gravity. Company commanders had a room to themselves whereas company officers were assigned two to a room. The construction was the usual mud brick and the rooms were very comfortable. In the cold weather, 50-60 degrees, we used small kerosene stoves to warm the room at night. We had electricity. Floors were hard tile floors. Generally the quarters had the appearance of the early small motels we see here at home. The center area was open and was used for volley ball, drying bedding in the sun, barbecues and exercising. We had electric lights. The officers' mess hall was in the same line as the quarters and was very nice. The cooks and servers were troops who volunteered for the assignment and were paid by the officers. We paid a monthly fee and it was well worth it.
The officers had a beer and whiskey ration. I think the whiskey ration was courtesy of the British who had a small contingent stationed in Bandar Shahpur. I used to use my whiskey ration as barter with the ships commissary in exchange for food supplies for my company such as frozen meat, milk and other items not available from the Quartermaster. One other goody provided by the British was their version of our PX. Once a month a railroad car arrived with things to purchase. I bought excellent leather dress shoes, cotton pajamas, sun helmet, bush jackets and shorts and other miscellany.
Company officers were assigned to the job of handling cargo and unloading ships. The Company Commander was responsible for company administration. Prior to becoming Company Commander I worked on the docks and in the barge unloading area.
The photo of the dining room shows Christmas decorations. This is a clue as to the time at which most of these photos were taken. The lack of film explains why there are not more pictures.