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Capt. Alan Villiers
 1903 - 1982

"This author was also a mariner" 

Sketch of the 'Joseph Conrad.'

This was a ship!

She was of the real old iron frigate type, gloriously proportioned hull, with a seat in the water like a lovely swan, tail tapering masts and graceful yards, and a long jib boom projecting far beyond the old bowsprit over the figurehead; she had "stu'ns'l booms and boarding nets and sails that clewed up to the bunt, and her brass work shone in the sun. She was small, about 200 tons, I thought and what a picture of grace and efficiency! Wrote A. J Villiers the day after he purchased Geog Stage. Jun 18 1934.

The Joseph Conrad,  212 tons, built in 1882, a three-masted full-rigged ship, carrying royals over single top and top gallant sails.  She was one of the smallest full-rigged ships built in modern times.  Her length was 30.72m (100.8ft.), her width 7.68m (25.2 ft.), and her depth 3.35m (11.0 ft.).  In 1936 George H. Hartford, a millionaire, purchased her from Alan Villiers and company, added a modern engine, and used her for three years as a private yacht.  In 1939, Joseph Conrad was transferred to the U.S. Maritime Commission and served as an American training ship until 1945.  In 1947 she became the property of Mystic Seaport.

Round Cape Horn
Adventures in A Windjammer
From Tahiti to New York

By Alan Villiers

The Joseph Conrad, formerly the Danish school-ship Georg Stage, completed a voyage of 58,000 miles around the world, began at Ipswich in October 1934, and including visits to New York, Brasil, Tristan da Cunha, Capetown, the East Indies, Australia, New Zealand, and the South Seas. In the following article the owner and commander describes his voyage from Tahiti to New York round Cape Horn.






Cat Overboard


The wind that had begun to rise that morning grew until it was blowing a whole

last column

15 March  1941

Alan Villiers (1903-1982) Bio. Note:  Papers.
Sailor and author. Reporter on Mercury, 1924-1929. Resigned to pursue a career as an author and adventurer and wrote more than 30 books about his experiences as a seaman on a variety of craft. His books include The Way of a ship, Give Me a Ship to Sail and Set of the sails.

Captain Alan John Villiers, D.S.C., died on March 3 1982 at the age of 78, at his home, Windrush, Davenant Rd, Oxford. He was an Australian and was born on Sept. 23, 1903. By the time he was sixteen he made up his mind to go to sea - in sail. His life was recorded in a stream of books, many illustrated with own photographs. He sailed because he wanted to. He wrote and lectured to support his family. The first adventure Villiers enjoyed was whaling in the Antarctic with the Norwegian Ross Sea Expedition 1923-1924. Then he had a spell of journalism in Hobart and later in London. By 1931 he was able to purchase a share in a four masted barque the Parma. Three years later he acquired the Danish school ship Georg Stage. A condition of the sale was that the vessel was to be renamed, which he renamed Joseph Conrad [broken link] under the British flag. Between 1934 and 1936 he sailed this ship some 58,000 miles. Just before the Second World War Villiers got to know at first hand the immemorial life of the Red Sea dhows engaged in the Persian Gulf and Zanzibar trade. When the war came he joined the R.N.V.R. He had reached the rank of commander by 1944. He was on active service with the Infantry Landing Craft in Italy, Normandy and the Far East, and was awarded the DSC for service in the invasion of France.
    After the war he became Master of the training ship Warspite. Later he sailed with the cod-fishing fleet in the schooner Argus. In 1956 he volunteered to command the Mayflower replica, built in England, which successfully sailed to the US in the following year.
    Villiers, as a writer was clear and professional. As a lecturer he had a remarkable delivery, and never failed to grip his audience. In film he overlooked Moby Dick, 1955 and Melville's classic Billy Budd. Of his many books, as varied as technique as in subject matter, his latest, Give Me a Ship to Sail (1958) contains some of his liveliest writing. Maritime historians value Falmouth for Orders (1928), the story of the last clipper race round the Cape Horn. He published a life of Captain Cook in 1967. He was a long serving trustee of the National Maritime Museum in England. He started the Photographic Archive in 1946. He gave his own collection of photographs and unique films to the museum including the invaluable record of the passage of the full-rigged ship Grace-Harwar from Australia to England in 1928- 1929 as part of the  'Grain Race' which was perhaps the first such film ever made of a merchant sailing vessel. The voyage lasted 138 days, during which Alan Villiers' friend died after an accident and was buried at sea. Alan was on the barque Parma, built on the Clyde in 1901-2. 
Reference: The Times 5 March 1982

I joined a big British four-masted barque in Melbourne one.  She was manned by 22 able seaman, two ordinary seaman and six apprentices. Only the apprentices were exclusively British. They paid the owner to work for him for four years.  The 24 forecastle hands included men of 11 nationalities including one Mexican, six Norwegians, two New Zealanders and three Australian.  This was commonplace. Nationality just did not enter into the matter. Competence did.  They all spoke some sort of English and they were all sailing-ship seaman.  The big square-rigger was an exacting ship to sail.  
Alan Villiers - 11 June 1963