Are you a fellow MV Isonzo refugee?
Forty-five years ago, in July 1967, a small Italian freighter eased itself away from the quay at Port Harcourt in Eastern Nigeria or Biafra as it had become by then. On board were 800 or so expatriates who were being evacuated from Biafra to the comparative safety of Lagos in Nigeria. The ship, the MV Isonzo, (see photo) was the only way out of the rebel enclave as the Federal Nigerian troops closed in on the township.
There were many nationalities on board including British, American, Dutch, Israeli, Japanese and Italian, all of whom had previously worked in Enugu, the regional capital, or Port Harcourt the region’s major sea port. There were also many Peace Corps and VSOs (Voluntary Service Overseas, the British version of the Peace Corps) on board as well.
I have writen an account of my adventures in Biafra entitled The Up-Country Man and it is featured on my page. It’s the story of a young British engineer (me), straight out from England, who is posted to Enugu just as the Nigerian civil war begins. It tells of the problems and difficulties of living in a rebel enclave, the determination of the local people and the ingenuity they displayed in keeping their country going during the prosecution of the war.
There is also an account of the darker side of Biafra, the secret police, military intelligence and the discrimination shown by the Ibos towards the people of Calabar and the Rivers area of Biafra, who were not considered to be Bafrans at all, not to mention the hostility towards Europeans of course.
There's a full description of the conditions we had to endure during the evacuation, including our road journey from Enugu to Port Harcourt, and the problems we had with the vigilantes at the hundreds of road blocks. Whilst the Port Harcourt military authorities had detailed Biafran troops to "protect" us on the Isonzo, they turned out to be more of a danger to us than a protection, as the ship, on its first leg of the 24 hour journey to Lagos, made its way from Port Harcourt to the oil terminal at Bonny, where the troops disembarked with some drama.
I have only ever had the opportunity to correspond (quite recently) with one man who was aboard the Isonzo and I would like to make contact with more people if possible. Even the youngest person who was on board the Isonzo must be in their sixties by now.
Were you working/living in Eastern Nigeria in 1967? Were you on that small Italian freighter? Do you know anyone who was in Biafra or on that ship? If so, perhaps you would be kind enough to contact me through AuthorsDen or my webpage address below.