- Weston, Bert E.
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Perth I, HMAS Moresby I
- June 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
One of his grim memories relates to Darwin and the first bomb raid when Manunda was hit with severe damage and numerous deaths and casualties and he was one of the crew of a motor lifeboat which went to the help of screaming members of the crew of the American destroyer Peary swimming in burning oil after their ship was hit and sunk.
He left the sea in 1946 but made sure that his two eldest sons Trevor and Bill did their National Service training in the RAN followed by service in the RANR.
In 1954 Rosalie Fischer, daughter of the writer’s sister Elsie Weston, and a g.g.g.granddaughter of George Johnston, joined the WRANS and after recruit training at Cerberus became a radio telegraphist posted to Harman thence to Coonawarra at Darwin and finally back to Cerberus for a leading telegraphist course. She left the navy in 1957 to marry Sub-Lieutenant W. Callan, a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm who retired with rank of Lt. Cmdr., 1977.
George Johnston could well be proud of the naval career of his great great great grandson Garry Stewart, a son of the writer’s sister Thelma. He was educated at Kiama NSW High School and Knox Grammar School in Sydney and entered the RAN Apprentice Training Establishment Nirimba in 1957 from where he graduated in 1960 and joined ANZAC as a leading seaman. He left that ship in 1965 as a Chief Petty Officer to attend a CPO’s Engine Room Artificers’ course at Cerberus to be followed by a period attending engineering courses in the United States prior to being posted to Hobart in late 1966.
The following year he was commissioned Sub-Lieut. and proceeded to England for training at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and engineering training at Plymouth, Portland and Portsmouth. On return to Australia in 1968 Lieut. Stewart joined Sydney as an Engineering Officer and made six trips to Vietnam carrying Australian troops.
He then served as a Project Planner at Garden Island dockyard before joining Diamantina as Marine Engineer Officer for two years during that ship’s deployment on oceanographic studies in the Indian Ocean.
Then came upwards of two years on the engineering staff of the Fleet Commander before becoming Marine Engineer Officer of Parramatta during 1976-77. Promotion to Lieut. Cmdr. in 1977 was a prelude to 3 years in USA attending engineering courses in preparation for standing-by American built Adelaide in the final stages of construction. He joined the ship as Marine Engineer Officer on commissioning in November 1980 and was promoted to Commander the following month.
In January 1981, while on nighttime trials, Adelaide ran aground in Puget Sound USA with serious damage to the propulsion machinery. For his efforts and leadership in the subsequent refloating and dockyard restoration of the ship and its equipment to active service Commander Stewart was the recipient of a Letter of Commendation from the Fleet Commander RAN, Admiral P. Doyle.
On return in Adelaide to Australia on its delivery voyage in December 1981 he came ashore to take up further duties in Navy Office, Canberra.
Another great great grandson of George Johnston is Bert Weston, writer of this article. He served in the last war in the A.I.F. as an officer in the Royal Australian Engineers and in a unit – a Port Maintenance Coy – which had maritime connotations being engaged in marine salvage, wharf construction and boat repairs and having on strength divers, shipwrights, welders, fitters and riggers, the latter wholly occupied in making up cargo handling gear, mooring lines and scramble notes.
On one occasion in 1942 while the hospital ship Manunda, with his brother Rupert aboard, was in Milne Bay several Japanese warships played their searchlights on her, respected her hull markings and directed their guns on the merchant ship Anshun unloading at Gili Gili wharf. Pierced by 8” shells she quickly filled and rolled over on her side in five fathoms.
Lieut. Weston’s team was soon at work with torches cutting out sections of plating, divers entered the holds and attached slings to whatever could be reached and so recovered all the mail, scores of jeeps, much general cargo, anti-aircraft guns and a case of gin.
Assistance was then given to the Australian Salvage Board in righting Anshun and patching the hull.