- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Kanimbla I, HMAS Sydney III
- March 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
An MFV joined the search and picked up more wreckage.
The Mosquito had a speed of 385 mph at 17,000 feet and 345 mph at sea level. The all-wood fuselage was covered with fabric after assembly to give added strength. The De Havilland factory relied heavily on furniture, coffin, piano and woodworking firms who supplied large sections of the plane.
On February 2nd 1949 the Commander-in- Chief, Plymouth, Admiral Sir Robert Burnett inspected the ship and, addressing the ship’s company, said the Sydney was the cleanest ship he had ever been in. Captain Dowling gave us the full programme for the rest of our stay in England and all the Australians were very happy and looking forward to getting away from Devonport dockyard and getting on with the task of being an aircraft carrier.
On 3rd February 1949 Captain Dowling accepted and signed for the Sydney.
The 426,000 pounds sterling subscribed by the Australian public after the cruiser Sydney was lost in November 1941 to buy a new HMAS Sydney was applied to assist in the purchase of the light fleet carrier.
I think Sydney cost 1,440,000 pounds sterling, plus the cost of aircraft and stores.
However, there were reports that the Sydney cost 3,000,000 pounds sterling – but this price may have included aircraft. Even if the cost was 3,000,000 pounds sterling it was a lot less than the cost of between $300,000,000, and the total cost of $1,000,000,000 that it would cost to build an aircraft carrier today.
At Portsmouth the writer visited our sister-ship HMCS Magnificent, commissioned in April 1948 and which was the first MAJESTIC class CVL to be completed.
There were eight Colossus class completed during 1945 and 1946. The main difference between the Colossus class and the Sydney was the accommodation. In 1948 most of the Colossus class had general messing where the ship’s company ate and lived in the same mess, whereas the Majestic class had cafeteria style messing. The earlier class had Bofors and 2 pdr. pom-poms whereas when completed the Sydney had 30 40 mm AA Bofors and 4 3 pdr saluting guns.
At Portsmouth the fleet aircraft carriers Indomitable and Indefatigable were under refit. The Leviathan, a sister-ship to the Sydney, was about 80% completed, but work had been suspended since 1946.
At Portsmouth dockyard in 1949 the boat pound was so full of motor boats, cutters, etc. from recently de-commissioned battleships, cruisers and other ships that you could cross the pound jumping from one boat to the next. Some of the boats had had it and were half submerged, while others were in beautiful condition, with the names and crests of the ships on them from where they were removed.
On February 8th 1949, flying trials commenced. Eight aircraft, consisting of two Seafires, two Sea Furies, two Fireflies and two Avengers with very experienced pilots carried out flying trials, consisting of landing into arrestor wires and catapult launches with different aircraft at varying weights and speeds. The island was crowded with the ship’s company watching the first aircraft to land, a Seafire.
A Sea Fury caught No. 10 arrestor wire and lightly crashed into the barrier.
On the next day an Avenger, a three-seat torpedo bomber with a US pilot, hit the island on landing and smashed a main plane.
The first aircraft of Sydney’s own 20th Air Group to land tore off its hook on the sternwalk and then slid up the flight deck and was stopped by the second barrier. The Firefly’s propellers were all bent and her undercarriage was left scattered on the flight deck. Flying was held up for 30 minutes while the aircraft was untangled from the crash barrier.
HMS Contest was our attendant destroyer during the trials. While we were carrying out our trials HMS Warrior in the same area was testing a special experimental flexible landing deck for operating aircraft with skids instead of the conventional undercarriage with wheels, making for safer landing of fast aircraft in limited space. The flexible deck consisted of a rubber sheet supported by air bags.
After our trials were completed we disembarked the damaged aircraft by lighter and sailed for Belfast Lough about six miles by water from Belfast. At Harland and Wolff the aircraft carriers Eagle, Bulwark and Centaur were being built and work on the Powerful was suspended.