- 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)
Off the New South Wales coast we exercised with RAAF Lincolns, Beaufighters and a Catalina.
On 30th August 1949, Sydney slipped from Garden Island, and proceeded north with Warramunga in company for a cruise to the Barrier Reef, visiting Garden Island, then Deboyne Lagoon, Dredger Harbour and Manus. During this cruise there was an outbreak of rubella and mumps, and because natives have little resistance to these infectious diseases, we could not land in areas inhabited by natives. At Manus we used Koruniat Island for recreational leave.
The writer landed with Shipwright Hugh MacDuff, an ex-RN shipwright who had never been on a tropical island before. Hugh decided to climb a tree to get some coconuts and while doing so he disturbed a wasp’s nest and was fairly badly stung. He must have jumped the last 20 feet of his descent. Hugh MacDuff did well in the RAN and eventually became a Lieutenant-Commander.
Films were usually shown in the after lift well with the fire curtains down. If the weather was wet the lift would be level with the flight deck. During a film at one stage it became very hot with about 200 men jammed into the lift well. To let in some fresh air someone decided to lower the lift about 8 feet. When the lift bell began to clang as it descended there was a mad rush for the lift well door as the sailors expected to be squashed to death. A couple were injured in the rush.
On our return south our 816 Squadron Fireflies attacked a shipwreck on Bougainville Reef with rockets armed with 60 lb HE heads. Rear Admiral Farncomb flew with the strike leader, Sydney and Warramunga passed within two miles of the wreck.
As the aircraft attacked we saw clouds of rust when 13 hits were made on the shipwreck. Visits were then made to Cid Harbour in the Whitsunday Islands, and then we proceeded through the picturesque Whitsunday Passage towards Brisbane, where we spent three days before sailing for Sydney, arriving on 1st October 1949.
On 5th October 1949, the flag of Rear Admiral Farncomb, CB. DSO, MVO was struck and the flag of Rear Admiral J.A.S. Eccles, CBE, RN was transferred from Australia. Rear Admiral Eccles had commanded the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable with the British Pacific Fleet.
Rear Admiral Farncomb had spent almost the whole of the war at sea commanding Perth, Canberra, Australia and HMS Attacker, followed by Commodore Commanding an Australian Squadron from 19th December 1944 until 21st July 1945 and then spending from November 1946 until October 1949 commanding the Australian Fleet. Like Vice- Admiral Sir John Collins, Rear Admiral Farncomb had a great following. Admirals in those days seemed very important and powerful.
On 7th October 1949 a large fleet sailed from Sydney, consisting of the RAN ships Sydney, Australia, Warramunga, Bataan, Shoalhaven, Murchison and the New Zealand cruiser Bellona and frigates Taupo, Kaniere, Tutira, Rotoiti and Pukaki. When we anchored at Jervis Bay there were warships everywhere. After exercises off Jervis Bay and a visit to Westernport we arrived at Melbourne on 20th October 1949. In Melbourne over 1,650 officers and men from the combined Fleet took part in a ceremonial march through the city, and free entrance to the Melbourne Cup was allowed for anyone in naval uniform.
The combined fleet sailed for further exercises off Jervis Bay including exercises with 3 RAAF Mosquitos escorted by 14 Mustangs.
On 11th November 1949, Sydney, Australia and Warramunga sailed from Jervis Bay for Sydney, leaving the New Zealand squadron at Jervis Bay. The New Zealand squadron was scheduled to sail for Hobart before returning to Auckland.
After Christmas leave Sydney with Bataan sailed for Jervis Bay on 11th January 1950. Two days before sailing Commander V.A.T. Smith, DSC, RAN joined the ship as Executive Officer, relieving Commander Otto Becher, DSC and Bar, who left to become Commanding Officer of HMAS Watson.
Commander Smith, nicknamed Vat because of his initials, was one of the few RAN senior officers in 1950 with Fleet Air Arm experience, and had helped a lot of the RAN Fleet Air Arm personnel doing courses in the UK in 1948, when Commander Smith was on the staff of the Naval Liaison Officer in London.