- Letter Writer
- History - general, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2017 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I read with interest Fifty Years under the Australian White Ensign by Norman Rivett (Naval Historical Review Vol 38 No 1 March 2017). I have a story of my own to tell about the change-over of the ensign on 01 March 1967 in HMAS Supply.
On 20 February 1967 I commenced my RANR Annual Continuous Training (ACT) of 13 days as an ORD QMG in Supplyunder commend of Captain, later Rear Admiral Murray. It was my first sea time. Supplywas a very hardworking ship with RAS transfers and exercises at frequent intervals both day and night. It was the hardest physical work I had ever done, or have since done. Sleep deprivation was also a new and discomforting experience.
I don’t recall when news of the change of ensign passed through the ship. However, I do remember that on 01 March 1967 all hands were formally ‘fallen in’ on the quarterdeck to witness the change-over.
Mr Rivett’s article states that apart from HMAS Boonaroo,RAN ships had previously raised the new ensign at morning colours. This does not accord with my recollection of what occurred in Supply. My recollection is that in the one event the Royal Ensign was lowered and the Royal Australian Ensign raised immediately afterwards.
Even though the event occurred 50 years ago I have good reason to remember seeing the lowering of the Royal Ensign and some evidence of this.
I was observing the slow lowering of the Royal Ensign, which included detaching it, folding it and passing it to a nearby rating, the Ship’s PHOT. I saw him put it in a bucket! I kept my eye on the bucket until the ceremony was concluded, and I followed the PHOT as he left the quarterdeck with the bucket in hand. I caught up with him and asked something like this:
Where are you leaving the Ensign?
To the paint store for old rags.
I followed him to the paint store. As he was about to go inside I enquired:
Would you mind putting the bucket down and turning your back.
He looked at me quizzically, winked and then turned his back and put the bucket down whereupon I made away with the ensign. This was not a theft of some ‘rags old’, rather it was an act of preservation of heritage material.
I still have the ensign and I guess that it could be redesignated from ‘rags old’ to something more appropriate. It is still in good condition (or better put, in the same condition as when I rescued it). It has hung in my study for at least the last 10 years and has occasionally been flicked with a duster. I think that the Naval Historical Society would be a good custodian and would gladly entrust it to whomsoever the Society nominates.
I also recall that for the occasion of adopting the new ensign, the order went round the fleet: ‘Splice the Mainbrace’. This resulted, in Supply, all hands being issued a free large (jumbo) can of Foster’s larger.
An interesting facet of my time in Supply was that three days into my 13 day ACT unbeknown to me I was commissioned as an Acting Sub-Lieutenant (on probation). I learned of this on my return to my home in Adelaide. Although the event didn’t attract any change in my ACT it was noticed by the Pay Office. Sometime later my pay came through and I was paid as an Acting SBLT for 10 of the 13 day ACT. This was quite a bonus for me, a university student whose scholarship provided no living allowance!
David M Quick, RFD, QC, RANR, Rtd
Editor: We responded as follows:
Thank you for your very interesting letter regarding your involvement in this important historic event when serving in HMAS Supply fifty years past.
With the initiative displayed as a young Ordinary Seaman in procuring and saving valuable artefacts it is little wonder that you found almost instant promotion and further satisfaction in an eminent legal career.
If you recall, we should be interested in knowing at about what time on 01 March 1967 that the ceremony of changing ensigns occurred in HMAS Supply and, where the ship was on this occasion.
We should naturally be delighted if you wish to entrust us with further custody of the fifty- year-old ensign. We shall liaise with our next door colleagues at the Naval Heritage Centre who may have suitable ideas on how best to display this valuable ensign.
We are now pleased to report that the ensign has been safety received by the NHS.