- Halley, George, Comdr., RAN
- None noted
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1989 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
We must also appreciate that the senior officers of the RAN are answerable to the hue of the politicians with the largest numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives. The current administration would have some difficulty in comprehending the purport of John Paul Jones statement that in spite of the victory of the American colonist over the forces of repression and the old world’s concept of liberty he would remind his brother officers that to command at sea one needed to be both aristocratic and autocratic.
Some of our modern officers tolerate the user of Christian names, when addressing their subordinates from the lower deck. It is doubtful whether this is good for spiritual, intellectual or material morale. When everyone is Tom, Dick or Harry — in an emergency, when someone must take charge, it is sometimes hard to ascertain who is Thomas, Richard or Henry.
We must keep a weather eye on what the Defence Academy produces. We need officers with the ability to think. They must have the agility of mind and the intellect to ensure that the needs of the RAN are head at the highest level. We also need officers who can lead service men and women to ensure that the morale objectives established by Field-Marshal Lord Slim are. attained. Further, we must ensure that the erudite remarks of John Paul Jones are implemented. In the real meaning of aristocracy and autocracy. This is not an easy task in our current egalitarian and multi-cultural society.
Perhaps too much effort has gone into addressing this aspect of morale, at the expense of spiritual and intellectual morale. Material morale is not the problem our journalists think it is. To quote the Field-Marshal:-
“The very highest kinds of morale are often met when material conditions are lowest.” It was a privilege to be in HMAS MELBOURNE after the VOYAGER tragedy. During the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy this privilege was repeated. The men of the RAN relief force worked long hours, cheerfully in the worst of the Darwin wet season. The number of defaulters in HMAS MELBOURNE, during this operation was practically nil.
Material factors are not the major problem of low morale in the RAN. It is highly doubtful whether they ever have been. The Field-Marshal relegated this facet to a lower priority than spiritual and intellectual morale and in so doing won a magnificent victory in Burma. From henceforth the RAN should do likewise.
There are many organisations in Australia devoted to maintaining the standards which the RAN has established in its short but valiant history. The calibre of the young men and women in the “Senior Service” is just as good, if not better, as those who have served before. We, who have served before, must support them.
Our task is not only to see that the material side of the RAN’s morale is maintained, but more importantly that spiritual and intellectual morale are addressed.
We need that great and noble objective for all our fighting services.
During February, 1989 I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lord Carrington’s memoirs, REFLECT ON THINGS PAST. Some of you may remember he was the British High Commissioner from 1956-59 in Canberra. He was subsequently First Lord of the Admiralty, Minister for Defence, the Foreign Secretary at the time of the Falklands invasion by Argentina and finally Secretary-General of NATO.
Whilst First Lord he had to deal with all the problems of raising the standard of the education of Naval Officers. I found the following text most interesting.
“Weapon systems, communications, and everything else became more sophisticated every year. We decided that it was necessary to raise the academic qualifications of an aspiring officer in the Service. We moved with a good deal of self questioning in this matter, not from the often pilloried British mistrust of brains and excessive regard for what is called “character”, but because simple observation showed that first-class academic and scientific aptitudes don’t necessarily mean that a man can lead other men; and leadership still matters…”
In another passage he aptly states “Furthermore, my observation of other professions since those days has inclined me to believe that we are not short of brains, but we are often short of the qualities which enable people firmly but harmoniously to lead. It is not only in the Forces that these matters. Command, Bill Slim once observed, is a different art from management. The latter can be cerebral, technical, organisational. The former must have something inspirational about it…”