- Germaine, Max, OAM, Lieutenant, RANVR
- Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2002 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The situation now was that there were hundreds of Australian yachtsmen about to arrive in England with no invasion to help repel as planned and so they became available for distribution throughout the entire Royal Navy. Some did go to MGBs and MTBs (commonly known as Fairmiles) but the others found themselves in everything from battle cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers, escort vessels of all descriptions and submarines. About that time, an Admiralty Fleet Order was promulgated calling for volunteers for hazardous operations, who were strong swimmers and who had tertiary education in either science, engineering or mathematics. This appealed to some of the older yachtsmen who joined a new sector of the Royal Navy dealing with rendering mines safe (RAIS) in harbours, ports and waterways. (South I 1960, White A J 1941, Pers. Com.)
Lord Louis Mountbatten was close to the Admiralty and he heard about these hot-shot Australian yachtsmen and said he would like to have some. (Mims 1942 Pers. Com.)
At that time, he was in command of a destroyer flotilla in the eastern end of the Mediterranean, including ships Kelly, Kashmir and Kipling and the Admiralty sent him eight ordinary seamen yachtsmen who went to Kashmir and included a slightly angry businessman and champion golfer Ian Rhodes, known as “Dusty”. (Hough R p226).
Soon after their arrival in Kashmir, Mountbatten’s destroyers and other ships were called on to try to rescue Australian, NZ, British and Polish troops about to be encircled by the Germans in Crete. The ships came under savage air attack by land based Stuka dive-bombers and Kelly (Mountbatten’s ship) and Kashmir were sunk. The order was given to abandon ship and everyone did except Dusty Rhodes. By now he was very angry watching the Stukas circling for another attack. As the planes came in, Dusty climbed up the sloping deck to the one anti-aircraft gun still above water and opened fire, breaking up the attack and shooting down one Stuka. For this, he was given the seldom awarded Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (Navy List, July 1945, Martin 2000 Pers. Comm.)
After this incident, Mountbatten was put in command of the new Combined Operations Command to build up amphibious forces for the invasion of the European mainland. Again, many yachtsmen were involved in the costly but essential probes of the French Coast at St. Nazaire and Dieppe – officers like Frank Appleton, who was involved in Dieppe and again at `D’ Day at Normandy where he won a DSC. (Navy List, July 1945).
As the war progressed, yachtsmen served in command and as 1st Lieutenant of Fairmiles, landing craft, corvettes and other escort vessels. Two got command of submarines and destroyers. Considering that only 469 were involved, the list of decorations is impressive. Over thirty DSCs and various other medals. Here are the most outstanding examples. We are very proud of them.
Leon Goldsworthy – George Cross,George Medal and DSC
John Mould – George Cross and George Medal
George Goss – George Cross
Geoff Cliff – OBE, George Medal and Bar
Howard Reid – George Medal and Bar
Kim Kessack – George Medal
(Navy List, July 1945, Southall 11960 pp290-292).
And then there was the natty acting probationary Sub Lieutenant who arrived at the top of the gangway the day the Themistocles left Melbourne, with his regulation green officer’s suitcase in one hand and a bag of golf clubs over the other arm. The Petty Officer said, “Excuse me sir, but where do you think you are going with those?” He was 55 but had put his age back to 35. He should have got a medal.
Time does not allow me to mention many names but I am sure someone will remember Sydney yachtsman, the late Bill Fesq, DSC. Athol Townley, a Hobart chemist was so moved by his wartime experiences that he stood for Parliament and became the Minister for Defence in the Menzies Government and pushed through the decision for Australia to purchase the F-III aircraft. Ken Shatwell, a Hobart lawyer, on discharge accepted the job as Dean of the Law School at the University of Sydney to put it back on course, a job he was able to do well as a former heavy weight boxing champion!