- Ricketts, D C
- History - general, Biographies and personal histories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1977 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On one occasion, as we were looking for a suitable beach to land on for lunch, we came upon a crocodile sunning himself on the sand, and every weapon was aimed at it as we drifted past, and, on the order, we fired and a badly frightened Croc left for deep water. We didn’t find out if we had hit it or not.
During these expeditions, I got to know the Admiral very well and found him to be a real gentleman, who wore his great position with dignity and humanity, as the following story will indicate.
While steaming at night, I was Coxswain of the Seaboat in my watch, and one very dark night, when I had the ‘Middle Watch’ I had inspected the boat and reported to the Officer of the Watch, on the bridge, that all was correct, and going down the bridge ladder, I was tempted by the polished brass handrails to slide down, and as I got to the bottom, I met Jellicoe coming up. My feet hit him on the chest and he sat down hard. I helped him up and hoped that the dark night would hide my identity and that my voice was not recognised, and went below. Only to have the bridge messenger calling for the ‘Leading Seaman of the Watch’ who told me that I was wanted on the Bridge. It was with mixed feelings that I reported to the Officer of the Watch, beside whom stood the Admiral, and I was told that a loose boat’s davit was moving in its socket and keeping the Admiral awake, and I was to get some hands and bowse it hard over so that it could not move, which I did and thought that I had not been recognised. The next morning, when I brought the boat alongside and saluted the Admiral, as he got into the boat, he rubbed his chest and said ‘I have a sore chest this morning. Coxswain’ and that was all that I ever heard of the matter.
From the Solomon Islands we went to New Britain and visited Rabaul, where the only leave was given, and from there to Samarai, where most of the population came out in launches shouting ‘We want our Admiral’. Jellicoe called them alongside and took them into the Wardroom. The cruise took a little over a month and I had taken a camera and six rolls of film, and hoped to have some wonderful shots, of Jellicoe and his doings, but, discovered a hole in the bellows of the camera and only managed to get two photos of Jellicoe, taken in the boat as we went into Gladstone.
As the Suva had been, for that short time, the Flagship of the whole Navy, we flew the flag of the Admiral of the Fleet, the ‘Union’ flag, at the main truck, and the boats had small sheet iron replicas of the flag on each bow as the Ship’s badge, and when I returned the boat to the dockyard, I managed to get the badge from the Starboard bow. The driver got the other, but the Yeoman of Signals went one better, as he made a second flag and returned it, and kept the one which had flown from the Main truck.
What has happened to it, and the other badge, I have no idea, but mine is now displayed on HMAS Castlemaine, the Naval Museum ship at Williamstown, and I can remember the time when I was the only Australian to act as coxswain to Jellicoe of Jutland, and my early days in the Australian Navy.