- Swinden, Greg
- Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations, History - WW1
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Rankin, HMAS Anzac I, HMAS Albatross, HMAS Brisbane I, HMAS Canberra I, HMAS Moresby I, HMAS Yarra II, HMAS Cerberus (Shore Establishment), HMAS Penguin II, HMAS Australia II, HMAS Melbourne I
- September 1994 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
At the College the boys were given the rank of Cadet Midshipman with Seniority backdated to 1st January, 1921. The curriculum at the College consisted of four years of mixed Naval and academic subjects with a significant proportion of sport. A boy needed to excel in all these areas to do well at the College.
Rankin excelled both academically and on the sporting field whilst at the Naval College.
Upon passing out from the College in December 1924 he was awarded the prizes for Engineering (Theory and Practical) and for Mathematics. Rankin had in fact been second in every examination (which included Navigation, Seamanship, Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, French, History and English) behind Cadet Midshipman A.M. Clift, however, College regulations stated that only two prizes could be awarded to any one cadet. Needless to say, the competition between Clift and Rankin to be first academically had been intense, but it is believed both were still good friends. ((ELDRIDGE, F.B. – History of the Royal Australian Naval College, 1949.))
On the sporting field Rankin again excelled. He was a good cross country runner (in the 1923 Annual Cross Country event he came second) and an average cricketer and tennis player but it was in Rugby Union that he stood out.
Reports on matches played by the College included the following statements about Rankin “…he plunged merrily into the game” or “… was well in evidence“. Other descriptions of his Rugby prowess included “…the second try was scored by Rankin’s splendid dash“, “Rankin catapulted across for his third try” and “Rankin scored again in a strong run“. ((ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVAL COLLEGE – Magazines 1921-1924 and RANC Archives.))
In 1924 Rankin was made a Cadet Captain (Prefect) at the College and awarded his sporting colours for Rugby. At the completion of his four years at RANC his combined academic and sporting ability earned him “Maximum Time”, that is, he was entitled to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant three months earlier than normal.
Rankin also left the College with a nickname that was to stay with him for the rest of his life. For unknown reasons he was known as “Oscar” and his real name of Robert was rarely used. Even when he married, his wife was at first unsure whether his real name was Oscar or Robert.
On 14th January, 1925 Rankin, along with the rest of the 1921 intake, joined their first ship; the coal burning cruiser HMAS BRISBANE, then alongside at Garden Island. Shortly after joining BRISBANE sailed and spent nearly a year on the China Station. BRISBANE spent most of 1925 exercising with other ships on the China Station and conducting “showing the flag” cruises to various ports. Ports visited included Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong, Yokohama and Wei Hai Wei in China. One of the visits to Hong Kong was to assist in maintaining civil order during a general strike in the city. ((LIND, L. – Historical Naval Events of Australia Day by Day, 1982.))
Rankin was promoted to the rank of Midshipman on 15th May, 1925. Whilst serving in BRISBANE the Midshipmen received further instruction in navigation and seamanship. They were also to understudy the Officer of the Watch, be an assistant Divisional Officer for a division of sailors, coxswain of the ship’s boats when in harbour and keep their journal (a diary of events and personal– observations) up to date and submitted weekly to the Captain. They were also required to assist in coaling ship, a dirty and laborious job required at frequent intervals and almost exclusively “hand-draulic”.
Rankin lived in the Gunroom, the mess for Midshipmen and slept in a hammock, but in the tropics most would sleep on deck because of the stifling heat within the ship.
When BRISBANE returned to Sydney in October 1925, Rankin and his 1921 term mates were transferred to HMAS MELBOURNE, a Town class cruiser almost identical to BRISBANE. Rankin did not spend much time in Australia as MELBOURNE sailed for the Mediterranean for an exchange posting with the Royal Navy (RN). The RN cruiser HMS DELHI served on the Australia Station in MELBOURNE’S place.
MELBOURNE arrived at Malta in late 1925 and became part of the First Cruiser Squadron. MELBOURNE took part in the Annual Combined Exercises between the Mediterranean Fleet and the Home Fleet (based in the UK) and also came second in the Squadron’s annual efficiency test. MELBOURNE visited Gibraltar before sailing to Portsmouth in England. Leave was granted and the Midshipmen took the opportunity to do some sightseeing.