- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney III
- June 1981 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
During her stay in England a catapult was fitted in Australia and in September 1935 her Seagull V aircraft, which was primarily a reconnaissance and gunfire spotting aircraft, was embarked. This aircraft was a great help to a warship in the days before radar.
The Aussie made two trips to the Mediterranean from England and during that time it looked as though Britain would go to war with Italy over her invasion of Abyssinia. A huge force of Royal Navy ships then concentrated at Alexandria, exercising up and down the coast both day and night.
After the new Sydney arrived at Alexandria its canteen manager, Bert Hubbard, collapsed and was sent to the RN Hospital Ship, where it was found that he was too sick to continue as canteen manager, and he was sent back to England.
The executive officer of Sydney was Commander Collins, who became famous as captain of Sydney four years later, and is now Vice-Admiral Sir John Collins. Commander Collins sent one of Sydney’s motor boats over to Australia to collect Vie Zammit. Victor was then asked if he could run the canteens in both ships until Sydney got back to Australia. Victor recommended that his cousin Sam Zammit run the other ship’s canteen. Sam accepted the position and in 1941 lost his life in Sydney.
Commanding HMAS Sydney was Captain J.U.P. Fitzgerald, RN, whose fourteen-year old son lived in the ship with him. Captain Fitzgerald’s son was very popular with the ship’s company, and he learned far more from the sailors than he did from the ship’s schoolmaster. Victor was always telling stories about Fitzgerald and his son.
At a later time during the Mediterranean deployment, the ship paid the first official visit to Gallipoli, accompanied by Sydney. The sailors brought back bullets, parts of guns and equipment from the battlefields, to take home as souvenirs.
The sporting tradition set up by Australia’s ship’s company, one third of whom had not previously been to sea, was certainly a high one. Perhaps the most outstanding achievement was the winning of the Mediterranean Fleet Cruiser Regatta two years in succession. This feat had been accomplished only once before, sixty-two years earlier. In rowing, sailing, boxing, cricket, football, swimming and water polo, they set a standard which earned goodwill and respect throughout the station.
The final results of the Cruiser Regatta were as follows:-
1. HMAS Australia 404½ points
2. HMS London 395
3. HMS Devonshire 368
4. HMS Resource 340½
5. HMS Woolwich 321
6. HMS Berwick 316
7. HMS Shropshire 311
8. HMS Galatea 288½
9. HMS Ajax 276
10. HMAS Sydney 251½
11. HMS Exeter 246
12. HMS Sussex 177
The Cruiser Challenge Cups were won as follows:-
Captains – HMAS Australia
Cutinelli – HMAS Australia
Cusani – HMS London
RM Officers – HMS Shropshire
Engineer Commanders – HMAS Australia
Cowan – HMAS Shropshire
In the Fleet Cups Australia won the Illustrious Cup.
On the cruiser’s return to Australia in 1936, she remained with the Australian Squadron until early 1938, when she was placed out of commission so that she could undergo a complete refit.
Captain Acland, DSC, RN and a fair proportion of Australia’s crew, including Vie Zammit, recommissioned the seaplane carrier Albatross and sailed for England in July 1938, calling at Singapore, then via the Mediterranean, and arrived at Devonport on 8th September 1938.
Hobart was commissioned at the time of the Munich Crisis, and all the canteen stores and equipment had to be transferred from Albatross to Hobart in a couple of days. The canteen staff worked continuously, with only a couple of hours sleep each night. A canteen assistant, ‘Shagit’ had a nervous breakdown and went mad, which left Victor with only a sixteen-year old assistant named Jack Langrell, who remained with Victor in the canteens until 1955.
Just before stand easy one day during the Munich Crisis Victor was flat out, when a messenger came to the canteen to say, ‘Jesus, there are six girls on the quarterdeck waiting for you.’ Victor gave the messenger a goffer and thought it was a joke. Half an hour later the officer-of-the-watch came to the canteen and said, ‘Zam, please get your six girls and their cakes off the quarterdeck. The captain is due back at 1100 and he won’t like it.’