- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1981 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
When the Customs Officers saw the sailors had landed and were riding past Circular Quay in trams, a couple of the Customs Officers jumped on to the tram running boards, but the Customs Officers were abused so much they soon got off the trams.
There were many stories going around the Aussie about encounters with the Customs Officers. Some may be exaggerated but a couple that come to mind are: One sailor was chased on to the flat roof of a building. At Circular Quay sailors disappeared into the closest hotels. A Customs Officer who saw a sailor with a suitcase, stopped him and demanded that he open the suitcase. When it was open all that was in it was dirty clothing.
On the third day Australia went into Captain Cook Dock. The Customs stayed at the gangway of Australia the whole period the ship was in Sydney.
The Customs Department has always given the Navy a fair go – it was just unfortunate that the Australia arrived from Japan after the story the sailor gave to the newspapers was published. All of us who had reasonable amounts of goods from Japan were allowed to land them without paying duty.
The Australian Squadron sailed with the USS Valley Forge and her four destroyer escorts on February 4th 1948. The Valley Forge flew off and landed her aircraft without any accidents and at times the Aussie was steaming at 29 knots to keep in station with the carrier.
Captain Buchanan’s 12-year-old son, James Buchanan, spent a week in Australia between Sydney and Westernport. James asked his father why the sailors called Mr. Zammit ‘Jesus’ when a leading stoker, Fluke Porero, who helped in the canteen and who had a large beard, looked far more like Jesus than Mr. Zammit. James Buchanan joined the RAN and became Captain of the Diamantina. Australia visited Westernport where, from FND, newly commissioned RAN Lieutenants, who had been RAAF wartime pilots and had joined the RAN to become RAN Fleet Air Arm pilots, visited the cruiser to see what a warship was like. After Westernport we arrived at Hobart for the regatta. Bataan won and Australia came second. At Hobart in those days crayfish were 2/- each, so after a run ashore most of us would return with a crayfish for supper.
From Hobart we sailed for New Zealand calling at Port Chalmers, Lyttelton, Wellington and Auckland. The highlight of the New Zealand cruise was the ship’s concert party, which was quite good. At each city the ship’s jeep would drive up and down the streets advertising the concert and the proceeds would go to a local children’s charity. A concert was held ashore at Christchurch City Hall, and before the concert the Mayor entertained the party, giving them as much beer as they wanted. As a result, when the concert started most of the cast were drunk. One sailor told the mixed audiences that he had travelled the world, but nowhere had he come across more queers than in Christchurch, or something to that effect. Needless to say, Captain Buchanan and the Mayor, who were at the concert, were not too happy.
We exercised with HMNZS Bellona but like the RAN in 1948 the RNZN was short of experienced hands and the Bellona was manned by a very inexperienced young crew. HMNZS Black Prince could not go to sea because of the lack of men to man her and the Bellona at the one time.
In May 1948, Vie Zammit was the senior Canteen Manager by about 25 years and was offered the Canteen in the new CVL. Although he was happy in the Aussie we talked him into leaving her. In June 1948, Australia’s ship’s company fell in on the quarter deck and Captain Buchanan presented Vie Zammit with a clock inscribed:
Presented by the Officers and Ship’s Company of HMAS Australia to MR S.V. ZAMMIT in appreciation of his services as Canteen Manager 1928-48
In June 1948, we sailed in the HMAS Kanimbla for England. Kanimbla was delayed from sailing for about a week because the civilian wharfies who loaded her would stop work as soon as it started to sprinkle. The Kanimbla’s holds were filled with a cargo of mainly rice and tinned food for Britain.