- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1981 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Kanimbla was commanded by Captain Cousins, DSO, RANR. Three years after the war ended, many of Kanimbla’s officers were still RANR officers.
From Sydney we called at Port Melbourne and Fremantle. At Melbourne we embarked the main draft of sailors to man the new HMAS Sydney. As well as the crew for the Sydney, Kanimbla carried 9 Italian POWs who were disembarked at Port Said. They had been absent from Italy for up to 8 years.
After leaving Fremantle, Kanimbla headed into a gale and her speed had to be reduced when some flooding occurred. At times Kanimbla rolled up to 25°. At Aden we embarked 20 RAF personnel returning to the UK. When passing through the Suez Canal we saw the remains of ships that had been sunk during the war. These ships had blocked the Canal and were cut up and their rusted remains placed on the Canal banks. In those days the British Army and the RAF were stationed in the Canal Zone and were not very popular with the Egyptians. The Kanimbla flying the white ensign and all the sailors dressed in khaki tropical rig, would have been mistaken for a British troop ship. Some of the Egyptian workers would yell abuse at us and pull their pants down and expose themselves. Kanimbla carried Army Medical staff, including Australian Army Sisters.
Gibraltar was the first port of call since leaving Fremantle where we were allowed to land.
Eddystone Lighthouse was the first sight of England and we arrived in Plymouth Sound on July 30th 1948, five weeks and six days after leaving Sydney. Commander Otto Becher, DSC and Bar, boarded the Kanimbla as soon as we arrived in the Sound and, addressing the ship’s company, said the Sydney’s completion date was delayed and so we would be accommodated in HMS Glory for the next few months.
In Plymouth Sound was the old ex RAN seaplane carrier Albatross awaiting conversion into a passenger transport.
The Kanimbla proceeded to Devonport Dockyard in the afternoon of our arrival. Moored off the Dockyard in the Hamoaze were the cruisers *Frobisher, Newfoundland, Bermuda, Cumberland, a US supply ship and a battle class destroyer. The ships marked * were paid off and were due to be sold and broken up. Further away were the Glory, the repair carrier Unicorn, the battle cruiser *Renown, battleships *Valiant, Revenge, cruiser Gambia, a minelayer, and in the River Tamar and near the Saltash bridge were rows and rows of destroyers, frigates and other vessels.
Kanimbla berthed at No. 5 wharf opposite the cold storage rooms. The light fleet carrier HMS Glory came alongside the Kanimbla so that we could transfer from Kanimbla to Glory. The battleship Vanguard was forward to us; the battleship Howe was in the big dry dock; in the next dock was the cruiser Orion and in the last drydock was the cruiser Jamaica. The carrier Ocean was in the basin.
As soon as Kanimbla’s gangway was down, I visited the Terrible to find there was a great deal of work to be done. The canteen had not been started which was good in a way as we were able to have it built and fitted out to our own design, instead of an unsuitable standard RN design.
We unloaded all the canteen stores from the hold of the Kanimbla to the dockyard storerooms and left Kanimbla to be accommodated in the light fleet carrier HMS Glory. The Glory, completed in April 1945, was very much the same as the Sydney and living in her for four months meant that we understood the Sydney far better when we commissioned her. Captain R.R. Dowling, DSO, ADC, commanded the Glory until December 14th 1948. Commander Becher was the Executive Officer. The highest ranking RN officer in the Glory was the 1st Lieutenant. A Lieutenant Commander gave us lectures on the dangers of AVGAS and just how much damage an AVGAS explosion could cause. There were a number of other RN officers and a fair number of RN ratings, some of whom had served in the Glory with the BPF. Being an RN ship on RN rations, the meals were not a patch on the RAN scran we had been used to. We had a lot of watery soup, and if eggs were on the menu there would be only one egg each; there was just enough food to go round. Glory had general messing, you ate in your own mess where you also lived and slept.