- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Kanimbla I, HMAS Sydney III
- March 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Powerful was later completed as HMCS Bonaventure in 1957.
On February 13th 1949, five Sea Furies of 805 Squadron and four Fireflies of 816 Squadron landed on the Sydney without mishap. However, the next day a Firefly crashed into the barrier and another Firefly made a heavy landing and the undercarriage gave way.
Of the 25 pilots in the 20th CAG 14 were experienced RN pilots and 11 were Australian.
The Sydney did not have the mirror landing aid or an angled flight deck, so if the landing aircraft’s arrestor hook did not catch one of the arrestor wires the aircraft crashed into the barrier, beyond which were the parked aircraft, instead of just taking off again and having another try, as can be done with an angled flight deck.
As a result, between the time that Sydney commissioned and when she disembarked her CAG in April 1955, there were too many aircraft crashes to mention each prang. However, most of the worst or unusual accidents will be mentioned.
While working up the 20th CAG, two Barracudas landed on the Sydney from Londonderry. Barracudas were three-seater torpedo bombers.
While anchored off Bangor, Northern Ireland, during the weekend of February 19th 1949, the main party of the 20th Carrier Air Group was embarked.
Overnight leave was given and some of the ship’s company managed to go to Dublin or other parts of Eire.
A number of the ship’s company had spent part of their 1948 long leave in Dublin or somewhere in Eire and had come back to the ship with glowing stories of the abundance of food, and although the food was more expensive than in the UK, this could be overcome by selling rubber goods issued free from the sick bay. In Eire contraceptive appliances were banned in 1949, and Irish spivs would approach sailors in hotels and railway stations and offer good prices for rubber goods.
From Belfast we sailed for Invergordon, and after a stormy passage through the Minches in which several snowstorms were encountered, we anchored at Donoch Firth.
Flying exercises were carried out from Invergordon, including strafing attacks on a towed target. During this period we embarked a Supermarine Sea Otter for air sea rescue duties. The Sea Otter superseded the Walrus and became the last biplane to serve with the navy.
Often flying exercises had to be cancelled because of gales and snowstorms. Ashore the Scottish hills were sometimes covered by snow.
Over the years Sydney encountered her share of gale-force winds, snowstorms and huge seas – too numerous to mention in this article.
The Illustrious and her attendant destroyer joined us at Invergordon. Ashore in this part of Scotland it was fairly isolated, with wild rabbits running everywhere. The local farmers spoke in such broad Scots accents that it was very difficult to understand them. Today Invergordon is a base for the North Sea Oil Rigs.
After exercises fifty miles east of The Orkneys, Sydney and Contest set course for the Firth of Forth and anchored below the Forth Bridge.
At Rosyth dockyard the battleship Nelson was in dry dock. A walk on her upper deck was a great experience. The after part of her upper deck had several bomb holes as she had been used as a target by RAF bombers. The aircraft carrier Victorious and cruiser Swiftsure were in dockyard hands. Off the dockyard were the aircraft carrier Formidable, and the repair carriers Pioneer and Perseus. The battleships Rodney and Revenge were being broken up at Inverkeithing, not far from Rosyth Dockyard.
While we were at the Firth of Forth the Russian navy returned the battleship Royal Sovereign, which they had named Arkhangelsk, to the RN.
On March 7th the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fraser, passed in the destroyer Napier on his way to Rosyth.
After leaving the Firth of Forth on March 8th 1949, a strike of seventeen aircraft was launched against the headquarters of the Rear Admiral Reserve Aircraft at Arbroath. Flying had to be cancelled because of rough weather in the afternoon. Our starboard motorboat was carried away at 1450. By 1455 only the bow was out of the water and then she sank, leaving only a few boards. These motorboats cost over 2,000 pounds sterling.