- 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)
The traditional northern weather continued with gale-force winds and violent snowstorms and with the temperature about 33°. On March 9th, eighteen of our aircraft made a strike on the remote and deserted island of St. Kilda, fifty miles west of North Uist in the Hebrides group.
At six next morning, 10th, Sydney joined company with Captain D 3rd Training Flotilla in Crispin, Captain D.G. Maclntyre, DSO, DSC, and the two frigates. Loch Veyatie and Loch Fada for a day’s A/S exercises.
Captain Maclntyre during the Second World War was a very successful Destroyer Captain, credited with sinking about 7 U-boats. He is now an author and naval historian.
The weekend of the 12th and 13th of March was spent at anchor in Dale Roads, Milford Haven. On the morning of Sunday 13th, two Fireflies were catapulted off in harbour, carrying as passengers pilots to ferry aboard replacement aircraft awaiting collection at Lossiemouth and Eglinton. Operation Pinwheel, namely the running of aircraft engines to turn the ship, was carried out to bring the ship into the wind for launching the aircraft while we were at anchor. In the late afternoon many officers and men were landed for recreation. Later a sudden gale blew up to such force that it was necessary to suspend all boat traffic until daybreak on the 14th. Thus large parties of officers and men had to spend the night ashore wherever they could find accommodation. On board, 65 WRENS, who came for an afternoon visit to the ship, ended up having to sleep on board, guarded by the MAA and four POs all night.
After leaving Milford Haven, the Sea Fury aircraft carried out exercises with RAF Lancasters and Sunderlands of Coastal Command, while the Fireflies made a strike on the Queen Mary in the southwest approaches.
On returning to the ship a serious deck accident occurred when a Firefly, after missing all wires, floated down over the barriers and crashed the deck park. Four aircraft were severely damaged.
The aircraft then used live rockets and cannon shell on Gulland Rock, three miles off the north Cornish Coast. After more exercises in the northwestern approaches, Sydney then flew off her aircraft. The Sea Furies of 805 Squadron were intact but only 4 of the 12 Firefly aircraft of 816 Squadron could fly off. The rest had crashed or had been wrecked.
We then proceeded to Greenock to embark freight and stores for Australia, and then proceeded up the 17 miles of Clyde River to berth at the King George V Dock, Glasgow, to embark our aircraft, followed by embarking more stores at Devonport and then we sailed for Australia on April 12th 1949, with a ship’s company of 1,182 plus 438 passengers, making a total of 1,620 men. The passengers included rating pilots who rejoined the Sydney later as Sub-Lieutenants, and there were 52 aircraft plus 4 air frames and over 400 tons of stores.
Only one RN sailor deserted, but after we sailed, many of the ex-RN sailors looked very sad for a few days, as it would be six long years before they would be free to return to England. About 150 of the Australian sailors were married in England.
As soon as we were in good weather, plenty of activity was arranged on the flight deck, such as deck hockey, rifle shooting, etc. It had been found that when about 1,000 men did PT together a sympathetic vibration was caused on the flight deck.
We passed so close to Malta that we could see Ocean and Vanguard in Grand Harbour. The Vanguard exchanged visual signals with us.
Between England and Australia, Aden was the only place where leave was granted.
The Sydney had a number of escape hatches on each side of the main deck. The ship’s standing orders forbade the opening, of the escape hatches at sea. By the time we were in the Red Sea the ship below decks in some of the hotter parts had temperatures of over 120°. Vie Zammit asked Commander Becher could the escape hatches be opened in the hot weather to get some fresh air into the ship. Commander Becher saw Captain Dowling and from then on escape hatches were allowed to be opened at sea, weather permitting.