- 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)
In the hot weather some of the ship’s company started to go around with their shirts outside their shorts. Commander Becher addressed the ship’s company saying ‘Mohammedans may leave their shirts outside their shorts, everyone else is to cease this practice forthwith’.
Sydney arrived at Fremantle on May 12th 1949. Australia was in harbour. Rear Admiral Farncomb came on board to walk around the ship. He had commanded the escort carrier HMS Attacker in 1944.
During the trip from the UK there were stories of stowaways on board, but with 1,620 on board, including 438 passengers, cafeteria messing and make and mends each day in the tropics, only one stowaway was discovered when the Master-at-Arms ran a chap in for being out of the dress of the day for our arrival in Fremantle and it was found that he was not in the Navy.
As we entered Port Phillip, ten RAAF Mustangs and a single Vampire welcomed us, and then thousands of people were at Station Pier to watch us arrive. Rear Admiral Collins and all members of the Naval Board visited the Sydney. The arrival of Sydney in Melbourne was given a tremendous amount of publicity.
At Jervis Bay the aircraft were landed by lighter, except for the two Sea Otters which made water take-offs.
Sydney arrived off the Sydney Heads on Saturday, May 28th 1949, to be greeted by RAAF Mustangs, and every ferry on the harbour made as much noise as it could. As we passed Bradley’s Head Sydney dipped her ensign in salute to the foremast of her illustrious predecessor.
At midday on Friday, 3rd June, Commander Becher led the ship’s company in a march from Man-O’War steps up Macquarie Street, down Martin Place and along George Street to the Town Hall, where the Lord Mayor entertained the ship’s company and presented the ship with a silver plaque of the ship’s crest as a gift from the City of Sydney.
Many of the RAN sailors took the ex-RN sailors home on leave with them. AB Boris Tylee asked David Zammit did he know of any good holiday resorts. David took Boris to Bundanoon and Boris, who had worked as an MC at an Isle of Wight Holiday Camp after leaving the RN in 1946, was the most popular person at the guest house. He told the old people of his experience in the RN and how the cruiser Edinburgh was sunk. When guests became intoxicated he carried them upstairs to bed. He ran a concert and ended up being offered free accommodation any time he was on leave, and a job when he left the navy. Boris remained in the RAN for 20 years.
During Sydney’s stay in her name city, the 1949 coal strike happened and the Prime Minister, Mr. Ben Chifley, brought in the troops. HMAS Sydney provided a platoon to guard Newington Armament Stores Depot, and provided armed guards to Woolloomooloo Oil Fuel Plant.
Sailors qualified as M/T drivers were drafted to shore establishments and a number of the ship’s company spent a day at Long Bay Rifle Range. Warramunga’s ship’s company unloaded coal in Victoria.
Sydney sailed to work up the 20th CAG on 25th July 1949. On 1st August 1949, Sydney had to abandon air exercises because she could not produce enough air speed to launch her aircraft. With Sydney’s maximum speed of under 25 knots when it was calm, or if there was insufficient wind for her to steam into, there was not enough air speed over her flight deck to enable aircraft to take off or land. There were members of the Press on board when this happened so the public soon read of the disadvantages of an aircraft carrier that could only do 25 knots.
In answer to a question as to why the navy needs a Fleet Air Arm, in 1949 the then First Naval Member, Rear Admiral J.A. Collins said that a fleet that goes to sea without its aircraft today is just as obsolete as a fleet under sail.
On 25th August 1949, Rear Admiral Farncomb, CB, DSO, MVO, hoisted his flag in HMAS Sydney, which thereby became the first aircraft carrier Flagship in the RAN.