- 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)
After working up the CAG off Jervis Bay the Sydney with Bataan sailed for Westernport, and then Port Adelaide, Melbourne, and Hobart for the Regatta. The Sydney won six of the seven pulling and sailing races.
One of the most interesting events in the autumn cruise took place on the 22nd February when the Sydney entered Milford Sound, on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The HMAS Sydney was the first aircraft carrier to enter the Sound.
After Milford Sound the Sydney visited Wellington for a week, followed by exercises with the RNZN before anchoring at Akaroa Harbour on 4th March 1950. The other ships with us were Australia, Warramunga, Bataan, Murchison, HM Submarine Telemachus and HM New Zealand Squadron, consisting of HMNZS Bellona and the frigates Taupo, Pukaki, Rotoito and Tutira. At Akaroa we were allowed to swim from the ship’s side. The water was said to be too cold for sharks and it was pretty cold for us too.
On Monday 6th March the Fleet sailed for exercises off Akaroa. Some time before the writer placed his name on a list to fly in a Firefly. At 0930 I reported to No. 2 Ready Room, collected a parachute, life jacket and flying helmet and proceeded to the flight deck. Half an hour later the Firefly catapulted off. The 816 Firefly Squadron exercised along the New Zealand coast and over the Canterbury Plains. At times we were so low we were below the cliffs and just above the water. When flying over land the people in the streets could be seen quite clearly. After flying over the fleet we circled the Sydney and then landed with a sudden jerk when we caught the arrestor wire.
After the exercises off the Akaroa, Sydney in company with Bataan and Telemachus proceeded to Lyttleton, followed by a visit to Auckland for six days and then sailed for exercises, arriving at Renown Anchorage, Bay of Islands on 23rd March 1950. Here we were again in company with the combined RAN and RNZN fleet, totalling 10 ships. The fleet carried out general drill. A combined fleet boxing tournament was held on the flight deck and a combined fleet regatta for small ships and large ships was held. Bellona beat the Australia and the Sydney, and became Cock-of-the-Fleet, followed by boat fights, potato throwing and fire hose fights. Several ships tried to take the red cock from Bellona but they had it well guarded with lights rigged around the ship, plenty of fire hoses ready, and signal lamps being used as searchlights.
There was swimming over the side each afternoon and the water was much warmer than in Akaroa.
A Sea Fury was damaged in landing ashore on a grass runway. The Sea Otter was flown off to the airfield with the Air Engineer Officer who reported that the Sea Fury could be repaired, so the ship’s jeep and trailer and a lorry took parts and personnel required to repair the Sea Fury. When the jeep, towing a trailer, was returning to the ship a serious accident occurred and as a result Chief Skilled Air Mechanic Nisbet, Chief Skilled Air Mechanic Brotherton and CPO Lawton were killed. The funeral was held at Russell cemetery for CPO Lawson and Nisbet and the Headmaster of Russell School said that the school would look after the graves. The remains of Chief Skilled Air Mechanic Brotherton were embarked in the ship and returned to Sydney at the request of his widow.
We sailed for Jervis Bay on 30th March and after disembarking the 20 CAG at Jervis Bay we arrived at Sydney on 3rd April 1951.
Captain D.H. Harries, RAN, relieved Captain Dowling, DSO, RAN, on 22nd April 1950. The Sydney had been a happy ship under Captain Dowling’s command and we were sorry to see him go.
Sydney sailed for England on 7th June 1950 to embark and work up the 21st Carrier Air Group. After calling at Melbourne, Fremantle and crossing the Indian Ocean the Korean War started. We arrived at Aden on 4th July 1950 and leave was given in two watches. The writer hired a taxi and went as far as the Aden border. Coming back we found a sailor who had become drunk, and had been taken by taxi to an Arab village where, instead of meeting a girl called Dixie, he was robbed and left without any money to make his way back to the ship. He was very lucky that we found him.