- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney III
- June 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
CROSSING THE BAY OF BISCAY Sydney ran into bad weather, losing the starboard lower boom, and the canopies of the starboard motor boats being stove in.
In the Mediterranean we met the American tanker Sacona, who had a sick sailor onboard. Sydney’s medical officer was sent to the tanker by seaboat to attend the sick man.
A day was spent at Aden, where three hours leave was granted to half the ship’s company in the morning, the other half landing in the afternoon. Between Aden and Colombo we met the British merchantman Mahronda, Sydney’s medical officer being sent away by seaboat again to treat another sick man.
Sydney visited Colombo for two days, during which time 100 of the ship’s company went on a bus tour to Kandy, 72 miles inland from Colombo. At Kandy some of the sailors took off their shoes when they entered a building. When they came out, the shoes had disappeared.
Fremantle was reached on 27th November 1950, Sydney headed towards her home port, dropping South Australian libertymen at Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide, spending a day in Port Melbourne, another day in Jervis Bay disembarking the 21st CAG and 65 aircraft (operation completed in 24 hours), finally arriving in Sydney on 8th December.
During the stay in Sydney, a Christmas Party was given onboard for the children of naval personnel who had lost their lives during WW2. I can remember a boy about 12 years of age saying: ‘My father was on the Sydney, not this one, a smaller one.’
On 24th January 1951 Sydney proceeded to sea, where the 20th Carrier Air Group commenced deck landings the following day. After three aircraft accidents, Captain Harries suspended further deck landing practice, and made arrangements for the pilots of the air group to undergo further practice runs at the Jervis Bay air strip. When operations began once more, Sydney lost her first pilot, when Firefly 206, while attempting to land, hit the foremast, crashed into the sea and sank. The pilot, Lieutenant Robert E. Smith, RAN, went down with his aircraft, but the plane guard destroyer, Tobruk, in a smart rescue operation, picked up the observer, Observer 2 Keith Bunning. Three aircraft airborne at the time were despatched to Albatross, Nowra, whilst Sydney and Tobruk searched the area for Lieutenant Smith for over an hour. Flying operations were then cancelled, Sydney, with Tobruk in company, returned to Sydney for repairs to the installations on the damaged mast.
Rear-Admiral J.A.S. Eccles’ flag was hoisted in Sydney, and on 24th February, the carrier sailed for exercises with Task Force 75, arriving in North West Bay, Tasmania on the 27th. On the 28th the fleet arrived in Hobart for the Fleet Regatta, which was won by Sydney, the small ships’ section being taken by HMNZS Hawea. Exercises were continued in the Storm Bay area. During convoy escort exercises, a notable feature was the flying off at dawn of one Firefly, piloted by Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Gould, RAN, CO of 816 Squadron, in the very early dawn of 13th March, in what was the only attempt at anything like night flying during the exercises.
Sydney sailed from Hobart, with Tobruk in company, on 14th March, en-route to Westernport. From Westernport the ship sailed for Port Adelaide, arriving on 21st and remaining there until the 28th March.
Between Adelaide and Jervis Bay, Sydney carried out exercises with the 1st Frigate Flotilla, HMCS Ontario, HMAS Australia, and other units of the RAN and RNZN that made up Task Force 75.
At Jervis Bay the 20th CAG was landed, the ship arriving in her home port, Sydney, on 5th April and remaining there until 24th April.
After the ship left Sydney, the 21st CAG joined the carrier and carried out working up exercises in the Jervis Bay area. On 3rd May, a Sea Fury piloted by Lieutenant R.W. Barnett, RAN, crashed into the sea immediately after a rocket assisted take off. Rocket assisted take off gear was sometimes used to assist a heavily laden aircraft fly off. In this case, the rockets on one wing went off on deck, but the other group ignited in the air, the aircraft plunging into the sea. A search by Sydney, Tobruk and two ASRs failed to find any trace of the pilot.