- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney III
- June 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Sydney, with Anzac in company, sailed for Port Lincoln, on the start of a winter cruise which would have taken us all round Australia with visits to Timor, Manus, New Guinea, and other tropical ports, and timed to end with arrival in Brisbane in August in time for the Exhibition. However, from Port Lincoln we were recalled to prepare for a tour of duty in Korea. After disembarking the air group in Jervis Bay, the ship arrived back in Sydney on 19th May.
Sydney sailed for Jervis Bay on 9th July to work up her air group, comprising 805 Squadron (Sea Furies), 808 Squadron (Sea Furies) and 817 Squadron (Fireflies). On 17th July, Sea Fury No. 112 went over the port side whilst landing on, and sank. The pilot Lieutenant Peter Goldrick, RAN, got clear and was picked up by ANZAC. Lieutenant Goldrick is now Captain Goldrick, father of NHS member Lieutenant J. Goldrick.
The RAN was short of personnel in 1951, and so that Tobruk could be made operational to relieve ANZAC, which ship had been ordered to Korea, sailors had to be drawn from other ships to make up Tobruk’s full complement. The greater part of Tobruk’s crew had been drafted to Bataan and Tobruk taken in hand for refit. After a boiler failure in Bataan, most of the original Tobruk crew arrived back in their old ship.
Up to 1951 Sydney carried two squadrons, 12 Sea Fury fighters (accredited at that time as the fastest piston-engined fighters in the world), 12 Firefly anti-submarine and strike aircraft, and one Sea Otter amphibian rescue aircraft. As three squadrons were required for the Korean Operations, it became necessary to operate about 37 aircraft. Some 20 could be stowed in the hangar, with a permanent deck park of about 17 aircraft, when flying was not in progress, making a great deal of extra work for the flight deck aircraft handlers.
Captain Harries found the weather in the Jervis Bay area unsuitable for flying training so, after taking on fuel and stores in Sydney, headed north to Hervey Bay with Tobruk, with Air Speed assisting as crash boat. Training operations were completed, Sydney returned to her home port to prepare for warlike duties.
On 31st August 1951, Sydney and Tobruk sailed for Manus, carrying out AA sleeve target firings, and flying training as the ships moved north. While passing through the St. Georges Channel, signals were received indicating that some of the native inhabitants of Rabaul were causing trouble, and that Sydney’s personal appearance at Rabaul would be a great help. Sydney and Tobruk entered Rabaul, and upon leaving port, the carrier flew off all her aircraft for a suitable demonstration over the town. Barcoo was in New Britain during this period.
After leaving Rabaul a fire broke out in one of the Sea Furies in the forward deck park, but quick action by the crew stopped the fire from spreading to the other closely parked aircraft full of AVGAS.
Three days were spent at Manus, Tobruk going alongside at Lonbrom Point, whilst the carrier anchored off the naval base. Both ships completed with fuel and water. Recreational leave was given, so my brother David and I went and had a look at the Japanese war criminals, numbering slightly under 200 men at that time. Amongst the prisoners were a general and a rear admiral, two doctors – who, we were told, cut out livers of Australian POWs while they were still alive, and a lot of Japanese guards who beat up Australian POWs on the Burma railway. There were notices prohibiting the taking of photographs, but as the war criminals were working around the naval base, it was easy to talk to the Japs. After having a swim we walked through the jungle to a native village, where all the girls were topless, but when the sailors started to take photographs, they ran into the huts and put shirts on. On our return to the naval base, HMAS Tarangau, the Jap prisoners had finished work, and were playing netball and tennis. They all seemed fit and healthy. At Manus, most of the white inhabitants visited the ship, as well as the recruit seamen of the Papua-New Guinea Division of the RAN, native police and prison camp guards.