- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney III
- October 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Sub-Lieutenant MacMillan later became a helicopter pilot, and after leaving the navy lost his life when flying a commercial helicopter. Sub-Lieutenants MacMillan and Knappstein took passage in Sydney from England in 1949 as rating pilots. Some time later, there on Sydney’s quarterdeck was Sub- Lieutenant Knappstein, as officer of the watch. He said he had returned in disguise. He never changed and was always popular with the sailors.
Australia always seemed to be infested with rats, and Vie Zammit became an expert rat catcher. Sydney in 1949 had no rat problem, however, during the 1951/52 Korean Tour the rats did become a bit of a nuisance. The first lieutenant, Lt.Cdr. Lapage, RN, issued rat cage traps, and the first person to catch a rat was Vie Zammit. Lt. Cdr. Lapage was told that Jesus had caught the rat, and came to congratulate him. Vie said ‘Shall I take the rat to the doctor to see if it has any disease?’, to which the first lieutenant replied ‘It might be a good idea.’
About fifteen minutes later Lt. Cdr. Lapage asked the writer, ‘Where’s Zam?’ and when told that he had taken the rat to the sick bay, the first lieutenant said ‘Oh no. It’s a mistake. Go and get him to bring the rat back to me.’ The writer went down to the sick bay and was told that ‘Doctor’ Muldoon and ‘Doctor’ Zammit were holding an autopsy on the rat. ‘Doctor’ Muldoon was the chief SBA, and unfortunately the Surgeon Commander was in the Wardroom.
Sydney returned to the west coast for her third patrol on 5th November 1951, and while Lieutenant K. Clarkson, DFM, RAN, was leading a strafing run on a truck in the Han River area, his Sea Fury was hit by flak. The aircraft rolled over on its back and went straight into the ground. Sea Fury wreckage was scattered for 100 yards and there was no sign of life. The remaining two aircraft of the flight were also hit by flak.
During the third patrol Rear Admiral Scott-Moncrieff, DSO, transferred from Belfast by jackstay, Sydney becoming the flagship for a short period. Vice-Admiral E.M. Martin, USN, transferred by helicopter from the US battleship New Jersey to Sydney for a day during this third patrol.
Sydney sailed from Sasebo on 18th November with Belfast and destroyers for the north east coast of Korea, for a combined air/surface strike on Hungnam on 20th and 21st November. The ships taking part in the strike were Sydney, Tobruk, Belfast, Constance, HMCS Sioux and the Dutch destroyer Van Galen (ex-HMS Noble), as well as USS Hyman, and three Landing Craft, Medium, Rockets, (LCM[R]s). Belfast, Tobruk and the other destroyers commenced a gunfire bombardment, with Sydney’s aircraft attacking buildings, oil tanks, railway lines, etc. Reconnaissance aircraft observed approximately 20 unserviceable piston-engined enemy fighters near a light aircraft field.
After dark on the first day of the strike, the three LCM[R]s laid down a barrage of 3,600 five inch rockets, a truly spectacular sight. The bombardment continued during daylight hours on the second day, 21st, after which the force withdrew. On the west coast, force 8 winds were encountered and flying was restricted. Off Shoppaiul Island the senior midshipmen were transferred to HMS Ceylon for their seamanship examination.
While embarking oil fuel and AVGAS from the RFA Wave Chief, in a rising sea, an accident occurred. A lot of oil fuel was spilt, and the tanker’s derrick was destroyed. The weather continued to be bad with wind gusts up to force 12. Not much flying was done during the fourth patrol.
Sydney’s catapult was giving some trouble, and when it had a breakdown there were buzzes going round the ship that we would have to go to the naval dockyard in Hong Kong for repairs. However, the catapult was refitted by a team of Japanese workers at Kure.
We sailed from Kure on 5th December on our fifth patrol. On Friday, 7th December, we had a bad day, five aircraft being hit by flak, of which two were lost.
During the morning Sub-Lieutenant Smith was shot down, his aircraft came down on a beach on Paengyong-Do, an island off North Korea that was in friendly hands. The pilot was rescued by helicopter.