- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney III
- October 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Now to go back to the flight deck. The ship is all blacked out, all aircraft loaded, men asleep, while some are still working in the hangar on repairs to aircraft, and the ship steaming along. Along the flight deck came two armourers, they were stopped in their tracks to see small lights flashing on and off. This was caused by the aerials being raised to the vertical position and ship’s transmission going on. Can you imagine what could have happened if the rockets were plugged into the firing circuits? Each one of these aircraft with 12 rockets apiece, pointing towards Sydney’s bridge.
I can tell you now that re-arming of aircraft at night was changed right away. No more loading rockets at night, or globes fitted. So a lesson was learned that night of the danger of radio transmission and explosives.’
On 6th February, while Sydney and Tobruk were in Hong Kong, we received the news of the death of HM King George VI. Our programme was altered, and we sailed for Singapore, with a deck cargo of RAF Spitfires and Vampires.
Our first Australian port of call was Fremantle.
Here our long leave personnel for South Australia and Victoria were transferred to Tobruk, leaving Sydney free to head straight for Jervis Bay to land aircraft. At Fremantle a tug strike was in full swing, so 12 Sea Furies were used to manoeuvre the ship with their slipstreams, in what is known as ‘Operation Pinwheel’. The slipstream of these aircraft caused many of the ladies dresses end up much higher than they had wished, but the operation was successful, and the ship was moved away from her berth with ease.
In April, Captain H.T. Buchanan, DSO, relieved Captain Harries, and Commander R.J. Robertson, DSC, became executive officer, taking over from Commander ‘Vat’ Smith, DSC, who was to become a full admiral in 1970.
While working up in June, Sub- Lieutenant A.B. Haywood struck the forrard forklift truck during take off, and subsequently ditched close ahead of the ship. The pilot was recovered by Tobruk’s seaboat, and returned on board in five minutes, in pretty good condition.
During this work up Captain Buchanan flew off our aircraft in Jervis Bay, because the weather was too rough at sea. This was the first time aircraft had been flown off Sydney in Jervis Bay.
In July we learned of the death of Lieutenant Commander D.R. Hare, DFC, CO, of 805 Squadron whilst rehearsing for an air show at Nowra.
The ‘Jack Davey Show’ was held in the hangar, where 700 were seated. On July 28th 1952, and on 8th August, 600 guests were entertained in the hangar, the after lift well being disguised as a duck pond, complete with ducklings having a great time.
In August we headed north. At Cape Gloucester a Sea Fury made a forced landing on a disused airstrip. All movable fittings were brought back to the ship, and the aircraft was then destroyed.
After visiting Manus we called at Darwin for two days, where Commander Arnold Green, DSC and Bar, was Naval Officer in Charge. I remember seeing him on the Darwin wharf with two sacks full of wild ducks.
Sydney, in company with Tobruk, Shoalhaven, Macquarie and Murchison arrived at the Montebello Islands, where we met up with Hawkesbury and the RN ships Campania, an LST, a frigate and the RFA Wave King. The ships and aircraft carried out patrols to make sure that no ships, or foreign submarines, were in the area. On Friday, 3rd October, everyone not on watch was on the flight deck. An atomic bomb was about to be tested on Montebello. The Captain advised all hands not to look directly at the blast, as it could cause injury to the eyes. At 0930, ship’s time, we were 60 miles from HMS Plym, the frigate in which Britain’s first atom bomb went off. The frigate immediately became nonexistent, parts of it being blasted a mile inland.
From Sydney, we saw an orange flash the size of the rising sun light up the sky, followed by a ragged shaped atomic cloud, and then a terrific thundering noise caused the ship to vibrate. As the hours passed the wind carried the atomic cloud across the horizon.