- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories, Obituaries
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Warrego II, HMAS Hobart I, HMAS Bataan, HMAS Warramunga I, HMAS Vengeance, HMAS Tobruk I, HMAS Australia II
- June 1983 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
HAROLD CHARLES (HARRY) ADLAM grew up in Penshurst, Sydney. Economics dictated that he leave school at the age of 14. However, he educated himself and ended up with a better command of the English language than many university graduates.
Harry had a great love for the Navy, and as a boy joined the N.T.S. “Nelson” at Lavender Bay where he quickly rose to midshipman.
After a period in the Army during the War, he joined the R.A.N. as a Stoker in 1945.
Harry’s first ship was the “Australia”. He took part in the Australian Victory March in June 1946 as part of the “Aussie’s” armed party. From “Australia” Harry joined “Hobart” in which ship he served during 1946-1947 part of which time “Hobart” was stationed in Japan as part of the occupational forces.
I can recall Harry giving Jap catgut fishing lines to old shipmates in the “Aussie” after he returned from his first trip to Japan in the cruiser “Hobart.”
As a stoker, he was always the willing worker and was often given the unpleasant jobs such as lagging engine room pipes with asbestos in the days when no masks were worn and the possibility of asbestos causing lung cancer was not suspected. Harry then served in “Warrego”, “Bataan”, and “Tobruk”, including active service duty in Korean waters during 1951-1952. In the Far East in “Warramunga” while the destroyer was under the command of his good friend Captain, then Commander, L.M. Hinchliffe, D.S.C., R.A:N., Harry also served in “Australia” and “Vengeance” instructing national servicemen.
A national serviceman who was in Harry’s class told the writer Harry Adlam was one of the best instructors. He made learning to be a stoker and sailor interesting and to seem worthwhile.
If Harry had been born 30 years later and was in today’s Navy, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been selected to have become a commissioned officer.
Harry married Valerie in May 1948 and was the adored father of Lyn and Anne. His family was the most important part of his life and with their dog, Tiny and cat, Peppi, they were one of the most happy and close-knit families I know.
After leaving the R.A.N., Harry’s insatiable thirst for naval history continued and over the years the unassuming self-educated ex-sailor had become an expert in naval matters. He never grew tired talking to ex-naval men. During our numerous chats – and we had many over the years – there was hardly a question he could not answer about the R.A.N. or the men who served in the Navy.
At the time of his death, he had almost completed two books, the “Wallaby Destroyers” and his second most favourite subject “Naval Gunnery”. Both books are to be published in his name and I am confident they will be a great success as Harry so much wanted to be remembered as a naval writer and historian.
A week before he died Harry expected to have from two to five years and had ordered an electric typewriter to write a third book about “Famous R.A.N. Sailors”.
His untimely death occurred on Saturday, April 30th, 1983 in Concord Repatriation Hospital, after illness of lung cancer. The Hospital staff and Chaplain Geoff McIntyre said Harry was a very courageous patient who never complained of the pain. Harry was aged 56.
Full Naval honours were accorded to Harry at a Memorial Service in the R.A.N. Chapel of St. George the Martyr, H.M.A.S. Watson on Thursday, May 12th, 1983. The service was attended by many ex-R.A.N. men and women. Captain Hinchliffe read the eulogy.
Harry, at the time of his death, was President of the R.A.N. Sub-Branch of the R.S.L.; Senior Vice-President of the Gallipoli Memorial Club and Editor of the Naval Historical Review and a regular contributor to `The Navy’ magazine, as well as doing a lot of voluntary work for ex-Naval men.
He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Harry was one of the most genuine and most unforgettable characters one could ever meet.