- Newspaper, Sydney Morning Herald
- Biographies and personal histories, Obituaries
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
One of the Australian Navy’s foremost enthusiasts, Alan Zammit, was buried on Thursday at South Head Cemetery.
A man capable of organising other lives, he had organised his own dying as much as he could. Even before learning he had cancer, he had secured one of the few remaining burial plots in the cemetery. It commanded a view of his beloved ocean.
His planning, however, had let him down in a small way. Given from two months to two years to live from the time the cancer was detected in February 1995, Zammit had a plaque made which recorded his death in 1996. He had it altered this year.
An honorary life member of the Naval Historical Society, he retired from work as a contract driver for Fairfax newspapers immediately on hearing of his illness.
He devoted the rest of his life to Navy matters and to getting his own affairs in order. He said goodbye to old friends many of whom he hadn’t seen for years.
He took a keen interest in cancer, its development and treatment, reading extensively and corresponding with authorities overseas. He collaborated with his doctors, even suggesting treatment that might extend his quality of life.
He widened his circle of friends, including his Navy family, doctors, old girlfriends and people in the street. He invited them all to share Sunday afternoons at the Zammit family farm near Wisemans Ferry. He endowed a prize for the best performed medical undergraduate at Concord Hospital.
“Alan was the most unforgettable character I have ever met”, the Reverend Geoff McIntyre said at the memorial service at Abbotsford Presbyterian Church.
Alan Zammit’s grandfather from Malta, operated canteens in Navy vessels. So too did Alan’s father, Victor, known fondly by sailors as “Jesus”. Alan’s mother, Mary, often travelled to ports from where her husband’s ship worked, taking her family with her.
Alan, then about seven, was in Alexandria with the Royal Navy after Italy invaded Abyssinia in 1935. He spent some of his early years in Britain. Otherwise, he was educated in Haberfield, Burwood and Stanmore.
He joined the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia as a canteen assistant at 17 and was serving in it at the end of World War II. He served in the occupation forces in Japan in 1947 and visited Shanghai when the communists were gaining control of China.
He joined HMAS Sydney, Australia’s first aircraft carrier, when she was commissioned in 1948 and stayed with the ship for 6½ years. His service included two tours of duty in the Korean War, witnessing Britain’s atomic explosion at Monte Bello in 1952 and the tour to Britain for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
Zammit retired from the Navy in 1955, having won seven war medals and sailed more than 30,000 sea miles. He bought a newsagency at Regents Park and, from 1961, delivered newspapers for John Fairfax. He also wrote naval history for newspapers, journals and the Australian Dictionary of Biography and campaigned for service men and women he felt had not been properly recognised.
Sir David Martin, the former governor, wrote that his enthusiasm was contagious and “many people have a greater appreciation of the Royal Australian Navy as a result of his efforts … I salute him as a fine Australian”.
He is survived by his brothers, David and Ian.
Sydney Morning Herald 26/7/97