- Churchill, Peter, Lieutenant Commander, RN (Rtd)
- History - general, Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Melbourne II, HMAS Sydney III, HMAS Parramatta I
- December 1990 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In 1970 Lew Lind, Rod Atwill, Alan Payne and myself found ourselves with the responsibility of putting together an association which we were to call the Naval Historical Society. There were not very many founder-members, but we set to and designed, in the months to follow, an anchor logo for the mail which we sent out, and a tie for the members to wear.
I had the combined duties of Secretary/Treasurer for some time, and I remember developing a system whereby I knew when people became unfinancial, by arranging twelve envelopes addressed to individual members at the time they joined; when there were no more envelopes, then we were due for another annual subscription.
The arrangement for addressing them was itself quite ingenious – I found a stationer’s shop in North Sydney, it is so long ago now that I have quite forgotten where, who sold a little roller-printer like a rubber stamp, with ink in the handle, and a typed stencil which was clipped across the semi-circular roller; once each address had been typed and the stencil fitted, it was a very easy job to run off twelve envelopes, one for every month of the Bulletins which Lew produced so efficiently. We utilised the Kalamazoo system of accounting, which was so simple and so easy that even I could operate it.
At one time, around 1974 or 1975 I had one bedroom full of the books that Lew and Alan had written; it had been necessary to store them somewhere when various buildings in the Dockyard were changed in their uses, and so my little house in Dover Heights became a book store: I had been in the habit of collecting them directly from the printers and they were stacked right up to the deckhead, and eventually, when space became available in the Dockyard again, it took dozens of carloads to shift them all down there.
There was one time when Lew and I went to see Manly Council. We had a scheme, drawn up in considerable detail, for the aircraft carrier SYDNEY– to be installed alongside the old gas-works by Kurraba Point, and although they were in agreement with the scheme on the first occasion we saw them, only two or three days later. when we went back to see them again, it was as though they had all been poisoned against the idea, because there was not a single consenting voice, and we were completely frozen out.
On another occasion we had a beautiful proposal for mounting the complete superstructure of the old SYDNEY by the southern pylons of the Harbour Bridge. I got hold of the drawings from the Drawing Office, and I worked out, from the plate thicknesses (remembering that 1” plate weighs 40 lbs per square foot) the total weight of the steel in the structure; but for one reason or another, the scheme never came to fruition – it was a great pity, she would have looked jolly good, mounted there, with all her navigation lights shining brightly at night.
But the one project which did actually see the light of day was the salvage of the bows and stern of the old PARRAMATTA, stranded high up on the mud of the banks of the Hawkesbury River. We had a lot of fun with that one, with the contractor’s crawler crane mounted on a lighter, and another lighter for the bow and stern sections of the old ship. She was very dangerous to crawl around, as most of the steel plating had corroded nearly right through, and was only paper-thin in most places. I shall always remember seeing the thick growth of mangroves through her bottom-plating in the Engine Room (what there was left of it). She had been there since 1934.
It was Wednesday afternoon, I fancy, when we steamed back from the Hawkesbury, with our two big trophies, and we paraded them past the ships in the Dockyard, with a big sign on the bow section – ‘HMAS PARRAMATTA – FIRST SHIP OF THE RAN’.
The contractor did all the work, and he found it dangerous when his crane fell through the rotting deck of the lighter, at Church Point, while trying to get the crane back ashore; there was only the tip of the jib showing above the surface, and a great big jagged hole in the deck of the lighter. It was also difficult when he had to shift the huge pieces of the old ship down the Parramatta Road to get them into the Council’s yard.