In Borrowed Officer's duffle coat <smile>

L/Steward R.A.N. O/N 48203

I was born on the 14/8/1931 in Liverpool England. Had various jobs beforeemigrating to Australia in 1949 under the sponsorship of the Big Brother Movement(BBM) and contracted to work on the land for a period of two years. I worked asStation hand on several properties before enlisting in the Royal Australian Navyas a Steward in 1952

Served in H.M.A.S.CERBERUS. Was in the athletic team that won the 440yards relay race? I was selected for the Inter-service sports, and also didsome boxing.

I was drafted to H.M.A.S.WATSON Radar station before joining H.M.A.S.SYDNEY for the second operational tour of Korea. It was to last approximatelyeight months. My action stations were After Action Messing and DamageControl Party. I felt somewhat indignant about this. Having gone throughthe Blitz in Liverpool a huge seaport. The Atlantic Convoys and their escortswould leave from there for Murmansk, Russia a very perilous journey, and asa consequence the German Air force did its best to obliterate Liverpool. Wewere being bombed night after night seeing friends killed and home blown up. I wanted to have a go at the enemy. But it wasn't to be. But I was told thatsailors had to eat and my station was just as important as any other was. Iaccepted the advice reluctantly.

To what was happening topside I was unaware. However, I was aware of thepilots coming in for High Tea (Breakfast) of poached eggs quite early in themorning and then going to the Ready Room for their Operational Duties, orwhat ever it is they call it.

I remember one incident, not quite sure of the date or where we were. Thepilot Lt. Carmichael, while waiting for the flight deck officers command to takeoff, he alighted from the cockpit and walked under the wing, and into thepropeller in full sight of the flightdeck crew and his observer, Lt. Prior. A dreadful mishap.

I recall the time we went into Buckner Bay, Okinawa. It was a dark and miserably cold night.Ship crews encounter many such days and nights. We take it all in our stride. The rain wasabsolutely pouring down. One could hardly see a hand in front of the face. Crew members like me thought we were lucky to get into a cutter and go ashore. The rain was so heavy one was unable to see the coxswaine, even my naval cap shrunk.

It was here that I met two crewmembers of USS Higbee a destroyer escort. One wasnamed Sherrils Everett? the other escapes me. I met up with them again in Hong Kong.One was to be married on his return to the states. I gave him an Australian sixpence. He told me it was lucky.

However, despite the weather conditions, well after all we are sailors, an officer's boat carryingseveral officers in mess undress were invited to a cocktail party by the Americans. The coxswainmissed the chartered channel and hit a reef. All went overboard. There were no rafts or lifebelts-typical. Panic Stations. A cutter came to the rescue. A little ditty called the "Shipwrecked Matelots" recorded the incident. Fortunately no onewas injured .You can well imagine what was said by the ship's crew. It was the talk of theship for some time.

One evening, the ship entered SHIMONOSEKI STRAIT, a very narrow channel on thesouth- western tip of Japan. I was in the wardroom at the time. The alarm sounded.Close all X Y doors and hatches. I immediately ran up the ladder to close the largehatch that lead to the deck above. The hatch was very heavy. At this time the Chaplainwalked by and told me to drop the hatch. I let it go as soon as I slipped its restraininghook. Apparently a ship of some type was coming in the opposite direction that was thecause of the alarm. I was to understand that the Royal Navy and the Royal AustralianNavy could navigate the strait by night. And so were not expecting any other craft in thevicinity. No damage was sustained, but the skipper wasn't too happy about the incident.The only other time that a similar alarm sounded was when we were entering Hong Kongharbour and the aircraft carrier USS WASP came very close to us. The engines of theplanes on the flightdeck were revved up to take us away from the impending danger.

It's all part of a Sailors life. Bad weather conditions brought onby typhoons. Gigantic waves crashing on to the upper deck and making life very miserabledown below. Making your way to get your scran (food) and trying to traverse you way backto sit down. Trying to get the food in to your mouth while the ship is heaving heavily is a featon its own. Virtually walking on the bulkhead and at times almost on the deck head insteadof the deck. And times watching the flight deck disappearing under water and the gunsponsons taking in water. The ship shuddering and groaning as she shook herself free.And we wondering if she will right herself. Decks roped off, at times ratings not allowedon the upper decks for fear of being swept over board.Stewards on occasions had to takethe meals up in a water-tight container to the navigator. I for one had this duty to perform.I can tell you it was rather hairy at times but undaunted, the stewards did it.

Another time at which the date escapes me, a plane took off from the flight deck andimmediately was in trouble, the engine failed and it ditched intothe ocean. The carrier went over the spot, and fortunately both pilot and observer came to thesurface and were rescued. No doubt there are many such incidents in my subconscious, but withage and the passing of time my memory has dimmed and alas is unable to recall.

I was drafted at sea by helicopter to join the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. VENGEANCEthat went to Korea to embark 77 squadron RAAF.and to return home to Australia. Iwent to England and commissioned the new aircraft carrier H.M.A.S.MELBOURNEand was attached to the Far East Strategic Reserve during the Malayan Emergency1955/60. It was the commencement of the jet Age in the RAN fleet air arm. Therewere many incidents that grounded the planes. A Test pilot came on board to sortout the problem. Who would want to be a Test Pilot?

I had the distinction of being selected to attend to H.R.H. the Queen Mother when shecame to H.M.A.S. PENGUINE on her tour to Australia just before I paid off. I alsoorganized the commissioning cocktail party of HMAS MELBOURNE. The ceremonywas attended by H.R.H the Duke of Edinburgh, The Board of the Admiralty the R.Nand R.A.N and Lady White (wife of Sir Thomas White, High Commissioner for Australialaunched the ship.

I enjoyed my time in the navy and I would do it all over again. On reflection I shouldhave made it my career. It's too late now.
Jim Reardon

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