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 before emigrating 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 as Station hand on several properties before enlisting in the Royal Australian Navy as a Steward in 1952

Served in H.M.A.S.CERBERUS. Was in the athletic team that won the 440 yards relay race? I was selected for the Inter-service sports, and also did some 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 approximately eight months. My action stations were After Action Messing and Damage Control Party. I felt somewhat indignant about this. Having gone through the Blitz in Liverpool a huge seaport. The Atlantic Convoys and their escorts would leave from there for Murmansk, Russia a very perilous journey, and as a consequence the German Air force did its best to obliterate Liverpool. We were 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 that sailors had to eat and my station was just as important as any other was. I accepted the advice reluctantly.

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

I remember one incident, not quite sure of the date or where we were. The pilot Lt. Carmichael, while waiting for the flight deck officers command to take off, he alighted from the cockpit and walked under the wing, and into the propeller 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 was absolutely 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 was named 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 carrying several officers in mess undress were invited to a cocktail party by the Americans. The coxswain missed 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 one was injured .You can well imagine what was said by the ship's crew. It was the talk of the ship for some time.

One evening, the ship entered SHIMONOSEKI STRAIT, a very narrow channel on the south- 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 large hatch that lead to the deck above. The hatch was very heavy. At this time the Chaplain walked by and told me to drop the hatch. I let it go as soon as I slipped its restraining hook. Apparently a ship of some type was coming in the opposite direction that was the cause of the alarm. I was to understand that the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy could navigate the strait by night. And so were not expecting any other craft in the vicinity. 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 Kong harbour and the aircraft carrier USS WASP came very close to us. The engines of the planes 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 on by typhoons. Gigantic waves crashing on to the upper deck and making life very miserable down below. Making your way to get your scran (food) and trying to traverse you way back to sit down. Trying to get the food in to your mouth while the ship is heaving heavily is a feat on its own. Virtually walking on the bulkhead and at times almost on the deck head instead of the deck. And times watching the flight deck disappearing under water and the gun sponsons 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 allowed on the upper decks for fear of being swept over board.Stewards on occasions had to take the 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 and immediately was in trouble, the engine failed and it ditched into the ocean. The carrier went over the spot, and fortunately both pilot and observer came to the surface and were rescued. No doubt there are many such incidents in my subconscious, but with age 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. VENGEANCE that went to Korea to embark 77 squadron RAAF.and to return home to Australia. I went to England and commissioned the new aircraft carrier H.M.A.S.MELBOURNE and was attached to the Far East Strategic Reserve during the Malayan Emergency 1955/60. It was the commencement of the jet Age in the RAN fleet air arm. There were many incidents that grounded the planes. A Test pilot came on board to sort out 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 she came to H.M.A.S. PENGUINE on her tour to Australia just before I paid off. I also organized the commissioning cocktail party of HMAS MELBOURNE. The ceremony was attended by H.R.H the Duke of Edinburgh, The Board of the Admiralty the R.N and R.A.N and Lady White (wife of Sir Thomas White, High Commissioner for Australia launched the ship.

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

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