This is the Way that it Happened– The unguided missile


The unguided missile

by Jonathan Brett Young

(This article was first published in NOCN83, 1 December 2010.)

It was the last opportunity for the frigate to carry out a live missile firing in the Far East before returning to Australia and a major refit. The gunnery officer was keen that one particular aimer, who had not yet carried out a live firing, be given the chance to demonstrate his ability to hit a target before a posting ashore.

The missile was the Seacat, a close-range self-defence weapon that had replaced the 40 mm Bofors gun in the fleet. Its control involved the aimer keeping a flare in the tail of the missile in line with the incoming target, then controlling it laterally and vertically by means of a thumb joystick. Well, that was the principle anyway.

The weather was closing in. It was one of those afternoons in the Far East that ends in a violent thunderstorm and downpour. “Get on with it Guns,” muttered the captain, who was not known for his love of things that go bang. In any case, he was an aviator and had had experience of towing targets for live gunnery practice. Perhaps he even knew the unpleasantness of TTBs (target-triggered bursts) moving along the towing wire towards the towing aircraft, which usually resulted in the frantic call to the ship that “I’m pulling this thing, not pushing it!”

The whole ship’s company had assembled on deck to watch the firing. The towing aircraft and target turned towards the ship. The target was acquired and after getting the captain’s permission to fire, the gunnery officer ordered “Seacat engage”.

There was a thunderous roar and a huge cloud of smoke as the missile set off towards the target. All eyes were locked onto the fast-receding missile as it sped away. All, that is, except the two pairs of eyes that mattered most: the Seacat aimer and the Seacat controller. Both had failed to pick up the flare in the missile’s tail. The aimer pressed the thumb-stick fully UP in the hope that he would sight the missile – and kept it there.

The missile climbed steadily until it was directly over the ship – and kept going into the disengaged side where the motor burnt out and it started to plunge back to earth (or, in this case, the sea).

The ex-aviator captain was by this time jumping up and down. The gunnery officer said: “The towing aircraft is clear of danger sir, but I am a bit concerned about that tanker on the horizon”.

At this everyone turned to look at the disengaged side. And there, large as life, and steaming at about 20 knots without a care in the world, was next year’s gross profit for the Shell Oil Company.

The missile entered the sea with a big splash, well short of the tanker but dead in line with it. The navigator, who had a sort of sense of humour, remembered something from his sub’s gunnery course and muttered, just loud enough for the gunnery officer to hear “Up 800”. The gunnery officer gave him a black look.

The captain stormed off to his cabin, demanding as he went the gunnery officer’s reasons in writing, before he went ashore again, for the spectacle just witnessed. The ship’s company returned to their duties, agreeing that it was great entertainment but another spectacular example of a gunnery cock-up.

The gunnery officer  set about gathering all the records required for the analysis, wondering how he was going to explain this one away. He consoled himself with the thought that the bar would be open in three hours time, when the ship would be safely alongside in Singapore.

seacat launch cropped for website

A Short Seacat launch: a sight to raise the pulse-rate of any red-blooded

gunnery officer? Seacat was fitted in the RAN’s Type 12 frigates:

HMASs Parramatta, Yarra, Stuart, Derwent, Swan and Torrens.

The Old & The Bold


A.J.“Nat” Gould, aviator

(This article was first published in NOCN 83, 1 December 2010.)

As a teenager in Queensland during the 1930s, Arthur ‘Nat’ Gould picked mushrooms in nearby fields and sold them. His earnings paid for flying lessons at Archerfield, Brisbane, and he got his ‘A’ licence at the age of 17.

When World War II began he joined the RAAF. He completed the first pilots’ course under the Empire Air Training Scheme, and graduated as Sergeant. He sailed for Britain and on arrival was posted to RAF 17 Squadron, flying Hurricanes in Scotland.

Events now took a strange turn; his introduction to naval aviation was imminent. He was transferred to a new Hurricane squadron, 134, and together with 81 Squadron they embarked in a very old aircraft carrier, HMS Argus, and headed north for three days. They were ordered to take off from the Argus and head for Russia.

Magnetic compasses didn’t work that far north and there was no land in sight. With doubtful navigation, no wind and a slow ship, the take off was worrying. An escorting destroyer obligingly showed them the direction to go. Their briefing had been “Keep heading south and after 30 minutes you will see Russia. You can’t miss it. Turn right. When you come to a big river, follow it; you will come to Murmansk.” Fortunately, it worked; though Nat was greeted with AA fire. A ‘friendly’ welcome indeed!

They were in Russia to help train the locals in both tactics and aircraft maintenance. They stayed there five months, fighting alongside the Russians and escorting their bombers. “Nat” became “Natski”.

Back in Britain in time for Christmas, the squadron re-equipped with Spitfire Mk Vs, and was based in Northern Ireland. Part of the squadron’s role was convoy protection.

But the Japanese had now entered the war and Australia was soon under threat. Transiting via Canada and USA, Nat arrived in Melbourne in May 1942. His new RAAF squadron, No. 75 (Kittyhawks) had had a torrid time in Port Moresby. The squadron was brought back to Australia to reform and was based at Kingaroy, Q. Nat, by now a Pilot Officer, joined them there.

The squadron moved back to New Guinea, and occupied a forward position at Milne Bay. The Japanese forces were about to land from the sea, and the Kittyhawks aimed to prevent that. Nat dive-bombed through heavy AA fire and sank a ship.

Despite the staunch defence of the area, the Japanese landing succeeded; the squadrons found themselves very close to the front line. Ground support sorties would last about 10 minutes, strafing through the jungle canopy to enemy positions marked by flares sent up by army forward observers. Enemy ground fire was a hazard, and they had enemy aircraft to deal with as well. Quite apart from hazards posed by the enemy, living and working conditions were horrendous too.The constant heat, rain and humidity created ideal conditions for malaria, dengue fever, tropical ulcers and insects of all kinds to flourish. The muddy ground was constantly waterlogged. It was hellish.

History records that the Kittyhawks were a major factor in the allied success in the Milne Bay land battles, which saw the Japanese land forces decisively beaten for the first time in WW II. It would be the beginning of the long Japanese retreat.

Then 75 Squadron was withdrawn, and Nat was transferred to Mildura for operational training of new pilots. In October 1943 he moved to 457 Squadron (Spitfires) at Darwin, but was soon moved to Drysdale in the Kimberley. It was the closest RAAF base to Timor, and once Nat was involved in the interception of a Japanese ‘Dinah’ reconnaissance aircraft.

By this time the impact of the war on Australia was winding down; operations had moved far to the north. In mid-1944, Nat was back in a training role at Mildura. He longed to be in the front line, which he reckoned was safer than being stuck with unpredictable trainee pilots.

gould 1 3 crabs

Nat Gould and mates just before transfer to RANVR

L to R: Bob Davies; G.F. Spencer-Brown; A.J. ‘Nat’ Gould

In June 1945 Nat shaved off his moustache, swapped his Flight Lieutenant’s uniform for the darker-hued one of a Lieutenant RANVR, and began loan service with the Royal Navy. In the final stages of WW II, Nat saw service in the big RN carriers HMS Indomitable, Indefatigable and Implacable, flying Seafires – the naval variant of the Spitfire.

gould 2 firefly  9 implacable

A Firefly, and a group of aviators, on board HMS Implacable in 1946. Nat Gould,

newly commissioned into the Royal Navy, is front right.

He and other transferees were initially based at Schofields for type conversion and deck-landing training. His squadron, 801, with 36 Seafires, was briefly embarked in HMS Indomitable, then for longer periods in both HMS Implacable and HMS Indefatigable in the north-western Pacific. Each ship had over 80 aircraft embarked, and when the ships operated together they put up a formidable strike force. In August 1945, Nat’s ship was north of Truk and heading north for the expected invasion of Japan when word came that the atom bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. At war’s end, Nat was offered a short-service commission in the RN and moved to England for three years.

Nat transferred back to the RAN to join the newly-established Fleet Air Arm In September 1948, . He and W.G. ‘Jimmy’ Bowles were the first Australians to be appointed to squadron command in the RAN; initially Nat led 816 Squadron (Fireflies) and Jimmy had 805 (Sea Furies). Later Nat took over 805, and saw more operational service in the Korean War, with his squadron embarked in HMAS Sydney.  But it was brief; the Korean armistice was imminent. Nat had a total of 17 years service in the RAN, and retired as a Commander in 1965.


gould 3 raaf to ran conversion schofields 1946

Schofields NSW: the first air force-to-navy pilot conversion course, 1945. Nat Gould second

from right and Bob Davies second from left, both in back row; Spencer Brown left, front row.

Nat Gould’s service flying career achievements included qualifying as a flying and instrument instructor. Having completed over 20 jumps, he is also a fully-qualified paratrooper, and is entitled to wear those distinctive wings. These days, he and his wife live quietly and comfortably in Killara. At 90, he’s entitled to slow down a bit. But he still retains the self-confident air of a man who could, if he had to, wrestle a crocodile and placate an angry grizzly bear.

(Thanks to The Spitfire Association for the use of material on its website, and  to Nat Gould for further background and the loan of photographs.)


A Tale of Two Cruisers


A tale of two cruisers

by Colin Baxter

chaplain colin baxter

(This Message was first published in NOCN 83, 1 December 2010.)

The recent discovery of the sunken wreck of the WW II cruiser HMAS Sydney brought to a close one of the greatest maritime mysteries of our time. The ship’s loss left a nation grieving its disappearance, with all its 645 officers and men presumed dead.


sydney ii

I recall as a young teenager the tumultuous welcome the City of Sydney gave the cruiser’s heroic crew on 11 February 1941, on their return from deployment in the Mediterranean with the British fleet. The ship was feted as the pride of the navy and the toast of the nation in recognition of her impressive fight against superior speed and fire power. This had led to the sinking of the pride of the Italian Navy, the cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni, seven months earlier, on 19 July 1940 off Cape Spada, Crete.


bartolomeo colleoni

Severely crippled from Sydney’s attack, Bartolomeo Colleoni was finished off with torpedoes and rolled over and sank. The 555 members of the crew who were rescued included her Commanding Officer, Captain Umberto Narvi, who was badly wounded. He later died in Alexandria on board a British hospital ship. He was afforded full naval honours by the officers and crew of all allied ships in harbour who attended his funeral. He was buried in the British military cemetery in Alexandria.


In recognition of his role in the action, Sydney’s Commanding Officer, Captain J.A.Collins RAN, was made a Commander of the Order of the Bath by His Majesty the King. It is against this background that I move on to tell the next part of the tale of the two cruisers.


It happened about 30 years later in the early 1970s while I was relieving Chaplain at HMAS Moreton, Brisbane. An Italian — call him Vittorio — had presumably emigrated to Australia with his wife and family after the war, and they had settled in Queensland. Vittorio had sought me out to officiate at the marriage of his Australian-born son — call him Bruno —  who was at the time a sailor in the RAN, to his Italian cousin — call her Maria. Maria had only recently arrived from Italy, and couldn’t speak English.


It was one of those culturally-arranged marriages I hadn’t encountered before. In this country the Laws of Consanguinity permit the marriage of cousins, but do not encourage it.


I performed the marriage ceremony in a church on the Gold Coast, with the father of the groom, Vittorio, acting as both best man and interpreter for Maria. Surprisingly the young, very attractive, but shy and extremely nervous bride seemed to be very happy, despite the fact that she had met her husband-to-be for the first time only several weeks before.


At a small gathering for refreshments that followed the marriage, Vittorio told me that he had been a sailor on the Bartolomeo Colleoni in 1940 and was trapped in a gun turret by battle damage from Sydney’s deadly onslaught that immobilised his ship. With his typical Italian effervescent broken English, laced by a few expletives, Vittorio expressed his utter dismay and incredulity that an, in his opinion, inferior Australian warship had left him imprisoned in a damaged gun turret frantically saying the Rosary believing he was going to drown. (The Guissano class cruiser I believe did boast superior armoury and speed — a real greyhound of the sea, capable of over 40 knots.)


Fortunately, an officer from the stricken ship heard Vittorio’s cries for help and managed to free him from the damaged turret. They both dived overboard and were picked up by a British destroyer. Vittorio eventually found himself in a POW camp in Australia.

Later  in 1941, he was fortunate enough to be transferred to a detention centre near Griffith in NSW. There he spent the rest of the war working as a farmhand with other prisoners who enjoyed a significant amount of freedom based on trust; this won him over to the Australian way.


It’s my conjecture that at war’s end, repatriated home to Italy, Vittorio found it difficult to settle back into a country so dislocated by years of war. This perhaps led him to leave his homeland and find refuge and a new life in far-away ‘Oz’.


Looking back through that story, what a refreshing thing it was that in the wake of such destruction and violence, men at war still retained and afforded to a former fallen enemy, the captain of the Bartolomeo Colleoni, such values as decency, compassion and chivalrous respect; and buried him as they would have one of their own, with full naval honours.


There is a certain kind of irony here that is expressed in Beth Neilson’s pop song that I heard on radio recently called ‘World of Hurt’:

In a world of hurt nothing seems to work.

We’re just a lonely little planet made of dust and dirt.

But who would think in a world like this

A thing so beautiful as LOVE exists.


The world into which the child Jesus was born was violent. If anything it was much more violent than ours. Born in a cave at the back of an inn, and forced by the threat of infant genocide by a crazed King Herod, His parents fled with Him to Egypt and lived there as refugees for four years until the King’s death. At the age of 33, His enemies had Him condemned to death on a trumped-up charge and hung Him on a Roman gallows overlooking a city’s garbage dump. But despite what the world did to Him, it is written of Him:


… He was a light that shone in the darkness, and that light still shines, and the darkness will never put it out.


Shalom, and Season’s Greetings to all.



(Historical Note by Ed: Without wishing to detract from this fine spiritual message inspired by and drawn from a famous RAN action, Bartolomeo Colleoni achieved ‘over 40 knots’ on trials running ‘light ship’without ammunition, with much of her armament removed, and with minimal fuel. She would not have achieved that speed in fighting trim. The Guissanoclass cruisers were very lightly armoured, with a maximum plate thickness of 24mmcreating another area of critical vulnerability.)

VADM Sir Richard Peek, KBE CB DSC RAN ret, 1914-2010

VADM Sir Richard Peek, KBE CB DSC RAN ret, 1914-2010

(This obituary is drawn from the reminiscences of Malcolm Baird, Ian MacDougall and Ian Richards, from a report by Mike Taylor, and from information provided by CN’s office.)

vice admiral sir richard peek

Richard Innes Peek (who called himself  ‘Peter’ because he disliked the ‘RIP’ monogram) was born in Tamworth, NSW. He joined RANC in 1928. During World War II he served in HMS Revenge, HMAS Hobart (at the Battle of the Coral Sea) and HMAS Australia. As Australia’s gunnery officer at Leyte (where he was wounded) and Lingayen, he was awarded  in quick succession the OBE and the DSC.


His commands were the frigate HMAS Shoalhaven, Tribal-class destroyer HMAS Bataan, Battle-class destroyer HMAS Tobruk (twice), fast troop transport HMAS Sydney and aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. For service in Tobruk during the Korean War he received the United States Legion of Merit.


Promoted Rear Admiral in 1964, he commanded the fleet during the height of the Vietnam War. He became CNS, as Vice Admiral, in 1970. Further honours came: a CB in 1971, and a knighthood (KBE) in 1972. He retired in 1973.


The relatively few souls still with us who knew Peek well recall his crystal-clear mind and devotion to the welfare of those under his command. He had an exceptional ability to read people and recognise potential:  in 1963 he supported a young supply officer’s application for transfer to submarines, but at the same time encouraged the officer to stretch his talents to the limit by assigning him to  tasks well outside his comfort zone.  So began the unlikely path by which Ian MacDougall later himself became CNS.


But Peek was an innocent in some ways too. On assuming command of the Fleet he invited a selection of journalists to join him in the cuddy for an informal chat. The refreshments included a plate of prawns,  which received the lion’s share of the press coverage. Peek was disappointed that matters of substance failed to receive more coverage than the prawns did.


A stickler for discipline, when the occasion required it he could observe the spirit rather than the letter of the law. In Tobruk he learned that a ‘shady’ investment scheme was operating in a mess deck, with contributions each pay day. Peek stopped the scam but took no disciplinary action; the investments, and their earnings, went to a worthy charity in Victoria.


After retirement he continued to contribute to defence policy until very recently, with experienced commentary and, when he thought it appropriate, trenchant criticism. He was one of a small and select group of prominent people who publicly opposed Australia’s involvement in the second Iraq War.


The pungency of Peek’s buggy old pipes is well remembered, and even stronger were his Borneo cheroots. His love of the weed didn’t seem to shorten significantly his long life.


He is remembered as gentle and considerate with his juniors, both officers and sailors. He stood no nonsense and would fight tooth-and-nail for something he believed in – including on occasions protecting his staff against criticism from above. His morals were impeccable; he observed Christian ethics. He was a man of principle and moral courage.


Peter Peek married Margaret Kendall in 1943; she died in childbirth in 1946. Later he married Catherine Stops, who predeceased him in 2005. He is survived by three children, six grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.


Sir Richard died on 28 August, and was privately cremated on 6 September. His life was celebrated at a memorial service at HMAS Harman on 22 October 2010. CN, VADM  R H Crane AO CSM RAN was one of four eulogists; the others were all  close Peek family members: daughter Jane, son Matthew, and grand-daughter Catherine. The service was informal and well-attended; several retired officers of flag rank who knew Peter Peek well were among the mourners.




(This obituary was first published in NOCN 83, 1 December 2010.)



HMAS ARMIDALE – A Survivor’s Account

Armidale ‘42:

A survivor’s account

Book review by Jerry Lattin


armidale 42 -- cover image

Col Madigan, Jan Senbergs, Don Watson. Armidale ‘42: A survivor’s account. Macmillan Art Publishing, South Yarra. 1999. 69 pp; RRP $33.00.


This book falls into no recognisable literary category, and comprises elements of formal history, personal wartime reminiscence, and theme-based graphic art. It nevertheless delivers, verbally and pictorially, a unique, vivid and personal view of the events leading up to a small Royal Australian Navy action in World War 2, the action itself, and its aftermath.


The definitive story of the sinking of HMAS Armidale near Timor in 1942 was told in Frank B Walker’s Armidalethe ship that had to die (Kingfsher Press, NSW, 1990). The Madigan/Senbergs/Watson work adds a new dimension to that conventional history, embellishing the tragedy with images that enter the soul. Drawn from a fragment of war, its essence is memory and imagination.


Armidale ‘42 opens with an essay by Don Watson which recreates the historical and strategic setting in which the drama unfolded, and describes dispassionately the events themselves. Those events are adequately covered in more detail in Brian Swan’s two-part article on the sinking of HMAS Armidale, which begins on page 19 of this issue, so will not be summarised here. Suffice to say that Watson’s essay is vivid, thought-provoking, and beautifully written—as one would expect from a master wordsmith.The essay is followed by the text of a brief address given by Col Madigan – himself an Armidale survivor – at a1998 celebration in Darwin for the 56th anniversary of Armidale’s launching. It reads almost like poetry, but his better contribution comes later.


The Armidale Drawings by Jan Senbergs (executed in pastel and acrylic wash on paper, and purchased by the Australian War Memorial) are preceded by the artist’s explanation of their genesis in an unrelated professional collaboration between himself and Madigan. The drawings themselves—11 including the frontispiece, all sparing in the use of colour—are vivid, impressionistic, stylised, filled with life and death, hope and hopelessness. They portray recognisable key events in the action and its consequences.


Notwithstanding the excellence of Watson’s introduction and the Senbergs drawings, the heart of this book lies in Col Madigan’s major contribution, titled The Armidale diary. Written mainly in the third person, the diary is a reflective ramble through a 1988 reunion in Armidale NSW. Old shipmates meet again; they share memories, recall horrors, and reminisce about lost comrades. The narrative flicks back and forth between 1942 and 1988, and few readers will encounter a more moving depiction of what it was like to be sunk by air attack and to survive in an open boat at sea for over a week. (Madigan survived  in the whaler and was rescued nine days after the sinking.) Subdued criticism of the dilatory attempts to locate and rescue survivors is implied rather than expressed. As a bonus, Madigan’s story is illustrated by his own drawings, which admirably complement those of Senbergs. His lightly-limned pen-and-ink vignettes illuminate his narrative brilliantly.


Australia has a long tradition of sponsoring ‘War Artists’, including some of the nation’s finest painters. Their work stems from life on active service, often in the battle itself, and has an authenticity and immediacy that gives it historical authority.  In this book, the pictorial contributions from Senbergs and Madigan extend the boundaries of that tradition: Madigan’s sketches are from memory of events that occurred decades before; and those of Senbergs go even further:  his work derives from imagination, intuition and research; and from the oral and verbal depictions of others.  For this reviewer, at least, it worked.


The book is tied together by a short essay by art historian Jenny Zimmer entitled  Remembering and imagining. Zimmer’s piece puts into context the imaginative work of Senbergs, and links it to the contributions of the other two authors. She  ties the Senbergs drawings to Théodore Géricault’s massive 1819 painting The Raft from the Medusa, drawn from a similar incident – which inspired one of Madigan’s sketches.


Armidale ‘42: A survivor’s account unashamedly appeals to the emotions. It is nevertheless a work of integrity that illustrates with word, brush and pen the consequences of war at sea against superior air power.


Col Madigan, barely out of his teens in 1942, became a successful architect. The work of Jan Senbergs is represented in the National Gallery, in all state art galleries, and several international collections. Don Watson was speech writer for Paul Keating among many other achievements.


The book’s production is high quality. Its 250mm x 240mm format may be inconvenient for some bookshelves, but was probably dictated in part by the dimensions of the Senbergs drawings. The drawings are printed separately and pasted in—a nice extra quality touch. An index is neither provided nor needed.


The publisher is Macmillan Art Publishing—so clearly the Macmillan Group regards this as an art book, not a history book. Macmillan AP assures us that the book is available on order, (ISBN 9780958574365 may be helpful for readers wishing to order) because interested buyers are unlikely to find copies on the shelves of Australian bookshops. The reason is that the main artwork (The Armidale Drawings) is lovingly stuck in by hand in small runs, only when required. Overseas, Amazon has both new and second-hand editions available in the $45 – $55 range. The rather-high second-hand price (which makes Macmillan AP’s new price look like a steal) no doubt reflects the book’s comparative rarity.




2011 AGM – President’s Report



(VADM Ian Knox, AC RAN ret)


(First published in NOCN 82, 1 September 2010.)


I have pleasure in presenting my first report. It has been a busy and challenging year for your Committee and they have been a great support to me, particularly the Vice President and Secretary.



The Vice President, Secretary and Reiner Jessurun are not renominating for the Committee, so we are looking for three new committee members, and if you approve the changes to the rules later in the meeting we need four new members. Preferably we would like some of them younger than those of us you see here and also to have IT expertise. Please take the opportunity to volunteer to nominate for the committee when we get to Agenda Item 5.


On your behalf, I wish to acknowledge the excellent work, over a very long period, of John Da Costa and Fred Lane. Fred has been exceptional with his heavy workload. The quality of the Newsletter, the construction and development of the website, the running of the membership and the Sydney functions, are all testimony to his drive and diligence. His wife, Gerry, has been a great help to him.


Constitutional review

Over the past year John Da Costa, John Smith and John Hazell ran the Club’s Constitutional Review marathon. John Ellis looked after our finances. Reinier Jessurun (retiring after nine years) gave outstanding backup when the Secretary or Treasurer was absent. Ron Robb managed the time-consuming and difficult task of Minutes Secretary and Paul Martin and his Naval Historical Society crew helped us stuff newsletters and provided excellent committee meeting facilities. John Hazell oversaw our Reserve Entry Officers Course (REOC) liaison and initiated a business plan for the Club. Along with Paul Martin and Ron Robb, John Hazell also helped out with secretarial duties when Fred Lane was absent overseas from late April until early June. Although not a member of the Committee, David Blazey was our Honorary Auditor for the last five years and did an excellent job. He is not seeking re-appointment this year so that he can nominate for the Committee.


Transition team

Because of Fred’s impending departure, a couple of months ago I set up a Transition Team, comprised of all Committee members under the leadership of Ralph Derbidge, (the next Vice President, subject to a decision to be taken later in the meeting) to propose a way ahead. In the short
term, interim  (acting) responsibilities are:


Hon. Sec.:  John Smith

Agenda, Minutes: Ron Robb

Membership: David Blazey

Functions A: Paul Martin (Lunches and Trafalgar Dinner)

Functions B: John Hazell (Penguin BBQs)

Functions C: Ralph Derbidge (Parliament House Lunch)

Newsletter Editor: tbd.

Webmaster: tbd.


Existing responsibilities to be continued included:


Hon. Treas.: John Ellis

REOC Coord.: John Hazell

Public Officer: John Smith


Newsletter and website

The Newsletter and website are important. They are the only contacts with the Club for about 80 per cent of our members. The driver and the main mover is your Secretary, Fred, but I wish to thank many individuals, including Kevin Rickard for his regular book reviews, Stephen Dearnley and Gerry Lane for regular heavy duty proofreading, ably backed up by Derek White and Gray Connelly. Thanks also to Ralph Derbidge and Bill Vallack for many lighter moments inside the back cover. Regular contributors, like John Ellis and Mike Downes, give the Newsletter essential variety. Please keep the articles coming, especially those with non-aviation flavour.


Helper volunteers

I’ve already mentioned the need for more Committee members but we need other volunteers (who need not be Committee members) for:


Website design and maintenance (presently Joomla-based; if you understand that we need you!).Newsletter: 1.Columns (e.g. promotions, awards, etc.); 2. Editorials (e.g. Navy changes, pensions, etc.); 3. Proofreaders, and 4. Newsletter stuffing (four times a year, usually on a Wednesday in the Boatshed on GI with lunch in the Kuttabul wardroom afterwards).


Dues increase

You will have seen from the last Newsletter that the annual dues were increased from $20 to $30, and the reasons for this were largely covered in that publication. In addition, I would like to point out that in 1996 when the fees were last increased to $20, the CPI was 119, giving the 2009 equivalent of $28.40. Also I’m sure you are getting much more value for your membership today.  Over the past few years the profits from the Sydney Division functions have been put into general revenue to supplement the investment income and dues. For each of the last three years this has been between $3,500 and $4,500. As with other divisions, we are struggling to keep function costs affordable. Although the Committee considers that there is a certain inequity that this contribution should continue to be borne by the Sydney function attendees, it looks like it will be needed for some years yet to attain and maintain a satisfactory level of funds to continue servicing Life Members.


Life Membership

With the increased cost of running the Club, and the increasing number of Life Members, an in-depth review of the liability of the Club to continue to fund Life Members was conducted. As a result, changes are proposed to the conditions of Life Membership, and these changes are the subject of a Special Resolution to be presented later in this meeting. The proposed changes will not affect current Life Members. In the future it is intended that most of the Club’s funds will be transferred into a Life Membership fund so that the liability for funding Life Members can be monitored more effectively.



Our membership increased from 669 (last year) to 725. Serving members (RAN and RANR) increased from 46 to 65, plus another 36 Honorary (REOC) RANR members. Our membership has a high demographic viability. We have some very old and frail members who are physically unable to join us at our luncheons and other functions. Others are young, just starting their careers, or second careers, and perhaps very busy. We won’t please everybody every time with our listed events, but we try to reach out to every member. Please let us know how we can do more for you.


Some of the news on memberships is not so good. The number of financial members falls quite a bit short of the 700 odd on our books. This past year, more than 100 of our members had not paid their dues by the end of the Club’s fiscal year, 28 February. A disturbing trend is that this number not only continues a pattern of non-payment becoming evident in the previous year, but it exceeds it. I would like to add my voice to that of our Hon. Treasurer in a recent Newsletter plea – please pay your dues and pay them promptly. Failure to do so creates additional burdens for your fellow Club members.



At the New Entry Officers Course Graduation last December I had the pleasure of presenting the Club’s REOC Prize to LEUT Debra Simpson RANR and later this month I will be presenting the prize to SBLT John Cole RANR. John Da Costa was the guest speaker at the REOC training mess dinner at Creswell last month. These occasions give the Club visibility amongst the Navy’s leadership and younger officers.


Last year, we sent invitations to 45 REOC graduates to become Honorary members. These were accepted by 26 (60 per cent), of whom seven have gone on to become full members. This year we sent out 26 invitations. So far eight (30 per cent) have accepted. Although largely unsuccessful to date, we shall continue to try to get our REOC members to attend Club functions. Unfortunately, the initiative to have a special REOC attendance at the Penguin BBQ did not receive adequate support. We really would love to see a REOC table with partners at both our signature functions, the Trafalgar Night Dinner on Friday 22 October and the Christmas Parliament House luncheon on Thursday 16 December.



In Sydney, the Club hosted or co-hosted 10 functions that attracted 701 members and their guests (up from 539 attending last year). The biggest events were the Fleet Review (121 attended), the Trafalgar Dinner and Christmas Parliament House Luncheon.


We were delighted to have our Patron, VADM Russ Crane, as our Guest of Honour for the Trafalgar Dinner and he spoke to us about his initiative, “The New Generation Navy”.


CAPT Michele Miller, the first woman to command a major RAN fleet unit, HMAS Perth, was our Guest of Honour at Parliament House and spoke about “A Generation of Women in the Navy.” She changed the minds of many old salts, who had reservations about women in combat roles at sea.


ACT Division

The ACT Division, under Mike Taylor, continues to flourish. They held their AGM last month and during the year conducted nine functions, primarily in a private room in the Southern Cross Yacht Club. Three papers were presented: The Loss of HMS/M Affray, New Generation Navy and Bathurst Class Minesweepers.


The Christmas Cocktail Party (which Margie and I attended) attracted more than 70 members and guests. It was a most enjoyable occasion.


Queensland Division

In Brisbane, the Club co-hosted, with the Queensland Navy League, the annual Trafalgar Dinner for 70 members and guests. The Guest of Honour was Major General John Hartley. Earlier in the year a luncheon on the Sunshine Coast attracted 30 members, prospective members and guests. Local members are also encouraged to attend the two-monthly Divisional Committee Meetings and lunch held in Brisbane. All social activities continue to be conducted on a pay-as-you-go basis. In addition they will most likely get involved with the NHQ-Sq St Mary’s Church Memorial in Brisbane.


WA Division

A renewed membership drive doubled the Club’s WA Division, and at a general meeting in October 2009 the Division was formally re-established.  At that meeting Bob Mummery was elected Chairman, Roy Stall Secretary/Treasurer and Bob Potts, Tony Hughes and Ray Arthurs Committeemen.


Since the October meeting the Club’s WA Constitution has been formalised and agreed, a social calendar for 2010 prepared and the Division’s bank account set up.


The social calendar has not been totally successful.  A cocktail party scheduled for late January had to be abandoned through lack of member support.  A presentation on “Find the Sydney” by Bob Trotter in April was successful, with approximately 40 attending. As yet they are a relatively small group, actively seeking new members and trying a variety of functions to meet the membership needs.


Victoria Division

In Victoria, the Club hosted three lunches and a Trafalgar Night dinner at the Melbourne Club.  With the loss of the Navy and Military Club, the Division experimented with a number of luncheon venues.


House flag

In my predecessor’s address at the last AGM he mentioned his desire for a house flag or burgee,. In the June 2009 Newsletter a number of designs, which had been developed by the Committee, were depicted and you were asked to choose. Only about five per cent of the membership responded. Your Committee felt that there was little interest and the matter was dropped.


A number of our members have crossed the bar during the year and we shall miss them.


Finally, on your behalf, I would like to thank the hard working Committee for their efforts during the year, and wish those not seeking re-election a happy retirement. During lunch I will present, on behalf of the Club, Certificates of Appreciation to John Da Costa, Fred and Gerry Lane, Reinier Jessurun and David Blazey.



The St Petersburg Artillery Museum

St Petersburg Artillery Museum


By Fred Lane


(This article was first published in NOCN 82, 1 September, 2010.)


“May you live in interesting times,” is a curse attributed by many to the ancient Chinese. Regardless of the curse’s origin, St Petersburg has experienced more than its fair share of “interesting times” in its short life. Founded in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great, as Leningrad it experienced one of the longest and most destructive sieges of all time, an 872-day siege by no less than 26 German Divisions of their Army Group North.


Many museums

It was also in St Petersburg that the cruiser Aurora fired the blank shot that was the signal for a decisive October 1917 attack on the Winter Palace, the seat of the then Provisional Government. It is in St Petersburg, despite these “interesting times”, or perhaps because of them, that we also find priceless art, architecture, theatre and museums. One of those remarkable museums is the Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signals.


Many of the weapons preserved there have a history of their own. They include personal arms, medals and gifts received by Russian royalty and include trophy arms captured from Swedish, Turkish and French forces. Some other weapons have almost miraculously survived that white hot crucible of war, defending St Petersburg itself. We are reminded of naval guns and gunners, disembarked and fighting ashore with distinction during the WW II siege.


Started 1703

The collection dates back to 1703 and the the Kronverk Arsenal started housing the Artillery Museum in 1869. The museum is just down the road from the pre-Dreadnought Aurora, afloat in the Neva River, and adjacent to the island that is distinguished by the skinny spire of the Sts Peter and Paul cathedral/fortress.


Row upon row

Just inside the Kronverk Arsenal’s gates, the Artillery Museum greets you with row upon row of medieval and modern light and heavy artillery. Exhibits range from big muzzle-loaders and mortars to nasty-looking vehicle-mounted radar-directed multiple cannon and Surface to Air missiles (SAMs).



The Artillery Museum, from just inside the main gates


Chokhov’s cannon

One of the largest seige artillery pieces in the world, Andrei Chokhov’s colossal 7134 kg Unicorn, cast in 1577, is there in the museum. Another of Chokhov’s monsters, the 39,312 kg 35-inch (890 mm) calibre Tsar cannon, cast in 1586, may be seen in the Kremlin, Moscow.



One of the museum’s exhibits is the comparatively inexpensive Katyusha rocket system that was developed in Leningrad (St Petersburg) from about 1938. The early 132 mm version was mounted on a number of light truck chassis, including the 1933-vintage ZiS-5. With a  22 kg (49 lbs) warhead, the rocket had a maximum range of about 5.4 km (3.4 miles).


Not accurate, but…

It was not as accurate as artillery and took much longer to reload, but a battery of four trucks could deliver a lethal rain of air-burst shrapnel over a four hectares (10 acres) area, all within a few seconds. Then the trucks could scuttle clear before the enemy responded with effective counter-battery fire.


The rocket collection is worth a day’s investigation alone. Unfortunately, all the signs are in Russian, but there is no disguising, for instance, the two or three deadly SA-2 Guideline versions or the heavyweight mobile ICBMs.


The Lavochkin OKB S-75 (SA-2 Guideline, SAM-2) was a nasty shock when one shot down a U-2 piloted by Gary Powers, 1 May 1960, over a SAM-2 testing range near Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). Powers was on an intelligence-gathering mission at 70,000 feet when one of eight SAM-2s hit his aircraft. (The U-2 wreckage is displayed in the Moscow Central Army Museum; Newsletter No.75 December 2008 p. 20 refers.)


One important result of this shoot-down was the accelerated development of the big Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and counter-measures that in turn generated an interesting counter-counter- measures race.


The USN chose the AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile that homed on SAM site radar emissions. The USAF chose powerful jamming systems that, theoretically, blinded enemy early warning radar. Later developments included specialist jamming pods and Shrike missiles fitted to, for instance, the USN’s EA-6B Prowler, A-6B SEAD and the USAF’s F-III Wild Weasel.


..and in the super-heavyweight division is this mobile nuclear-capable SS-25 RT2PM Topol ICBM

Enemy response

Not to be outdone, enemy forces in Vietnam and other areas quickly adapted to these threats by upgrading the SAM’s radar to make it harder to detect and lock on. They also developed a missile that homed onto a jammer’s emissions. Another tactic, after detecting a Shrike launch, was to drift the contact radar to one side, then turn it off. The Shrike would follow this beam, then go harmlessly ballistic. Finally, Shrike-equipped aircraft might be detected by employing one radar site in a “false launch” mode. If there was no Shrike response, all nearby SAM sites might then use their radar with relative impunity.


The outside gunpark displays a variety of weapons

The museum is open Wednesdays to Sundays,  1100 to 1800, and there is no entry charge. It is strongly recommended as a highly rewarding visit.