Charles Groom, 2nd Pioneers AIF

by Joan and Ron Brennan

I had a father who fought at Gallipoli as a Sergeant in the 6th Battalion AIF. He spent the rest of WW1 in France. My grandfather, Charles Groom , fought at Anzac with the 2nd Pioneers AIF, and later with the same unit in France for the rest of his service.

My Uncle, Charles Groom, served in the 60th Battalion & died, at the age of 18 years, from wounds received at the Battle of Fromelles. He is buried in the War Cemetery in Belgium. As can be seen from the attachments, I served in the Royal Australian Navy in WW1. I had a brother, John, serving in the RAAF, and a brother Bryan in the 2/26th Battalion AIF and was captured in Singapore, being a prisoner of the Japanese for the rest of the war.

NAVY LIFE, MY STORY - 1942-1946


For years, my children and grandchildren have asked the question - "What did you do in the war" and now, as I have great-grandchildren for whom I may not be around to answer the question, it has been suggested that I put the story in writing as part of my Life Story. Probably more happened to me during these years than any other similar period in my life and will therefore occupy more pages of my life story than any other period.

I had left school at the age of fifteen, with the main aim of getting into the Services as soon as I could to help win the terrible war that was raging at the time. In my plan of attack, I knew that I had to get some form of employment to last me until I could, by fair means or foul, enlist to fight the war.

When starting in the wide world of employment, my Mother gave me three pieces of advice. I had told her that my main aim in life at that time was to enlist in the Army, Navy or Air Force. She brushed that idea off, not appreciating my determination and told me that whatever I did, to always remember -

1. Honesty was the best policy. (Something she had illustrated to me some years earlier).
2. Treat others as you'd like them to treat you.
3. If something is worth doing, do it to the best of your ability. If it is not worth doing, don't do it.

I tried to keep these ideas for the rest of my life and, as was usual with my Mother, she was always right.

My first job was in a fibrous plaster factory. This was a pleasant enough job through the Summer months, but with the onset of winter, 1941, I nearly froze in this open air factory mixing the ingredients of the plaster sheets, Plaster of Paris, fibre and freezing cold water. As the plan did not include being uncomfortable, it was time to move on.

My Mother was working in a shoe manufacturing factory, Dummet's in Fitzroy, so my next employment was as a cutter in this factory, cutting out shoe uppers, operating a stamping machine that hammered a pattern knife into the leather. This was an easy job, the main skill being to place the knife on the leather to maintain the least waste of material possible. I must have carried out this task reasonably well, as the bosses started to talk of an apprenticeship. Despite pressure from my Mother, I knew it would be more difficult to enlist as an apprentice, so it was time to move on again.

I went to work for a Stock & Station Agent in the City, Wilmore & Randall, where I was engaged as an Auctioneer's Assistant at the saleyards. Being a city brat at heart, ploughing around in cattle and sheep dung, which was about ankle deep in the pens during auction day, did not meet with my idea of a pleasant job.

So I moved on again to Sutton Tool and Gauge as a lathe operator on night shift, manufacturing equipment for the Services and the munition factories. I realised that I had fallen into a trap as this was a reserved occupation and the Manpower Department would not allow me to change my job. This was my fourth job in less than two years and I now knew I had a challenge to get away from my reserved occupation.

During my working life I had been visiting different recruiting depots and pitched my tale of being 18, 19 or whatever age I thought I could get away with. At that stage I concentrated on the Army as I had heard stories that they were more likely to take under age lads. I could never strike an easy recruiting officer over the two years.

The war had been going for some two and a half years when I turned 17 on the 3rd April. Since the beginning of the war in 1939, it had been my burning desire to be a part of it to the detriment of everything else in my life and when I turned seventeen, I thought the time had arrived to get serious in my efforts.

The Air Force was my first choice and I sauntered into the recruiting office in Melbourne, trying to look as old as I could, but when they told me that I'd have to produce my birth certificate to prove that I was eighteen, I knew that it would be another twelve months before I could get into the "Blue Orchids"

As my father had served in the Army in the First World War in Gallipoli and France, I thought I might be able to join the 2nd A.I.F. and follow in his footsteps. I wandered into the recruiting office at the Westgarth Drill Hall and found an old WWI sergeant sitting at a desk. He asked me what I wanted and I told him I wanted to join the Army. He asked me how old I was. I looked him in the eye and said, "Nineteen". He gave a bit of a grin and said, "Go home, son and send in your father." I told him that my father had died from war injuries some 14 years previous and he told me that I should go home and look after my mother unless I could produce my birth certificate. He told me that I could join the Navy at seventeen and a half.



I then realised that the Navy was my best choice. It was now October, so I went into the Navy Recruiting office in the Olderfleet Building in Collins Street. On being asked that vexed question, how old I was and being able to tell them the approximate truth, I was given forms to fill in. These presented a problem, not being twenty-one years of age; I needed my Mother's signature. In WWI, when her seventeen year old brother had been given a white feather, the symbol of cowardice, and their mother would not sign his papers to enable him to join up, Mum signed the papers for him. She never forgave herself when he was killed in France at the age of eighteen. She vowed that she would never sign another loved-one's papers. She signed my brother's papers and he was a POW.

I was asked what sort of notice I needed and told them I was unemployed and could go into the Navy that day as far as I was concerned. Of course this was not true as I was employed in a "reserved occupation" manufacturing machine tools for the defence forces and munition works, but I wasn't going to allow a small impediment like that to stop me getting into the war. On being told that I would receive a summons within a week or so, I realised that I would have to go to work and clear the way. I told the foreman what I had done and he told me that I couldn't leave my employment. When I asked him what it would take for me to be dismissed from my employment, he said that it would have to be some violent action. I asked him if he would like me to punch him on the nose or would he agree to take it as read. He said he would tell the employer that I had been violent and should be sacked. Although my Mum didn't want to sign, she would much have preferred me to stay in my safe employment than go into the "wicked and dangerous" life in the Navy. I told her I was determined and my Uncle Jim (an old sailor) talked her into signing.

And so, I returned for my medical. Being a fit young 17 year old, I had no troubles passing these tests and even helped another young bloke to pass by giving him some of my urine specimen when he couldn't pass any. He must have been happy to learn that I had no problem in my urine.


I thought nothing more about the "white lies" I had told when I received my call-up and on 18th November 1942, I reported to the Olderfleet Building with twenty-five other recruits. We were marched, the first time I had been marched since primary school, when we were marched into class after Monday morning assembly, except for the marching in the Salvation Army Band. Compared to that, I couldn't really call this marching, as we went down Collins Street to Spencer Street Railway Station, carrying our belongings in an assortment of cases, bags etc. A steam train transported us to Crib Point, where we were again marched the couple of miles to Flinders Naval Depot and our processing began.

Again we were on the march, accompanied by an instructor who shouted those words we were to become accustomed to over the following months, "Left, Right, Left, Right" as we were marched to what was to be our home. Block 23 was a pre-fabricated collection of two dormitories, each the abode of a recruit training class, mine being Class R23, connected by a central ablution block, where we ate, slept, and did our writings at night, both letters and homework on what we had learned during the day.

We were informed that the meals in the Navy were called Breakfast (the morning meal), Dinner (midday meal) and Supper (the evening meal). After dinner (lunch) on this first day, our Instructor marched us around the depot, explaining the use of each building ("a Cook's Tour"). Then we were marched down to the Clothing Store where we were issued with our hammocks, an oblong of canvas with our name stencilled on it, a collection of cords and a mattress. As we were carrying our hammocks back to our quarters, we were jeered at all along the way with shouts of "You'll be sorry".

Our Instructor then taught us how to make up our hammocks and sling them from two steel bars which ran across the room about seven feet from the floor (deck in Naval terminology). Then to take them down and lash them into a sausage shape, about two metres long, in the regulation manner and stowing them end up into a bin supplied for this purpose. This was to become a daily duty when we later joined our ships. It was a space saving device in the cramped quarters of a Navy ship. He then showed us how to grasp 0ne of these bars and sling our rear ends into the hammock and then manoeuvre our body and legs to lie down. It was hilarious as we all tried to emulate his experienced expertise. When you realise that the allowed space for each hammock was 450mm (1'6") and the bottom of the hammock was 1.5m (5'0") above the deck. It can be seen that to squeeze one's body between the hammocks was no mean effort, especially if the bloke next to you was already in his hammock. And walking under the hammocks was achieved by bending at the waist until one reached his location to swing up into the hammock. We found later that the mess decks on ships were a very crowded place. After repeating this exercise a number of times, we became proficient enough to satisfy the Instructor that we would be able to get to sleep that night. I was surprised how comfortable the Navy hammock was to sleep in and we were told that it had the advantage over a bunk in that the vibration of a ship's engines and the tossing of the ship were not transmitted to the hammock. I found later that this was true to a certain extent, but in a corvette, which was said to roll even on wet grass, the theory was tested to some degree.

By then it was time for Supper, the evening meal. And so we were allowed the evening off to get settled in. Right from this first meal, I discovered that the Navy meals at Flinders were first class, although I later found that meals in Royal Navy depots were very ordinary and, on ship, were made edible from canned and frozen food only by very good cooks.

So ended my first day in the Navy.


Our second day began with being marched to the Clothing Store where we were fitted from head to toe with the items of our various uniforms which we would be required to wear for all the different occasions which would come our way. When it is realised that there were seven "Rig of the Day" combinations, this issue consisted of quite a few items of clothing etc. We were also issued with two bags in which to put these items, one was our "kit bag", a heavy canvas bag about 450mm (18inches) in diameter and 1200mm (4.0") tall. It had a flat bottom with a coil of rope attached. This bag was heavy when empty and very heavy, about 60kg, when all the clothing was packed. The "dilly bag" was a small blue bag with a draw string and its use was to carry the items we needed when going ashore on leave. We were to learn that carrying these plus our hammock when going on "draft" was testing. The kitbag weighed about the same as a bag of cement, the hammock nearly as much and being about two metres long, being awkward, then with the "dilly-bag", one needed an extra arm or two. These had to be manhandled numerous times until we reached our ship, in my case to the other side of the earth. But this was something to be worried about in the future. I had enough to worry about for now.

We were then marched back to our "mess", struggling under the weight of all these items, where we spent the rest of the day, learning the Navy way of folding and storing these clothes, how to tie the cap ribbon ("Tally"), embroidered HMAS, for security reasons as the name of our ship could not be disclosed. We had to learn how to affix this tally by tying it with the correct bow and how to lay out the gear for inspection, an inspection which the Captain of the ship or the First Lieutenant could call at any time and did quite often. This was in keeping with the Navy obsession with cleanliness, an aspect essential on a ship. We repeated this many times during that day in the normal manner of the Navy drumming things into the mind, where they hoped it would stay.

We were then told to pack our civilian clothes back into the case we brought in with us and label the case with our home address. These were picked up by a truck and subsequently delivered to our home address. Now we knew we were "in the Navy" with no connection to our prior civilian life, except letters, which were to be my only connection to home over the next few years.

So the second day passed. Two members of the class were nominated as Mess cooks, whose job it was to report to the galley (cookhouse) and collect our meals in stainless steel mess caddies, bringing it back to our mess for division among the class members. We found that this was a standard method of serving meals when we later joined our ship and was part of our training for the future. We thought we looked "crash hot" in our "Pusser" (Regulation) uniforms, an idea which was quickly changed by the sight of "old salts" in their "Tiddly" (made to measure) uniforms and on our first or second leave to Melbourne.

I believe every recruit visited the civilian Naval tailors in turn to get measured for his very own "tiddly" uniform, with it's scooped front instead of the V-front "Pusser" jacket and made as tight as each rating desired. I have seen young recruits who had their jackets made too tight and couldn't pull it over their head without someone else's assistance. This saw them returning to the tailor to have the jacket let out so they could dress themselves. These jackets were so tight that it was impossible to wear the issued square neck shirt under them, so a "dicky" was necessary which had only a bare front and back so it could be worn low to show off the manly chest. I have even seen some without hairs on the chest having hair stuck along the top of the dicky-front to fool the girls that he had a manly chest, but I never resorted to that subterfuge. There was also a narrow navy blue collar with three white stripes instead of the wide collar with which we had been issued, and of course, overlarge bell-bottom trousers, 22" at the cuff compared to the regulation 15" and pressed inside out with seven horizontal creases representing the seven seas. We even went as far as changing the ribbon which tied the "Silk", a strip of silk around the neck , officially as a reminder of the death of Lord Nelson, whose name was responsible for many of the customs in the Navy. On the issue uniform, after the bow was tied, this ribbon was the length of the width of the hand, but on a pusser uniform, I have seen it up to 300mm (12"). We had a junior officer on HMAS LISMORE who had come from a cruiser, who took a delight in his inspection of a shore-going party to carry a pair of scissors and measure the sailor's ribbons with his hand, snipping off excess ribbon. This practice only lasted until our Skipper heard of it. It was universally considered that these tiddly uniforms made us look the "bees' knees". Thus we all took to this "Lairising", which seemed to be mandatory so that one wouldn't be recognised as a raw recruit. I don't know why we were in such a hurry as we were not permitted to wear these "Tiddly" suit in the Depot or when we were going "ashore". At the officer's inspection when we were assembled before boarding the train to Melbourne, many a rating was told to go and change into his "Pusser" uniform. He would have to run the best part of a mile, back to his mess, change uniform, store his "Tiddly" uniform in his dilly bag and race back, to be inspected by the officer and hope he was in time to catch the train. It was not unusual for a rating to miss the train and his weekend leave until they learned the ropes.


There were other things to be done before we could start training in earnest.

We were marched (yes, we never walked) to the hospital and given injections and inoculations for what seemed every disease known to man. The rating lined up in front of me saw the large needle and promptly fainted. This did not save him however as he was given his needles while lying on the ground. I was fortunate to have a name starting with 'B' which put me near the head of the queue, as I realised as I saw the orderly put the needle back in a "sterilising solution", the needle being used over and over again, getting blunter with each jab. The worst of these was the small pox vaccination, which would give us curry in the following days, causing a stiff and sore shoulder and arm. One can imagine what we went through with rifle drill, "Slope arms, order arms, trail arms" and marching round the depot with our rifle on the shoulder in temperatures of near 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Our instructor assured us that it was good for us as the circulation of the blood spread the serum faster, removing the pain. He didn't convince we poor suffering recruits however and was proved wrong as we suffered.

After our period of torture, we were marched around the parade ground, being instructed to march waving our arms like birds, supposedly another way to circulate the serum through the body. Any one observing us would wonder what games these silly sailors played. All we thought, however, was that it was only an extension of our torture period. This lasted a couple of hours after which we were marched back to our mess for dinner.

We weren't left to nurse our wounds after dinner and, as usual, when there was nothing for us to do, it was a long march around every corner of the depot, out to the cemetery, "Boot Hill" when our instructor told us to look after ourselves and not end up there, back through the depot and out to the other extremity as a familiarisation tour, so our instructor informed us. All we could think of was that it was a march of about five miles.

When we arrived back at our mess, he gave permission to "brew up" and while we drank he gave us lectures on what to do and what not to do until supper time. After supper, there were various activities which we could partake in, Billiards/snooker, Crown & Anchor, Tombola (Bingo) etc. Although strictly against the regulations, money changed hands at these activities. This appealed to the gambling side of my mate "Bluey" and he couldn't resist trying to make money. After we started to receive our pay, "Bluey" would give me the five shillings required to pay for the train return trip to and from Melbourne on weekend leave and proceed to lose the rest of his pay. When I asked how he would live over the weekend, he'd tell me that his father would cover that.

One memory of my first weekend leave in Melbourne was that I had to catch the leave train from Flinders Street Station on the Sunday night at 9.30pm. On reaching the Flinders Street/ Swanston Street intersection, I found the whole intersection down to Elizabeth Street packed with brawling servicemen. I believe it started off as a fight between a couple of Yank & Australian servicemen. Yank Military police tried to arrest the Yanks and the Australians and Yank Servicemen joined forces against the MP's and by the time I reached it, I don't think there were any sides, it was just "hit where you see a head". I had to fight my way through this throng to make sure I caught my train and not incur the penalty of being "adrift" (AWOL) so early in my career. I received a few blows and admit to giving a few in return, but caught my train. The mind bogled when I looked back down from the top of the Station steps at the thousands of thrashing servicemen. When I was asked next day how I got the bruises on my face, the comment was "welcome to Navy Life".


I soon realised that it wasn't for wealth that I joined the Navy when pay day came around and they gave me my pay, representing 2/8d (28cents) for each day making a total of just under $2.00 for a seven day week. This would rise to 10/11 per day (about $7 per week) when I rose to an Able Seaman. So I had to husband my money very carefully to make it last the distance. Fortunately, being posted to a corvette which spent most of its time at sea, helped in this budget.

So the weeks went on, day by day with training in diverse subjects, such as gunnery, (learning about handling all sorts of small arms from revolvers, rifles, machine guns and hand held anti-tank guns as well as the larger surface guns) As part of this training, we had to learn how to strip down and assemble all these weapons. There was much noise and excitement at the rifle range and the gunnery range when we practiced with the various armaments.

We even had one day on the "Commando" course. This was a course carved out of the scrub along the foreshore, where we had to proceed from "Point A" to "Point B", overcoming various obstacles, firing our rifles with live ammunition at targets which would spring out of the scrub, while all the time bombs would explode around us. These bombs were controlled by an on officer and a sailor from an elevated steel control tower set off to the side of the course in a strategic position. One of the ratings doing the course on our day must have got frustrated on being showered with dirt from these explosions and vented his spleen by firing a .303 bullet at the tower. Amazingly, this bullet went through the steel side of the tower, through the arm of the sailor and into the chest of the officer. A detailed enquiry was held with everyone on the range on that day being individually questioned. We all thought that the culprit was going to be issued with a decoration and made a "sniper" for having achieved such a remarkable result with one bullet. But I think the Navy may have had other things in view for him. However, the culprit was never uncovered, so we'll never know what fate lay in store for him if he had been identified and he was not going to "dob" himself in.

There was also our seamanship training (tying myriad knots, learning how to steer a ship, firing various sizes of guns, rowing and sailing. basic signalling and sail making. The mind boggled as we tried to cram all this information into the brain in the allotted six weeks, with varying degrees of success.

After two weeks, we were given a weekend's leave in Melbourne. When I arrived home, there was a letter awaiting me from the Manpower Department, so on the Saturday morning I reported and was told that I couldn't go into the Navy as I was in a "reserved occupation". When I told them that I had been sacked, they said my employee couldn't sack me and I would have to return to work. But after I put in an earnest plea that I didn't want to go back to that employment and the firm did not want me, they marked my papers accordingly and my Navy career could proceed.

After three weeks, Flinders Naval Depot was thrown open to relatives of recruits so they could see first hand how the Navy was looking after their precious sons. Mum & Lorraine took advantage of the offer. Mum bought a new hat for the occasion and they took the two hour train trip. Having met them at the depot station, I proceeded to show them the area of the depot where I was doing my training. As we were crossing the large open space where we did all our drills, Mum complained of the ratings chasing the flocks of "those beautiful seagulls". Then one splattered her lovely new hat and Mum became understanding of the ratings dislike of the seagulls.

When she saw how fit her baby boy was after only three weeks training, she also accepted that she should entrust him to the Navy.

During the first weeks of strict discipline, strenuous training of marching, rifle drill and unarmed combat in the hot days of Summer, made more painful by vaccinations and inoculations, made me wonder if I had made the right decision when I could be home in the relative comfort of my reserved occupation. But as the mind and body became attuned to these hardships, the confidence in oneself gained was a new sensation to a young lad and I became more determined to get at the Nation's foes.

One weekend we were not granted leave and on the Friday evening, we were assembled, issued with rifles & told that intelligence had reported that the Japanese were planning to invade. So we were marched into the swamps which surround Flinders Depot and allotted positions in the swamp facing out to Western Port Bay. And so we lay all night, being eaten alive by mosquitoes, straining the eyes for the elusive foe. It was not until later in the weekend, when we were all dabbing lotion on the welts raised by the mosquito bites, which it dawned on we raw recruits, that the exercise was only another ruse to help toughening up program. With all the coastline of Australia, why would the Japs. choose that godforsaken swamp on a small inlet to make a landing?

Came the day in February 1943 when, having passed all the tests, I was still classified as "Ordinary Seaman Second Class" (OD2) until I turned eighteen, when I would become an Ordinary Seaman First Class (OD). I had the opportunity to do further training in Gunnery, ASDIC (any-submarine), Torpedo (Electrical) or RADAR, but that would have entailed more weeks in training and I was worried the war would end before I could get to sea, so I decided to go to sea on the bottom rung as a Seaman and work my way up to Able Seaman via on-ship training. Our drafts (postings) were put up on the notice board. There was much excitement among our classmates as they were listed to well-known ships. Bluey and I saw HMAS LISMORE against our names. Our queries about what type of ship she was and where she was operating were met with blank looks. Everyone was given one week's pre-embarkation leave before scattering to our postings.


An announcement came for "Bluey and I to report to the covered drill area with our "bags & hammocks". We were the told to load our gear onto a truck which was waiting for us and another four ratings. We had to hop onto the back of the truck and rode this way to the Navy depot in Williamstown. After a couple of days at that depot, we were transferred by boat over Hobson's Bay to Port Melbourne where we were signed in to HMAS LONSDALE, the depot there in Bay Street. There, we were told that LISMORE was a corvette, operating "overseas" and we were part of the crew of the depot until transport arrived for us.

We spent a couple of weeks at the depot, being assigned various jobs (including sentry duty on the Port Melbourne piers, a 'scary' job for a young bloke in the middle of a dark night, where every cat or rat scurrying sounded like a hidden Japanese soldier, crewing a tug towing a target for ships' practice shoots down the Bay, even escorting a convicted murderer on the train from the Melbourne to the Geelong jail. The only arms I was permitted to carry was a bayonet and I resolved that, if he attempted to escape, I wouldn't stand in his way. Every duty built on my sense of responsibility. Then came the day when we were told to put our bags & hammocks on a truck and we were taken to Station Pier where the SS TANDA, a passenger liner was waiting to take us to Colombo, Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.

We found that we were part of a 120 man draft to various ships on the Eastern Station, including a hundred to form a reinforcement pool for the three 'N' Class Destroyers operating out of Ceylon at that time. There were three others bound for HMAS LISMORE. Bluey and I shared a two berth cabin and for the next three weeks had a life of luxury. We said to each other, if this was Navy life, we would be quite happy. We were to be rudely awakened when we joined our ship. As we headed down the Bay, I penned the first of the many poems I was to write to express my feelings about my environment. These poems, although not the epitome of verse, tell of my thoughts on the various places I visited and the actions of the time. A few I have included in the text of this tome, where appropriate, the remainder in a separate publication.


Along those heavy old planks of Station Pier,
We trudge along towards the liner there;
Our draft says we're to go overseas,
But where we are bound is not really a care.

Our transport sails down the Bay,
"Goodbye to Melbourne", says the teenage lad,
"I'm sure that I'll return to you some day,
But leaving for the first time makes me sad".

What lies there before me tempers my sadness,
Is it glory, hardship, pleasure or pain?
Having joined up, I now go to face the test
Of fighting our enemies ere I return once more.

As the City's buildings disappear far astern,
I gaze ahead, throb of engines beat steady,
Soon through the Rip, at sea I'll learn
If all the training has me a sailor made ready.

Still looking ahead to the adventure before me,
Strange countries to see, great sights to behold;
But today is the day I depart from my hometown
Of my childhood, puberty to teenage so bold.

There'll come a day, back to Melbourne I'll come,
Much older in experience from ventures untold,
Then once more my hometown will welcome
Her sailor-son's willing return to the fold.

This was my first attempt to set my thoughts down in verse and I resolved to use this method of recording my reactions yo my future experiences.

After a week or so, sailing across the Great Australian Bight, thinking it strange that, after all we had been taught at Flinders, that we were travelling unescorted or in convoy. We called at Fremantle, where we picked up more passenger, both civilian and servicemen, we lived a leisurely life of just sunbathing, eating and sleeping and Bluey and I thought, "This is the Life", although for a day or so crossing "the Bight" when we struck very rough weather, we started to wonder if the Navy was really for us. After a few hours in Fremantle, it was to sea again. Then, one day, we saw land ahead, our first sight of a foreign country. We entered Colombo Harbour and saw trucks lined up on the wharf. Of course we were ordered to bear our bags & hammock to these trucks and, seated on our baggage in the back of the truck, we were transported through the streets of Colombo to a Royal Navy Barracks, HMS LANKA, (a requisitioned girls' college) in the suburbs. It was only a few days before we were told that SS TANDA had found that travelling unescorted was dangerous when she was sunk by torpedoes shortly after leaving Colombo. So, we learned that we had entered the war.

We arrived at these barracks and went through the tiresome procedure of signing in. We didn't know how long our stay in Colombo would be, because no-one seemed to know the whereabouts of HMAS LISMORE. The next morning we were awakened at 5am for an hour's session of physical exercises out on the parade ground with about 1,000 others. After the last two or three weeks without training, the first few mornings were to be a bit of a shock until we had regained some of our fitness. The main memory of these early morning exercises was that they were accompanied by music and one of the tunes played, sticks in the mind. Just picture a thousand men doing toe touching to the tune of "Wrap Yourself in Cotton Wool" with Physical Training Instructors marching up and down the lines, shouting as though their larynxes would burst, making sure enough effort was put into it.

On our first morning, after Physical Training, we met one of our Cooks coming from the galley, where he had been assigned. We asked him what was for breakfast and he told us scrambled eggs, but not to eat them. When asked why, he said that the menu was supposed to be fried eggs, but when the first dozen eggs broken turned out to be rotten, the Chief Cook said, "Scramble them and no-one will know the difference" This was our first inclination to be glad we were in the RAN and not the RN, when we remembered the quality of the cooks at Flinders and later on board our ship.

A couple of weeks waiting, being allowed time ashore in Colombo until 10pm each night, we were once again on the move. The giant troopship, MAURITANIA, was in port and we were put on her for the trip to the Mediterranean where LISMORE was operating at the time as part of the Eastern Mediterranean Fleet.

As mentioned before, there were five of us bound for LISMORE, with an older Able Seaman, "Okey" Doak, leading the draft. Adequate catering for us seemed to be beyond those responsible. We were allotted a mess table which normally accommodated twenty and we received rations for twenty. As I said, cooking in the Royal Navy left something to be desired and the English sailors at the other mess tables salivated over our large servings. They stood by our table waiting for our left-overs and "Okey", our senior rating, offered our left-overs on condition that the successful bidder had to collect our meals and wash up our dishes after we had finished. So what would have been a chore for us on this trip, turned out to be an ocean cruise, where we had no duties. That the offer was snapped up showed the low quality of normal rations.

As we steamed towards Aden at the mouth of the Red Sea, I had time to set down in verse my thoughts on Colombo in accordance with my earlier resolve. While these thoughts could not be described as classic poetry, it served my purpose of recording my experiences for future reference. In my mind, this circumvented the official ban on keeping a diary.


This town gave me my first insight into Asian living,
Natives with skins of darker hue,
Strange animals treated as holy beings,
Elephants, bullocks, fowls were thus viewed.

The upper crust dining lavishly at a restricted hotel,
Riding round in luxury cars,
The not so lucky poorer people on the streets
Sailors restricted to lesser bars.

The rickshaw was new to me, being towed by a man half my size,
As I ride to the barracks miles away,
My means of propulsion puffing and groaning,
As he struggled up the roadway.

And now we have left this country aboard a massive liner,
Speeding westward to our fate,
'Cross the ocean, through the Red Sea to Egypt,
Hope we pick up LISMORE at an early date.

We steamed across the Indian Ocean and up the Red Sea to Port Said at the mouth of the Suez Canal. A boat came out to MAURITANIA as she anchored and we were told to get on board the boat. As we headed for the wharf, we saw that the MAURITANIA had headed out to sea and back down the Red Sea, to head for England around the Cape of Good Hope and realised that this giant liner had sailed some hundreds of kilometres to take five junior ratings to their destination. So much for the economies of war!

We were loaded on an old steam train which was to transport us overnight to Alexandria, where we were to be ensconced in the RN Depot, named HMS CANOPUS, to await the return of LISMORE to port. Luckily this was to be only a few days, but this was enough to show us that all R.N. depots seemed to be the same.

The train trip was to give us our first experience with the "Gilly-Gilly" man, the Arab slight of hand merchant. The compartment to which we and all our gear were allocated was very small for an overnight trip. We stacked all our gear on the floor, on which three lay down to sleep. "Bluey" and I, being the most junior were allocated the large luggage racks for the night. We all had wristlet watches with leather bands, the standard time-keeping appliance for Naval ratings. When we awoke in the morning, the three ratings sleeping on the hammocks, still had these leather straps on their wrists, but their band covers had been slashed and their watches were missing. When this encounter was reported to not very interested Military Police, we were informed that we were lucky we hadn't woken or it would have been our throats cut and not the leather bands.

Whilst in CANOPUS we had one instance of "Kipper" stupidity. Admiral Cunningham, the Admiral commanding the Eastern Mediterranean Fleet, was scheduled to inspect the Barracks at 11am one morning, so the entire complement of the Barracks, over 1.000 men, were assembled on the parade ground at 9am in the hot sun, all dressed in white uniforms except a few Australians (including us and New Zealanders who were dressed in our normal khaki summer dress. The Commander of the Barracks stood on his rostrum after we had been assembled for an hour and shouted, "Get those Colonials off my parade, they spoil the uniformity. "Okey", always on the lookout of ways to stir the 'Poms', said "Don't move". A Chief Petty Officer came puffing up and demanded, didn't you hear the Commander's order?" "Okey", with a poker face, said "We are not Colonials, we're Australians". "Alright then, Australians, dismiss from the parade", spluttered the Petty Officer. Having made the point, we were quite happy to get out of the hot sun and spend the rest of the day on the cricket ground in the shade., while the poor "Kippers" sweltered in the hot sun for the next couple of hours, just so an Admiral could walk up and down their ranks, like a squatter inspected his flock of sheep.

During our time in this barracks, where we had to endure meals of canned everything, meat, fish, vegetables, even butter from South America, which was often rancid.. We couldn't wait until LISMORE came into harbour and be told to "pack our bags & hammock" and report for embarkation on our ship. We were never able to understand all this canned stuff when there were ample supplies in the area. We spent as much time away from the barracks exploring all the sights of Alexandria. During these leave periods we were able to get reasonable meals at coffee houses and canteens in the town.

One experience which sticks in my mind is when "Bluey" and I went to the Services Canteen in Alexandria and saw a sign on the notice Board "Milk Shakes". Having not had fresh milk since leaving Australia, "Bluey" said he was going to get stuck into these and ordered two for himself, while I ordered mine. We nearly choked on the first sip when we realised that the milk was goats' milk, to which our palates objected.

Other experiences the two young 18 year olds had for the first time when strolling around the streets of the town were being approached by prostitutes, or their "spivs" trying to sell their wares. The innocent (or naïve) lads were embarrassed by these approaches. One experience I can recall was a young boy, of about 10 years, asking, "You want my sister Sahib, very clean, very nice, very cheap", to which "Bluey" replied, trying to get rid of the pestering, "I'd rather have you", to which the boy came back with, "Okay, sahib". We soon learned that we could never take a trick against these street beggars. We learned from our experiences, but we retained our innocence.

We inspected King Farouk's palace down near the beaches, a very ornate building, in our opinion, far too good for this figurehead who the British allowed to keep up his style to keep the natives in order.

The uncertainty of the time before the LISMORE returned to port prevented us from getting a couple of days leave to travel to Cairo to inspect the pyramids.

I had time to express my thoughts of Egypt, formed while travelling across country by train and while exploring Alexandria.


Pharaohs, of lost ages,
Sleeping in your mighty tombs,
Do you wonder as you lie there?
What is going on up here?
Of the armies fighting strongly,
O'er the hot and dusty sands,
As they struggle back and forwards,
To control your ancient lands.

Has the Sphinx gazing down upon us,
Smiling with enigmatic grace,
Seen it all in years before us,
Men behaving with disgrace?
Did then men kill each other,
In those days of ancient lore,
Battling in the sandy desert,
Fighting someone else's war?

Will men never learn together,
How to love and learn to thrill,
So that science can find time to
Give us tools to cure our ills?
If they don't they'll find their last place,
'Neath the sand they'll all be hid,
But they will not sleep in comfort,
Like you in your pyramid.


We were glad when LISMORE entered harbour and we were summoned on board. We were taken down to the wharf by truck and told to load our gear into a motorboat which was waiting for the five of us. As we headed out among the myriad warships which were anchored all over the crowded harbour, we tried to pick out the LISMORE. We knew she wasn't one of the large ships, battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, so we worked our way down through the smaller ships, destroyers, sloops, frigates and finally to corvettes. We saw one with a dark & light grey camouflage and the large number J145 painted on her side. The coxswain of the boat referred to a signal paper and said, "That's her".

The motor boat pulled alongside LISMORE, which was to be my home for over two years.

I was beginning to worry how I was going to get my gear up the rope ladder to the upper deck of the waist of the ship, a height of about 3 metres. A head poked over the side and said "Who's Brennan"? I admitted that was my name and he said, "Where have you been, I've been over here two years and I've been waiting for you, you're my relief and now I can go home". He told me to pass up my bag and hammock and, with me tagging along behind, he led the way to the mess-deck., showing me my personal locker, a metal cupboard measuring some eighteen inches (450mm) wide, three feet (900mm) high and eighteen inches (450mm) deep, in which I was to store all my personal gear, except my hammock, which was to be stored in a hammock bin, the same as at Flinders. I thought to myself that this was a good life with my own porter. I was soon to learn that this was not normal and one day I may help my relief in a similar fashion.

I was summoned to the Coxswain (senior non-commissioned officer on the ship) and he told me what my position on the ship would be. Being one of the youngest members of the ship's company, he told me I would be a junior member of my "watch", the subdivision whereby my activities would be governed. The seamen on the ship were divided into two watches, port & starboard. I had been allocated into the Starboard Watch in which I would do all my duties, whether they are helmsman, lookout, and ship maintenance. Our day was divided equally between each of the Watches and we would be on duty alternatively, be it at sea or ashore, so the ship was operated by half the crew at any one time, except at Action Stations, when everyone had their allotted position, mine being in the "Magazine", situated below the waterline and my job was to pass up ammunition to the guns. In action stations, we were bolted in by a locked hatch with only a small hole through which to pass the cordite bags. They were the propellants to provide the necessary propulsion for the four inch (100mm) diameter shell for the main armament. On a corvette, all this ammunition had to be manhandled up two decks to the gun on the upper deck

HMAS LISMORE was the second Australian Minesweeper (later to be known as "Australian Corvettes" ) of a total of fifty-six built in Australian shipyards, fifty-two of which were commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy. She had already been overseas for two years when I joined her. Her story is told in detail in the book, "HMAS LISMORE, An Australian Corvette", compiled by me. When I joined her, she was part of the Eastern Mediterranean Fleet's No.2 Escort Group, consisting of four Australian corvettes, four English corvettes, led by an English Sloop.

In addition to her main armament, LISMORE had secondary armament of anti-aircraft guns, a 40mm "Pom-Pom" and 6 No, 20mm anti-aircraft guns all located on the upper decks, which had to be fed with ammunition from below decks whilst the ship was under attack or attacking a target. To a young sailor, an action station in the magazine was a frightening experience, being unaware of how the ship was faring, only hearing the sounds of the guns and the concussion of near-miss bombs. But one had to hide any fear and do his job. On a small ship like LISMORE every man on the ship depended on his fellows to do their job. When the main armament was fired, we were showered with asbestos dust from the pipe lagging and the deckhead (ceiling) and bulkhead (wall) insulation, so that when we crawled out of the hatch we looked like snowmen.

I asked the Leading Seaman in charge of the magazine, how we could tell what was going on outside. He told me to keep busy doing my job while the main armament was firing and not to worry too much about the "near-miss" bombs. When the anti-craft guns opened up, I should put my inflatable "Mae West" life jacket on. When the machine guns, which were mounted on the bridge, opened up, the enemy was getting too close and I should inflate my "Mae West" and be ready for the "Abandon Ship" order and when that came, try to beat him to the upper deck. If I could beat him, I'd be right; he had no intention of drowning. Useful, but not very encouraging advice.

And so we went to sea. One of a seaman's duties in rotation when at sea was helmsman (steering the ship). The only experience I had in steering a ship was a couple of hours when training at Flinders where, as part of my recruit training in seamanship, was to steer a tug under supervision. Eight hours after we left Alexandria Harbour, I found myself steering LISMORE. Feeling so important and perhaps a little "cocky", I found that steering a ship at sea is not the same as steering a car. One has to keep an eye on the compass and match the steering to the drift either side of the compass bearing as ordered. Suddenly, the Captain's (who I hadn't even met at this stage) voice came roaring down the voice pipe, "Who is on the wheel"? "Brennan Sir", I replied. Down came that voice again, "Well, Brennan, if you are trying to write your name in the ship's wake, you forgot to go back and dot the i's". I blurted out, "There are no i's in Brennan, Sir". There was a moment's deathly silence from the bridge, while I noticed the others in the wheelhouse went pale, imagining charges of insubordination. However the Skipper, no doubt realising the inexperience of his latest crew member, said in a quiet voice, "Well, please try and steer a straight course, Brennan". This was my first contact with Lieutenant Lance Lever, who imposed his personality on the crew, not by strict discipline, but by understanding his men. I was able to understand why the ship's crew would go through Hell and high water for him.

Our first mission after I joined the ship being to escort a large convoy of merchant ships conveying supplies to the invading force at Sicily. Our escort group consisted of an RN Sloop, four RN corvettes and four RAN corvettes (sister ships to LISMORE). It wasn't long before I received my first taste of action, when a troop transport blew up while we were at breakfast outside the port of Derna, North Africa. Action Stations were called and by the time we reached the upper deck she had disappeared, leaving bodies and wreckage scattered all over the ocean. Although we were aware that the submarine which caused the sinking was still in the area, our crew wasted no time in diving into the sea to drag wounded men onto our ship until we had nearly 400 wounded and dead lying on the upper deck. We were detailed off to transport these casualties into the port of Derna and rejoin the convoy. It was my baptism of fire, but more was to follow.


Tossing, bobbing on rough waters,
Little ships beat back and fill,
Towing floats and vanes behind them,
As they seek the mines that kill.

Tiny dots on mighty ocean,
Sailors in them cold and wet,
Minesweepers work in ceaseless toiling,
So the transports need not sweat.

Warships mighty on the skyline,
Throw their great and ugly shell,
O'er the tiny working vessels,
Turn the coastline into Hell.

Midst the work of sweeping channels,
Sailors spare a thought for those men
Crouching in their man-made shelters,
End their lives in violent throes.

Must we do this to each other?
First they did and now we try,
Mothers, loved ones wait at home
To receive the news and cry.

So, relieved, we sail away from
This Devil's cauldron, shot and shell,
Glad to reach the peaceful haven,
Safe far from that man-made Hell.

While we steamed up and down Sicily's coast, the merchant ships entered harbour to unload and enemy aircraft took the opportunity to bomb not only the harbour but the warships at sea. The corvettes must have seemed easy pickings as the bombers didn't attack the larger ships further out to sea, but concentrated on the "little ships". There were no reports of damage to these ships but numerous "near misses" made the hair on the necks of the men in the magazine stand on end.

(The story of the Sicily invasion is told in the Naval History Web Site Page: wyswyg://76/htp//

After more convoy escort work over the full length of the Mediterranean, our last trip in the Mediterranean was, we thought, to escort a convoy from Alexandria, picking up ships at North African ports along the way headed for England.

Off the coast of Spain we were attacked by 56 high level, dive and torpedo bombers. While the primary targets of these bombers was the merchant ships, at least one torpedo went under our "lucky" ship, so close that we, in the magazine, could hear the noise of its propellers as it narrowly missed us. Lord Haw-Haw, the Nazi Propagandist, was to announce on the radio that numerous merchant ships and escorts were sunk and damaged but, in fact, only one ship was hit, but still sailed into Gibraltar. Some ten planes were shot down.

After a couple of days in Gibraltar, we sailed with our convoy out into the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone was envisaging leave in England and were preparing there gear for the "run ashore" when over the horizon cam a convoy sailing in the opposite direction, escorted by corvettes of the Home Fleet. We received a signal ordering us to take over the escort of this convoy back through the Mediterranean. Disappointed, we could only imagine the frustration of our "kipper" corvettes who would have been anticipating some home leave after a couple of years in the Mediterranean. So we reached Alexandria without further incident.

We were ordered back to the Indian Ocean and the Eastern Fleet, based in Colombo after doing a boiler clean in Haifa, Palestine. We were given a couple of days leave to see the "Holy Land". At that time, the so-called terrorists were the Jews, who were trying to get the English out of Palestine so they could establish their homeland, Israel. It always seems strange to me that those same Jews or their descendants now condemn the Palestinians for their same acts.

On our way to Haifa from Alexandria, an incident occurred which illustrated the cavalier nature of our Captain, Lance Lever. We had had no fresh food for two or three weeks whilst travelling the full length of the Mediterranean and back, without the opportunity to replenish supplies. Not far from Alexandria, the Asdic (anti submarine) operator reported that he had a contact on his machine. When the Skipper asked the nature of the contact, the operator reported that it was non-submarine. The Skipper said he thought we should make sure by dropping a depth charge. Within minutes, the surface of the sea was covered with dead and stunned fish. The ship's boats were launched and soon the ship's decks were covered with fish and the whole crew was mustered to clean and stow the fish in the refrigerators. Before the ship was underway again numbers of fishing boats could be seen coming out of Alexandria harbour to share in the rewards. We had fish in various forms for breakfast, dinner and supper for weeks ahead.

It was now September 1943 when we headed through the Suez Canal and down the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean when we called at the port of Kilindini in Rhodesia. Here I was to have a personal experience which, for a time, was worrying.

As was usual in port, we were assembled at 8am in the morning to be detailed off for work. The First Lieutenant told us that we had to repaint the camouflaged ship in the colours of the Eastern Fleet in the couple of days before we went to sea again. He said, not realising the "carrot" shore leave was to sailors, and that when we had finished the port side, we'd be able to go ashore. Never, before or since, have I seen sailors work so hard. Came lunch time and the Port side of the ship was painted in glistening new paint. We were then told to go to lunch and the starboard side could be painted in the afternoon. The "mess deck lawyers" (old salts) held court over lunch when it was dictated that when the call came for "hands fall in" came after lunch, there would be no response. Then the Coxswain came and told me to accompany him to the Captain's cabin. The Captain was sitting at his desk when I was ordered to "Off Caps", something only done when receiving one's pay or answering a charge. This impressed me that perhaps I was in trouble. I later realised that it was an attempt to discover the ringleaders. Lt. Lever explained to me that the refusal to obey a direct order amounted to mutiny and he had orders to refer such instances to higher command ashore. He explained that we were serving under the Royal Navy and its practice, where a ringleader could not be identified, was to use the youngest rating as a scapegoat and charge him with mutiny. He then asked the Coxswain to read from "Kings Rules and Admiralty Instructions" (the dreaded KR&AI) the penalty laid down for mutiny. As I heard those words "Death or such punishment as hereinafter mentioned", the knees began to shake. But to "dob-in" the ringleaders was also subject to a serious fate, I stood tall and would only say, "We thought we were dishonestly treated". I was asked whether I would agree to the Captain dealing with the matter "in-ship". Of course, I readily agreed. On my return to the mess-deck, I was interrogated on what had happened and while the leaders said Lever would not go that far, the majority agreed that the risk was not worth taking. Of course we realised in retrospect that this was the exact reaction the Skipper was hoping for. After allowing sufficient time for a decision to be made on the mess-deck, he had all hands piped to the Fo'c'sle. He then delivered a stern address, saying orders had to be obeyed, no matter what they were, if the ship was to function efficiently. However he could see no purpose served in involving higher authority and if the hands were prepared to start work on the starboard side of the ship, he would grant shore leave from 4pm. This was obviously a face-saving solution, which was taken to indicate that the Skipper recognised that we had a grievance, but he needed to support his officers. This view was reinforced when the officer involved was transferred off the ship a few weeks later. To show how fortunate we were to have a Captain of such character was realised when we heard of similar incidents in other corvettes were referred ashore by less considerate Captains with disastrous results. No mention of the incident was ever recorded. in official records.

For the next 15 months, we were involved with mainly boring convoy escort duties all over the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf to all ports along the African coast and all ports of both east and west coasts of India. This included being involved with the fight back in Burma by escorting a number of American LST's (Landing Ship, Tank) from Aden to Calcutta, which took three weeks at sea.

Another diversion was to be ordered to Port Elizabeth, South Africa for a refit. This was to be an enjoyable six weeks in a place where we were able to mix with white people for the first time in so many months. At this time I had developed tropical ulcers on my legs and when three of us were given leave on a large farm at Fish River, about halfway between Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, the elderly lady who was running the farm, with the help of a large native work force, told us that she had been given instructions to load us up with milk. So she placed a large milk can in the corner of the kitchen and instructed the housemaid that we were to have a full glass of milk with arm's reach twenty four hours a day. Not only did we return from leave with the ulcers healed but with an extra lot of fat on our bodies. It was a bit of a wrench when the time came to return to the upper regions of the Indian Ocean.

There was to be another six months of long boring convoy escort work, with occasional excitement through action stations when the "underwater menace tried to kill off our convoy and with the hierarchy not allowing our ship to spend much time in port. In fact the frustrated crew began to associate LISMORE to the barges that steamed around Colombo harbour, collecting rubbish from ships at anchor, called Offal Barges and seemed to us to be the worst job anyone could have. We came to believe that the wallahs ashore sought out every dirty job for LISMORE. A few others had been following my lead in expressing their thoughts in verse and one poem expressed all our thoughts on this subject -


She may not be a fast, sleek boat,
With guns, torpedoes, arms galore,
But we know she'll keep afloat
And bring us safely back to shore.

The noise she makes may do some good,
To keep the underwater menace clear,
In protection of her convoy brood,
As she steams both far and near.

Rough jobs are all she seems to know,
The shore based wallahs by and large,
Say when dirty work is on the go,
"Call for the well known Offal Barge"

But she is ours, our heart, our girl,
We would not ask for any more,
For sea time is the sailor's whirl
And there is plenty on the old Lismore.

One day soon o'er the ocean wide,
She'll surely bring us safely home,
Then cross the gangway from wharf's side,
We'll bid farewell and no longer roam.

Came the time in November 1944 when the subject of many wishful thinking "dits", that long awaited voyage back to dear old Australia, came. In company with three sister corvettes, LISMORE steamed from Colombo harbour for the last time. All the ships of the fleet lying at anchor (what else) had their decks manned and each one saluted us as we steamed past.

After a three week trip, during which we had to refuel from the Fleet Tanker which we were escorting, (an interesting exercise) we tied the old ship up in the port of Fremantle, her first connection to her homeland since she had left Darwin nearly four years previously. Leaving Fremantle, we were made to earn our keep right until we could get home. Off Cape Nelson in heavy seas, many of us thought LISMORE was going to roll over a few times, (There were statements that foot prints could be seen on the bulkheads (walls). We received a report of a U-boat attack on a merchant ship and the four corvettes were ordered to search for the submarine. However, by the time we reached the scene, she was long gone.

And so we steamed up Port Phillip Bay, where all those months ago, "Bluey" Lang and I had sailed away to adventures then unknown. Once again our Skipper showed his compassion for his crew when he announced the "Melbourne Natives" would be excused mooring duties so that the could catch the last train from Williamstown station for over-night leave. So it was I knocked on the front door of our Northcote home at 1am. When Mum called out "Who's there" and I said who I was, she said it couldn't be as Ron was overseas. There was to be no sleep that night as we sat drinking tea and yapping. I had to leave at 8am to get back on board. The shore-based Wallahs were no different here and so LISMORE wouldn't get used to being tied up, we were off to Wilson Promontory to sweep mines that someone said a submarine had laid between there and Melbourne. Although being allowed Christmas at home, we were soon on the go again escorting a ship towing a target to Sydney. So, we spent the end of another year, steaming slowly up the coast.

It was in LISMORE's home port that I was to meet my destiny. On our first night ashore, I met Joan Morrell, who was to be my life partner. But we were not to enjoy each other's company for long as my ship was ordered north to Madang in New Guinea, where we were employed in escort duties in the Philippines area and at the invasion of Okinawa for some three months before returning to Brisbane.

And so my Life in HMAS LISMORE finally came to an end.


On arrival back in Brisbane, I was informed that a radar gunnery course, for which I had applied some eighteen months earlier, had come up and I was the report to Sydney for the first part of the course.

So it was travel by troop train from Brisbane to Sydney.

Joan and I had carried on our friendship by mail and I looked forward to being in Sydney for three weeks, with leave every night and at weekends, to develop this friendship.

Joan showed she reciprocated my keenness when she suggested that I accompany her on her weekend visits to her home town, Dapto, a small coal-mining town south of Wollongong, some sixty miles from Sydney, so that I might meet the family. The three weeks seemed so short and I was transferred to Flinders Naval Depot to complete the course, meaning troop train transport from Sydney to Melbourne & Flinders.

So it was back to courting by correspondence yet again.


I completed my gunnery course, but the war ended while I was there, so I never got the opportunity to test my newly acquired skills in anger. Although I was classed as a "Hostilities Only" rating, I had not read the fine print "and six months thereafter" and the Navy was determined to get its pound of flesh. All of the class, including the instructor, were drafted to a new frigate, HMAS MURCHISON, being completed in Brisbane.

So it was on a troop train, spending eight hours in Sydney (of which Joan and I made the most), then on to the depot in Brisbane, where we were billeted, making the trip up the river by boat each day to the ship to assist in getting things ship-shape for her commissioning. A message learned at this commissioning when the Captain said in his speech, "We all want a happy ship, so, if everyone commits himself to doing a little bit more than his own personal duty, none of us will be overworked". Another practice I followed all the rest of my life, to my own and others' benefit.

And so, on my brand new ship, it was up north once more. After a period of rounding up war criminals for trial and resurrecting the years' old remains of their victims, we steamed to Japan with the first occupation troops. It was an education to see yet another foreign country, this time the recent enemy.

The Skipper made a special visit to Hiroshima, the site of the Atom bomb attack which ended the war. We had a few hours leave ashore so that we could closely inspect the devastation. Whilst sorry for the many thousands killed in this attack, we reminded ourselves that we had seen the damage on Darwin. Though of course on a much minor scale, there were still our own compatriots killed and maimed from Japanese air attacks and atrocities inflicted on POW's by the Japanese (including my own brother, Bryan). We also had thoughts of the many thousands of Allied servicemen who would have perished should it have been necessary to invade Japan. In our then state of mind, we were grateful to the Yanks for dropping this implement of mass destruction.


On return to Morotai, I was informed that my number had come up for discharge and I was taken to an old American camp, where I had most of it to myself while awaiting transport home. After a week I was given transport to the airstrip where a Douglas DC3, stripped for use as a parachute troop transport, with no lining and a row of canvas seats around the wall of the fuselage. The noise from the engines was such that you had to shout to the person alongside you to make conversation, was waiting to take me, and others to home for discharge. This, I thought, was great, in a couple of days I'd be home. Even with all my experience, I hadn't thought, at this late stage that the "shore based wallahs" could affect me. Wrong, wrong. I got as far as Darwin and was met by an officer, to be told that there were others waiting with higher priority than me (Going home for discharge had no priority to the basewallas). So it was couple of weeks in the Darwin Barracks.

Then I was called up for another DC3 trip to Townsville, expecting this to be the first leg of a flight to Melbourne. Those "Base-wallahs" struck again and I was off-loaded in Townsville to the depot for another higher priority officer. After a week in Townsville because there were no flights available just for some sailor going for discharge, it was onto a troop train heading south. This also didn't seem to have much priority as, instead of heading down the main line to Brisbane, it headed inland through many small towns, taking a week to get to Brisbane. I can remember only one instance on this boring trip. The train stopped at this small outback town for water and the troops went to the only hotel in the town. The main street (only street) in the town was a dirt road and the bar had a dirt floor with batwing doors. I was expecting bandits to burst through the doors in true Hollywood fashion. After about ten minutes a few of us wandered back to the train which was parked across the main street (no traffic to worry about). After a while the driver sounded his whistle to indicate that he was ready to move off and a few more came back. He then sounded it again and a few more of the hardened drinkers wandered back. He then sounded the whistle and started to move. As we moved servicemen poured out of the hotel and came running down the street like stampeding cattle. The driver stopped a couple of hundred yards down the track as the late comers poured on to the train and we were off.


One advantage for me was that the train trip to Melbourne stopped in Sydney for about eight hours and Joan & I were once again able to meet up for this time. Our romance had been going for some thirteen months with all but about four weeks in total being by correspondence. It amazed me that the romance was still on. I had no temptation as we never saw any women, but Joan lived in the big smoke with thousands of servicemen wandering the streets. After this short time of contact, it was back to correspondence as I started to build my future life in Civvy Street and our contact visits were limited to Joan coming to Melbourne, an overnight train trip from Sydney and me visiting Sydney on our annual holidays.

This almost impossible courtship survived so we must have had something going because it has lasted over 60 years.

This story has covered a large part of my life, not in years but in content. It can be appreciated that although only some 3% of the years of my life, my 'Navy Life' had a much larger percentage of my experience in excitement, adventure and romance. During this period, I learned the meaning of "mateship", travelling around the world "in harm's way" during exciting times, growing from a boy to a man and securing my life-long partner. Why wouldn't it take up a large part of my life, ending while I was still only twenty-one years old, but much more than the percentage of my whole lifetime?

The mateship forged in trying circumstances during the years of my active service has been maintained for over sixty years by the HMAS LISMORE ASSOCIATION while our numbers have been dramatically reduced to almost to the ultimate by the "Grim Reaper". We are an now an "endangered species" with less than two dozen ex-crew members spread throughout every State of Australia and New Zealand. But in our twilight years, all we have left are memories.


Ron had an interest in poetry from an early age and dabbled in it periodically all his life.

Only two examples of Ron's poetic efforts before 1940 has been found.

This poem was found in an old exercise and, being dated 1936, would be the first recorded effort of "Ron's poetry". It shows his ideals, even at the tender age of eleven years.


I am but a lad! I often dream what lies in life before me.
Will I be famous? Will I be free/ What are the sights that I'll see?
I think I'll be an ordinary bloke, doing the best I can,
Going through life, loving my fellow-man.
If this brings me fame, so may it be,
But I'll just have to wait and see!

The following poems expressed my thoughts on my home town penned in 1938 and my impending involvement in WWII, penned in February 1940, while still attending Northcote High School.


Tram lines threading through the suburbs,
The dome and clock at Flinders Street station,
Elegant cathedrals in the City and East Melbourne,
The magnificent Bay stretching down to open sea.

The Melbourne Library, Myer, Foy's and other stores,
The City's wide streets in their square grid designed by our forebears,
The gardens making up a large part of the plan,
All these things mean Melbourne to me.

"THE DOGS OF WAR" February 1940

Another terrible war now is thrust upon us
And we read of hurt done to fellow-man,
How can we stop these deeds of horror,
Only by just men standing against those inhumane.
We see our young men, even while in horror,
See their duty to stand for the right
And join the throng of like-minded,
In the crusade against Germany's might.

I wonder if the time will come
When I join the crusade against the foe,
Who is spreading such terror and strife
Among the peoples , crushing them low.
If we are to remain free to do as we wish
And free the world of these terrible foes,
All able-bodied men must join the cause,
To free all men from these awful throes.

Then came the time when I enlisted in that fight against "the terrible foe" believing, in my youth and in spite of my inherent "love of fellow-men", the only defence against a strong bully, was to combine the weak sticks into a strong bundle. And so I made the decision to set down my thoughts in verse on the sights I was to see. Although not the epitome of fine poetry, the verses showed the thoughts of a teenager growing into a man.

RON'S THOUGHTS IN VERSE 1940's to 2009
(Penned in spare time at sea to record his thoughts of activities experienced and/or places visited, then later at home when the spirit moved)

(As these poems are read, one can sense the change in the author from a naïve eighteen year old, learning the terrible facts of war, to a more mature, experienced sailor & ex-sailor who has learnt the facts of life)


Along those heavy old planks of Station Pier,
We trudge along towards the liner there;
Our draft says we're to go overseas,
But where we are bound is not really a care.
Our transport sails down the Bay,
"Goodbye to Melbourne", says the teenage lad,
"I'm sure I'll return to you some day,
But leaving for the first time makes me sad".

What lies before me tempers my sadness,
Is it glory, hardship, pleasure or pain?
Having joined up, I now have to face the test
Of fighting our enemies ere I return once more.
As the City's buildings disappear far astern,
I gaze ahead, throb of engines beat steady;
Soon through the Rip, at sea I'll learn
If all the training has me a sailor made ready.

Still looking ahead to the adventure before me,
Strange countries to see, great sights to behold;
But today is the day I depart from my hometown,
Of my childhood, puberty to teenage so bold.
There'll come a day, back to Melbourne I'll come,
Much older in experience from ventures untold;
Then once more my hometown will welcome
Her sailor son' will return to the fold!

"GIBRALTAR" August 1943

As we approach, Rock juts from the ocean,
Looks forbidding from the sea,
Tunnels through it are not apparent,
But there to protect ships in its lee.

How formidable is this fortress,
With its guns pointed to us here,
Guarding the narrow Mediterranean entrance
From a foe we have cause to fear.

Soon we'll anchor in its harbour,
Safe from all the perils of war,
'til there comes another convoy
And we head to sea once more.

"AIR ATTACK" August 1943

Silently, off into the sunset,
Drones the messengers of hate,
Seeking out our plodding convoy
On Friday the thirteenth, ominous date.
Alarm bells sound as they head towards us,
To attack is their intent,
Guns are manned to fight this menace,
As we wait, our anger to vent.

Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty we count,
Those cursed planes drop bombs like rain,
But hitting our ships as they would cherish,
Seems to be a wish in vain.
Now the tracer makes a pattern,
From the ships it soars like a flash,
Reaching for those winged assassins,
Bringing them in the sea to crash.

Now they have gone and as a red ball,
Sinks the sun into the sea as well,
Reforms the convoy on this peaceful ocean,
Which just before had been a man-made Hell.
Why do they do it, why do they try,
Must men batter each other thus?
Surely we could live together,
With brotherly love and mutual trust!

"EGYPT" July, 1943

Pharaohs, rulers of lost ages,
Sleeping in your mighty tombs,
Do you wonder as you lie there,
What is going on up here?
Of the armies fighting strongly,
O'er the hot and dusty sands,
As they struggle back and forwards,
To control your ancient lands?

Has the Sphinx gazing upon us,
Smiling with enigmatic grace ,
Seen it all in years before us,
Men behaving with disgrace?
Did men, then, kill each other,
In those days of ancient lore,
Battling in the sandy desert,
Fighting someone else's war?

Will men never learn together,
How to love and learn to thrill,
So that science can find time to
Give us tools to cure our ills?
If they don't, will they find their last place,
Beneath the sand will they be hid,
But will they all not sleep in comfort,
Like you in your pyramid?


Tossing, bobbing, on rough waters,
Little ships beat back and fill,
Towing floats and vanes behind them,
As they seek the mines that kill.
Tiny dots on mighty ocean,
Sailors in them cold and wet,
Minesweepers work in ceaseless toiling,
So the transports need not fret.

Warships, mighty on the skyline,
Throw their great and ugly shell,
O'er the tiny working vessels,
Turning the coastline into Hell.
Midst the work of sweeping channels,
Sailors spare a thought for those
Crouching in their man-made shelters,
End their lives in violent throes.

Must we do this to each other,
First they did and now we try,
Mothers, loved ones, wait at home,
To receive the news which makes them cry.
So, relieved, we sail away from,
This Devil's cauldron, shot and shell,
Glad to reach a peaceful haven,
Safe far from that man-made Hell.

"THE RED SEA" September, 1943

Hot, hot windless days,
On a smooth and glassy sea,
Orange sunsets on the horizon,
Silhouette sails out to the lee.

Moonlight simmering on the water,
Makes the sailor yearn for home,
Thinking of that same moon shining,
On his loved one all alone.

"HOMESICKNESS" September, 1943

Sad heart, feels it will burst,
Thinking of my friends so thick,
Wonder what they must be doing,
Is this what it means to be homesick?


Comes the news we are to steam to
Far off South Africa for a refit,
Excitement builds throughout the crew,
Thinking of the change,some time in port.

But one must pay for such a pleasure,
By escorting a damaged warship for thousands of miles,
Slow long hours of unceasing boredom,
'Ere tying up to shore brings many a smile.

We are to find the effort was worth it,
When we arrived in Port Elizabeth range,
Happy locals there to greet us,
With friendships which are quite a change.

No longer ordinary sailors, as heroes
We find ourselves treated here,
The small town bends over backwards
To repair our war-torn bodies with care.

Farm leave with unmeasured milk drink,
To repair tropic ulcers, worn out nerves,
The loving kindness showered upon us,
To make us fit for return to serve.


"Come on, sailor, come and see me,
Sit down on my nice soft seat;
I will draw amazing pictures
From your head down to your feet".

So the tattooist in Colombo,
Drew me to his chamber door;
Then with needle and his colours,
Marked my skin for evermore.

On my chest he drew an eagle,
O'er my heart he lettered MUM;
My thigh he used for a dancing maiden
And even an image on my thumb.

Cupid arrowed my best girl-friend,
"Death 'fore Dishonour" on my arm;
On my back there was a tiger,
On my calf a lucky charm.

So my body was a canvas
For this artist's vivid hues:
Had I not become more sober,
Heaven knows I'd need no shoes.

(This was written for a shipmate, who in later years told me he rued that time of indiscretion and wished he had heeded my advice against decorating his body thus,)

"INDIA" January, 1944

Exotic land with its excesses
Of poverty and wealth galore,
Beggars lying on the pavement,
Tugging heartstrings with their lore.
Rajahs sitting in their castles,
Bejewelled and in silken lace,
Show the reverse of the picture,
With their life of ease and grace.

Marble palaces, dirty hovels,
Dusty roads, bright trees of green,
Snake charmers, jugglers, street sleeping natives,
Are the sights that I have seen.
Though we visit many places,
Smell the smells and see the face,
Never shall we know the total,
Of this strange, enigmatic place.

"CONVOY" February, 1944

To sea again out through the boom net,
We watch the merchant ships come out,
They form up into long, straight columns,
As the escorts chase about.
Signals blink from ship to ship,
As they take up their allotted place,
Seems to me they are confused,
Until at last we gather pace.

So we start the long slow journey,
How many days will this one be?
Dreary days like the age-old shepherd,
To tend flock on an unforgiving sea.
"Yeoman, tell that ship she makes smoke,
That tanker there is out of place",
So the Skipper frets and worries,
As his charges line his face.

So we zig-zag as we search for
Those elusive submarines,
'Ping-ping', goes the Asdic,
As we steam along moonlight beams.
But the convoy plods ever onwards,
Cargo, troopships of every size,
Is that tanker going backwards,
She will be an easy prize.

So we must fall back to screen her,
From the underwater menace there,
Wish they'd get her engines working
To avoid a shot fair and square.
Then at last we reach the harbour,
After days of care and strife,
As we sweep our flock to safety,
Someone say's, "Ain't this the life".

"CEYLON" February, 1944

Elephants, sacred cows, monkeys, oxen,
Island jewel in the sea,
Mountains, forests, tea plantations,
Is what Ceylon means to me.

"OUR SHIP, THE CORVETTE" February, 1944

On a ship designed to steam
O'er the cruel and restless sea,
Living is not all that easy,
Without the glamour others plea.

Sure to pitch on endless wave,
Even to roll on grass that's wet,
'til the sailors living in her,
Have good cause to fume and fret.

But they serve with unsung effort,
Joining her in tasks untold,
Proud to man the Navy's workhorse,
Shepherding others safe to fold.

"MAIL FROM HOME" August, 1944

Sailors standing at the guard rail,
Straining eyes across the foam,
Seeking out the ship's small mail boat,
Bringing all the news from home.

How they've worried, how they've missed it,
All these weeks without some mail,
Lack of news from home and loved ones

Makes the heart ache, morale fail.

Now the faces change to smiling
And the heart beats like a drum,
Many letters have been opened
And there's many more to come.

Why does that fellow look so gloomy,
His feelings show on face so glum,
Once again he's missed out on loved one's letters
He'll need cheer-up by mates in days to come.
"THE PERSIAN GULF" August, 1944

Up and down across the entrance,
Steams the guard ship on seas so blue,
Watching for the lurking U-Boat,
And the tanker steaming through.

From the darkness of the late night,
Comes a tanker steaming fast,
Alert lookouts shout a warning
And another peril is past.

Dust clouds billow from the desert,
Cross the hot and dusty sea,
Make the days long hours to suffer,
Discomfort eternal for you and me.

"THE OLD OFFAL BARGE" August, 1944

She may not be a fast, sleek boat,
With guns, torpedoes, arms galore,
But we know she'll keep afloat
And bring us safely home to shore.

The noise she makes may do some good,
To keep the underwater clear,
In protection of her convoys brood, As she steams both far and near.

Rough jobs are all she seems to know,
The shore based wallahs by and large,
Say when dirty work is on the go,
"Call for the well known 'Offal Barge'".

But she is ours, our heart, our soul,
We would not ask for any more,
For sea time is the sailor's whirl
And there is plenty on the old LISMORE.

One day soon o'er the ocean wide,
She'll surely bring us safely home,
Then cross the gangway, from ship's side,
We'll bid farewell and no longer roam.

(Offal Barges are employed in Colombo (and other ports which we visited) going from ship to ship anchored in the harbour collecting all the rubbish to stop pollution of the port. At a particular low point in our experiences when HMAS LISMORE seemed, in our view, to spend little time in port compared to the Royal Navy corvettes, and also seemed to get all the "dirty" jobs. When we were ordered to sail yet once again to the Persian Gulf, then considered to share with Aden the reputation as the worst station in the region, some wag amongst the crew, was heard to say, "God, you'd think we were an offal barge". The nickname stuck and was the basis of this poem.)

"GOING HOME AT LAST" December 1944

All those rumours, buzzes in Navy Talk,
Coming to nothing which raised hate,
But then came the real orders,
To sail for home was our fate.

So we began the long home journey,
Back to Aussie shores after so long
Yearning to see home once more
And to hug the ones for whom we longed.

But, of course, these joys would not be for long,
We'd joined to serve at sea and not at home,
Before we were spoiled it would be off again,
Back to the war, but in a different zone.


Bump, rise, shudder and bump,
Those corkscrew motions cause a frown,
Can't we ever go through those rollers,
Instead of rising and falling down?
O'er the bow there comes a wave,
Down the vents the water pours,
Everyone's wet as they wade through,
Water inches deep on the mess deck floor.

What a welcome we've come home to,
Finding the Bight not as our friend,
As we crawl through this violent wind storm,
Seems our journey will never end.
Then we are told to turn right about,
To chase a U-Boat lurking near,
Beam sea tips our ship on its side,
Men thrown about shout, curse and fear.

Screw comes clear of the ocean foaming,
Engine groans, gives up the ghost,
So our progress is further slowing,
To our speed of five knots at most.
So we limp into my hometown harbour,
Never has Melbourne looked so good,
Will we get there in time this evening,
To taste that tasty home-cooked food.

"HOME" December, 1944

Many months ago I sailed,
Full of patriotic verve and zest,
To see the world and meet the foe,
Hoping my manhood stood the test.
Through all those months and weeks and days,
Spent endless hours on tasks so drear,
With convoys of ships both large and small,
I've been to lands both far and near.

To all those places where I have been,
To every one I applied the test,
I never found one that I could say
Changed my opinion that home's best.
To see man's waste of youth so fine,
Has been my lot, I've seen them claimed,
Now I am glad to turn my face,
Towards the land from which I came.

"Finished with engines", comes the Captain's cry,
As we tie up to my Country's shore
And I pray as I realise we are home,
May I stay here for evermore?
But I know full well this is not my lot,
Our fight is far from being o'er,
Once more we must sail over the far-flung seas,
To the fiery scene to try and end the war.

"LOVE" January, 1945

Oh, what a word which has such meaning,
So complex and yet so clear,
That can inspire men to greatness,
At the same time, conquer and remove all fear.
This is the word that the world is built on,
Even though some would destroy with hate,
Love can o'ercome any care that's offered
And help us build us build a land that's great.

From earliest childhood as were cuddled,
When held against our mother's breast,
Deep is the love which we have for her,
Love that we'll find is far the best,
Paternal love will grow within us,
As we respect the strength he gives,
Our brothers and sisters of the family,
Bring a love that long shall live.

Who can doubt parental love that's for us,
Selfless, binding, ceaseless love,
Our senseless actions can hurt, but never
Affect their devotion which must come from above.
If we hurt them with our actions,
Deep hurt within their hearts we burn,
But they'll forgive us that's for certain,
In love will they welcome our return.

We will find for ourselves our partners,
Who may share through good and ill,
And we hope that we'll find the true devotion,
That our parents can show us still.
May we then build our true future,
Sharing our love from day to day,
Then to hope we'll be remembered
By those we've met along the way.

Love of nature, God and Country,
Are variations of this broad theme,
Building in us a sense of purpose,
To complete the perfect dream.
Together to build a better future,
Love for each other is the way,
Working side by side with each other,
To bring us to the perfect day.

"LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT" February, 1945

Is it heart burn, indigestion,
What can it be, this breathless state?
I study you from near, at a distance
And I know I've met my fate.
The things of the past lack any interest,
My future with you now seems to be all
That I can wish for at this instant,
In love with you now I have fallen.

"SYDNEY" January, 1945

Leaving Melbourne, 'twas had to set forth,
After being away for many a year,
Now we start our slow trip north
We now do this without much fear.
After that slow trip up the coast,
Away from home but I must come clean,
That view ahead must be the most
Beautiful sight that I have seen.

Those rugged heads which guard the port,
Of this oldest town of Australia's lore,
Have welcomed sailors of all sorts,
Since that first fleet to reach our shore.
We enter the boom net clear,
To marvel at this harbour grand,
It is hard to think that I am here,
For my ship they should turn out the band.

But for a corvette there is no chance
Of such a welcome, though deserved,
Though our ship on many seas has pranced,
Over the many months overseas she served.
Near to that "coat hanger" bridge we sail,
Up the harbour to our buoy
At which we'll tie, then get the mail
To go ashore, that'll be our ploy.

And so ashore we really are,
What are those toast-rack trams I see,
In narrow streets not meant for cars,
The many sights I view with glee.
For this is the time for which I've longed,
My very first sight of old Sydney town,
Ferries to Luna Park, Manly, the Zoo,
Beaches with surf where one could easily drown.

But the swim left us refreshed,
For a sneaking visit to King's Cross,
With luck we did not get emeshed
With all of that street's tawdry dross.
Back to the ship, as to our home,
We all crawl back to get a rest,
My very first view of Sydney town had come
And been enjoyed with true sailor's zest.

"FLYING FISH" March, 1945

The bright sun creeps over the horizon's dish,
To bring the ocean smooth alight,
With wings a-flapping, the flying fish
Ripples the surface in its flight.

Across the bows they criss-cross at will,
Darting and flying in the air,
One can but marvel at their skill,
As they rise and fly they look so fair.

What is that sailor doing now?
Around the deck he searches there,
One, two, three, he finds in the bow,
Fresh flying fish for breakfast is his fare.

The years after the war were a busy time, building one's career and raising a family until reunions of shipmates brought back those memories and the feeling to set thoughts down in verse.

"REUNION 1990" Anzac Day, April, 1990

We may be older and not quite so fit,
The spring in our step may be missed,
No longer the bluster of young boisterous men,
When we meet once again to reminisce.

The stories still are told of a ship and her men,
In those days that were hectic and fun,
The shipmates we had in those long ago days,
Are remembered as we join in as one.

Long may it continue, this mateship of old,
May we meet once again every year,
May those 'dits' that grow older each time they are told
Get better and better with each beer.

"THINKING" October, 1990

As the years go by, I like to think
Of bygone days when but a lad,
Of mate-ships formed out on the drink,
Of times made good, when things were bad.
To meet again with mates of old,
Whose hair may have a silver hue,
Not now the youths so fit and bold,
Now older men, but still true blue.

Alas, our Honour Roll grows still,
As 'oppos' pass to their reward,
But we'll think of them with pride until
We're brought up there to cross that ford.
So here's a toast, just drink it down
And make a wish that we'll be spared
To share again memories profound,
Of when we were young and we were there.

"REMEMBRANCE" Anzac Day, 1992

Why do we remember on this day of the year,
Those days of so long ago?
As we grow older and our minds are cast back
To the time we faced up to the foe.

Is it war we ponder as our thoughts go back
To the horrors that men did to men?
Submarines with torpedoes, planes with their bombs,
All tried to destroy fellow men.

Tell them we do not commemmorate war,
That is something to remember and hate,
The cream of our manhood who selflessly gave all,
We pause to recall on this date.

Sacrificing, they gave us a life free to do,
What pleasures we now care to yearn,
May it not be forgotten as time hurries by
'tis the the great debt of which we should learn.

Yes! Our minds fill with memories of men,
Who as lads shared our lot with great zest,
These mates stand beside us in spirit this day,
To remind us that they were the best!

These men, who grow not older as we who are left,
Joined together with us in our tryst,
The trials of war and the ravages of time
Have taken our mates from our midst.

So those of us left have a duty so great,
To keep faith with those who are gone,
By our actions remind those who never did know
That true mates are never alone.

Those mates and those like them have left all a debt,
For the heritage they passed down,
By their suffering and striving they have given us the right
To choose a way of life of our own.

"ASSOCIATION" October, 1992

The bonding of those with similar thought,
Be they acquaintance, mate, or other relation,
To care for each other as they ought,
This is the strength of our Association.

(Included in Menu for the dinner, held 24th January 1991, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Ship's Commissioning.)

Fifty years on and still we meet,
To remember those days when we were lads,
How full of life and of foot so fleet,
When we took whatever the world then had.
"Old Offal Barge", us safely through she brought,
She showed us things both good and bad,
Now we still live all those lessons taught,
Of selfless endeavour for other lads.

Now the ship is gone, as are most of her crew,
Those that are left are no longer spry,
The years have changed the men we knew,
But the spirit lives on and we know why.
Let us remember those "who grow not old",
Our mates who have crossed the bar,
Remember them all, their hearts pure gold
And pray that they have their just reward.


As I grow old, different thoughts do I have,
To those I had when but a lad,
But are these more right or better yet,
Whether they be good or bad.

A young lad said that he seems to find,
That, in addition to lines on the faces,
Middle age is the time when the breadth of mind
And narrowness of waist change their places.

Let us hope that old age gives us the time,
To narrow the waist, reduce the "pot",
To broaden the mind so that one can take note,
To thoughts of others, whether agreeing or not.

"SIXTY YEARS OF LOVE" December 2007

'Twas in the year 1945, I met a girl with auburn hair
And it was love at first sight.
Two years later we joined as one to face life as a pair
And vowed to love "until death do us part".

Now sixty years later we have built on our clan,
That first sight love is still with us, though grown old;
Our lives have gone according to plan
My love's hair grown silver from it's old gold!

But still that love for one another,
Persists with never-ending day's long rays,
Through happiness, hardship, a devoted mother,
Still gives me the support that I need these days.

"THE HEART" January 2010

What is this thing called the heart,
Pumping with love by day and night,
Until one day you are told that it is falling apart
And needs to be opened to make it right.

A month hospitalised and then to be told,
That heart is beating at only half capacity,
Needing a pacemaker for your life to hold
And restore it's strength back to former elasticity.

The surgery with associated stroke,
Leaves a weakness down the left side,
So balance is effected, mobility spoked,
Walking made difficult with shortened stride.

"SOLAR SKIN DAMAGE" November 2010

Who'd have thought all those years ago when fighting the war in tropic hell,
Our greatest fear should have been solar damage to the skin:
After some fifty years it appeared in the form of first, basal cell
Then melanomas and squamous cell carcinomas.

Many times the surgeon excised these lesions,
With skin grafts etc., each getting worse;
Until the body looks a landscape scarred
By solar damage, fit only for the hearse.

"THE FUTURE" April, 2011

We look back on those long fortunate years spent
With those unselfish ones who served us dear,
Making us regret that there is so little time left
Of our lucky time on earth with so much to clear.

At our ripe old age of eighty six years,
Our time-worn frame wonders what the future holds,
The end of this mortal life must be looming near,
When we must part from our friends of old.

But this is the time we must thank loved ones,
Who made our life such a fortunate one,
Praying their devotion receives just reward,
In the time left as they press forward.

We give thanks to God for His great mercy,
In providing those selfless ones for us
And to him seek his continuing mercy,
When we shall meet him face to face.

"YOU AND ME" (July 2011)

In my life there has always been someone special and me,
From the very first it was my mother dear and me;
She fed me, cleaned me, clothed and comforted me,
She was my mother, friend and protector,
Yes Mother, You and Me!

At school it was the teachers who took over my learning,
Ensuring that I learned my lessons well;
Taught me discipline, imposed and self-imposed
Preparing me for my long life ahead.
Yes, Teachers, You and Me!

In my Navy life a higher stage of discipline was learned,
Individual from senior officers strict and stern;
With shipmates was learned the art of teamwork,
Without which our ship would surely fail.
Yes, Shipmates, You and Me!

This teamwork learnt was carried on with workmates,
As I climbed the scale up to retirement life;
Uniting with others for the common good,
Bringing equal success in my long working life,
Yes, Workmates, You and Me!

In my early adulthood, another team was formed,
My Wife & and I joined together as one;
Over six decades, by sacrifice, love and hard work,
We have raised a family now numbering twenty-seven.
Yes, My Darling Wife, You and Me!

Now, with only the twilight years of my life remaining,
My Maker, Who has watched over me and been my Lord all my life;
Overseen my trials and failures, but brought me safely through,
To review the balances of my rights and wrongs.
Yes, My Lord, accept me in your team!