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Matthew B Willis is an historian based in Colorado, USA Hehasrecently written two articles of historical interest for The Naval Review which is the Royal Navy's independent professional journal.

Author's Note

The author expresses his appreciation to Lieutenant Commander Douglas JP Hadler RN (retd.) for editing this article and for acting as his liaison with the French Naval Attache in London. The author expresses his appreciation to Captain (FN) Yves Le Corre, Naval Attache Embassy of France, London, for arranging for this article to be checked for accuracy by the Historical Branch of the French Navy.

Sources (Endnotes)

  1. de Gaulle, Charles, The Call to Honour 1940-1942 (New York: The VUdng Press, 1955) p. 115.

  2. Gill, Hermon G., Royal Australian Navy 1939-1942 (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1957) p. 217.

  3. de Gaulle, Charles, The Call to Honour 1940-1942 cited supra, pp. 113-14.

  4. Ibid., p. 113.

  5. lane's Fighting Ships 1940 (London: Sampson Low, Marston & CoTTD, 1940) p. 192.

  6. Barnett, Correlli, Engage The Enemy More Closely the Royal Navy in the Second World War (New York: W. W Norton & Company, 1991) p. 205.

  7. de Gaulle, Charles, The Call to Honour 1940-1942 cited supra, p. 114.

  8. Churchill, Winston S., Their Finest Hour (Boston: Haughton Mifflin Company, 1949) p. 340.

  9. Ibid., p. 718.

  10. Ibid., p. 719.

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute



Issue 153


A New Model Navy



here is a remarkable transition occurring led by Chief Navy, silently and patiently (stealthily even), within what many of us maintain is truly our Senior Service, the Royal Australian Navy. There are many reasons but underpinning this and at the highest of political levels within the Commonwealth, is recognition that the Maritime is our future.

Not simply our economic but our geo-political, strategic and defence/ security futures too. We need only reflect on the impact caused by the recent small-scale operational deployment of the PL A Navy through the Sunda Straits, to Sumatra and Christmas Island (Feb 2014) to consider the impact the Chinese aircraft carrier

liaoning (^mxsmtkmMmii

\Tj§t) will have when she deploys to Fiji, say, in the next few years. As she will.

It will arguably have a similar impact to the deployment of the White Fleet to Australia by the US in 1908 and that led to the formation of the RAN. A Navy, necessarily, is its people and it is its people that keep it, its capabilities and Fleet 'in being! This paper builds on recent events and commentary to develop potentially an alternative and affordable maritime future.

A Starting Point

"The lessons of history are clear. Relative economic power is the wellspring of strategic strength. And conversely, economic weakness debilitates every arm of government. Structural economic weakness, if not dealt with, will bring an unavoidable reduction in our ability to shape the world.1'

1 Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP previous UK Secretary of State for Defence (2010-2011). Strong Economy, Strong Defence, Strategic Reach: Protecting National Security in the 21stCentury. Chatham House, 19 May 2011

The blue and the gold of Australia's older colours speak not only of its present but also to an older more ancient past entirely. A past in which people of all traditions, of all religions and indeed of none arrived by sea and from the sea. It was the seas that brought their futures, their pasts and their present together and bequeathed on the people of Australia, from whatever background, that great Digger mentality of survival, tenacity hope, spirit, 'mate-ship' and fortitude.

It is the sea which still binds the peoples of Australia - providing its blue girth - and will bound our futures. We are the people 'of the Blue' - the old nickname for Australians - our flag deriving from the Admiral or Flag of the Blue. It is by the sea that the vast majority of Australians will gather in the future to feed and fend for themselves just as the hard and harsh hinterlands continue to define our inner horizons. And it is the seas' horizons that will forever speak to us of other lands and of other peoples and of us to them.

These are also our futures - of

arrival, adieus, re-definition and renewal generation upon generation. And it is to the seas that we will inevitably return - drawn by the common weal/goods and benign effects of adventure, survival, hope, economy, industry and productivity. Yet, as we edge towards uncertain recovery from global recession, Australia has a unique challenge: 'we have to go 4000nm to have an influence and 4000nm beyond that to have an affect? And, since 'the projection of power for a maritime nation was, is and always will be from the sea, [these will be] the immutable facts upon which [l]our future Knowledge Enterprise Economy (KEE) [2], security and defence will rest. 'When you de-industrialise, all kinds of things change. Then there is no [industry] or research and development, therefore there are no breakthroughs; therefore there is no innovation. And you end up flattened with a parasitic

2 Attributed to Professor Dr Captain S Reay Atkinson RANR in discussion with Admiral James Goldrick RAN (rtd).

RFA LymeBay(now Chouks) leaving the Clyde (RN)

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


A New Model Navy

population...standing around not

doing much, while all the while

the foreign currency is earned

by raw material exports. [And

then you end up being] worked

back into being a purely colonial

phenomenon. We have seen what

happens when in the Midlands

in England deindustrialisation

takes place. You get the population

marooned with nothing to do. The

one thing [you] cannot afford to do

is to remain enthralled; imprisoners

of old theories that do not work'.3

There is an emerging bi-partisan

view of the importance of Maritime

and of Navy and taking forward/

implementing the amphibious and

submarine strategies set out in the 2009

White Paper; noting the call by The

Honourable Anthony Albanese MP

for 'stronger shipping, for a stronger


Some argue that it is regrettable

that much of what was set out in the

2009 White Paper and called for by

Albanese - including becoming a

'participant3 in and of the seas, 'not

just customers'; 'upgrading Fleets';

'creating a new regulatory framework;

providing a 'best of class' financial and

'tax system' to sustain its 'shipping' base,

and creating 'a pool of skilled seafarers

to operate the ships of the future' across

the oceans of our futures - was undone

by the 2013 Defence White Paper. Yet

others say that there are factors working

in Navy's favour, including a maritime

leaning and knowledgeable Prime

Minister who 'gets it] as witnessed by

his adroit command and handling of

3 Luttwak, E.N.(2010).Interviewed by B. Glanville, ABC Four Corners, Australia, 7 Sep.

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

'borders and boats,' despite almost universal media disapproval and undermining.

During the 1980s and 1990s arbitrage along with a strong, resource/ energy-based currency and high interest rates combined to leave the UK largely de-industrialised. The step change Australia faces is that 'its future economy may be typified by a relatively secure/safe, resource-based currency with comparatively strong interest rates and high wages! Whereas previously Australia could maintain productivity and competitiveness through a soft currency, high interest rates and relatively high inflation, this may no longer apply.

Australia's future economy may, instead, need to focus more on becoming a high-end, value added Knowledge Enterprise Economy (KEE) not dissimilar to the German (pre Euro) Deutschmark economy. If infrastructure is to be an important part of the future economy, significant investment is required to improve competitiveness and productivity.[4]

The demise of the Car Industry has left Australia with the type of challenge it has not faced in almost 70 years and when it chose between backing a world-beating rocket industry or the car industry. The same choices do not face us today and 'we need to take the long view of Australia, of industry and its economy; not simply the shortened political horizon that has tended to dominate the narrative over the past three decades![5]

It is my belief that Australia has a real opportunity today to invest properly and over the longer term in its

maritime sector (people, equipment, fleets and industry) and in so doing bootstrap its people and economy to a new and viable co-adaptive[61 future. This will not be easy and will require thinking through a coherent strategy if it is to be achieved.[5]

The Red White and Blue of It

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (REA) was formed in 1905 to provide logistics support to the Royal Navy - particularly relevant in the days of steam - and so to support the forward operating (and coaling) bases established around the world, including Aden, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Uniquely, REA crews are members of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) civil [public] service, who come under naval / joint (post the Armed Force Act 2006) discipline when operationally engaged / for war-fighting. Ships are either owned directly by the MOD or leased by them. To distinguish Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels from the Merchant or Royal Navy, RFA ships wear the Blue Ensign with gold stock anchor. For practical purposes, RFA ships comply to, at least, the minimum of Lloyds standards, EU Maritime Engineering/Safety and Trade regulations and UNCLOS. REAs are crewed to civilian manning standards - HMAS Choules, for example, had an RFA passage crew of 25 or less. RFA ships are augmented for their operational tasking with specialist Regular or Reserve Royal Navy crews and from the British Army.

Effectively, these 'operational crews' leverage the RFA through modularisation - where the modules can include boats (e.g. for counter

Figure 1: The Ensigns of the British Royal Navy; Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Merchant Marine

Issue 153


* r^

Figure 1: Ensigns of the RAN; a possible Auxiliary Fleet and the Merchant Marine

Figure 1: Versatile Role Adaptation: White, Red and Blue

Maritime Command / International Engagement

Enforcement of UNCLOS / Prevention

Commissioned Use of Force (War-fighting)


Sea Control and Denial

Maritime Trade & Commerce Apply UNCLOS / Support WTO Registered to Operate & Trade

Economic Maritime Security Freedom of Navigation
piracy); aircraft / hangars / flight decks (e.g. for ASW) and Mexeflof s / Landing Craft (e.g. for Amphibious Warfare and Disaster Relief). Specialist combined ammunition tankers, for example the Wave Knight and Fort Class,5 can also undertake Counter Piracy operations.

Increasing regulation and the need for nations to safeguard their oceanic claims and maintain regulation and control over them - as also part of energy security - is re-emphasising the need for island-nation states to maintain and strengthen their own maritime postures. This includes both having a flagged Merchant Fleet and the personnel and manning to support it.

More recently, operators such as P&O have recognised the need to up-skill and develop future strategic depth in terms of officers and engineers drawn from certifying nations; specifically from the EU (including the UK) and also the US and Australia. This is increasingly required by regulation and certification - thus returning to the role of the City of London and Lloyds, in terms of both registering and insurance.

There are also significant economic reasons for maintaining a viable Merchant Fleet, including arbitraging the 'Chinese Dollar' during recovery from recession. This also connects to complying with regulations; maintaining safety on the high seas (by UNCLOS) and maritime (including energy) security. This is particularly relevant to nations like Australia, with its significant exports of minerals,

  1. For example Largs Bay (now HMAS Choules) following the 2010 Haiti earthquake

  2. RFA Fort Victoria assisted in rescuing the Italian bulk carrier Montecristo from pirates in Oct 2011.

energy and food.

Underpinning this, is what has been described as the Global / Local Political Surete Economy (GPSE) [7] in which surete describes three components: security; safety and assurance. These elements are tightly-coupled; in which Defence plays a significant connecting role. Since the 1980s, three connected GPSE strands have emerged: Privatisation, leading to Contractorisation in the 1990s; combining with Securitisation (post 9/11). In broad terms, changing GPSE patterns have meant that, whilst more is spent on 'Defence' (and continues to rise even during recession6), the proportion spent 'privately' on 'security' and on 'contracting' has increased and that on 'traditional Defence' (standing navies, armies and air forces) has in actuality decreased.

In the RAN, without a Fleet

6 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

Auxiliary, there is considerable pressure on manning the big ship Amphibious Fleet emerging (including Choules) and the Submarine Force. Both these factors can create tension: a reluctance not to cede any more ground while defending what one has. Arguably, our Fleet structure is not capitalised, scaled, composed and 'fitted' to the type of threats we are likely to face in the future. Yet, at the same time, Navy constitutes the major capital base of our Armed Forces, just ask anyone living in Sydney!

The question may become 'how to maximise the maritime capital base to best effect?' Five roles of a navy are identified by British Maritime Doctrine [8]; by exception for the RFA and, by default, the Merchant Marine, see Figure 3.

The pyramid is intended to show the connected flows between the

Maritime Support to Command

Uphold UNCLOS / Prevention

Licensed Combat Support

Logistics Maritime Security

Sustain Reach

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


A New Model Navy

three Fleets. Versatile Modular Systems designed applying dual-use (commercial and / or military) hulls by application (Apps) have been suggested: 'VMApps' designed to 'equip crews and systems rather than ship them' [7]. To be viable and allow for hulls to be operated effectively and efficiently in each 'domain) VMApps works at the system level. An example might be the High Speed Ship as Troop Transport (Blue Flag) or for Amphibious Operations (White Flag or Blue Flag with White VMApps).

This has cultural implications for command (at the system) and crewing (at the tactical / unit levels). It does though enable choice and potentially releasing RAN crews for crewing capital ships, like Canberra and Adelaide, and our emerging Submarine Strike capability7. Seafarers wishing to remain at sea through a career could do so in the Blue or Red Fleets. Those wishing to command, operate, lead and control at the system level could do so in the White Fleet. There is a coming together. Commercial operators wish to upgrade / upskill their fleets, which is finding PSE and legislative favour. A three flagged approach (White-Blue-Red) may enable the new capitalisation, scaling and composition of Fleets. Significantly, this would be a return to proper Admiralty and the enfranchised leveraging of capital, capability and personnel in [full] partnership - more by fittingthe crews, than crewingthe fits!

7 In good Australian fashion we have knocked our submarines so hard that they have and are becoming silently very good - certainly the front half! Our submarines have a strike capability in terms of deterrence and managing the escalator, up and down. They are a political weapon of choice and needed to be regarded as such - just as the Amphibious Task Group will overtly project political influence.

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

New Model Designs

A consensus is emerging amongst those concerned with the [Defence] the effect that radical change is inevitable.'[9]

Amphibious Manoeuvre comprises three essential system components: specialist amphibious shipping (Navy); the landingforce (Army) and the tailored air group (Army, Navy and Air), who contribute the tactical lift (and area protection) essential to amphibious operations. Only Sealift provides the practicable means of deploying equipment and logistic support and then sustaining forces at ranges beyond 600nm8, over time at anything other than very small scale.[8]

An Amphibious Manoeuvre System (AMS), incorporating Sealift, manages the flows of materiel and personnel to and from beachheads and landing sites. Australia cannot deliver this system applying current force structure designs - and even if we could, it would bankrupt us in the doing.

The underlying message of the US, UK and AS Defence Reviews was that current fleet designs (be they ships, aircraft, tanks of for people) -exacerbated by Defence Cost Inflation (DCI), [10] - are simply unaffordable and irreplaceable.[ul The 2009 White Paper was in many regards an exemplar, setting the strategic goals and aiming to shape and command the context through amphibious (the two LHDs and Choules) and maritime control through (submarine / TLAM) influence projection.[ul

Following withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan in 2014, there is no politician in the US, the UK, Australia or Canada or in the Netherlands, France and Denmark who will commit to any scale of enduring warfighting in Asia, South West Asia or the Middle East for the foreseeable

8 The RAAF declared limit of operations from the Australian Coast, Chief Air, Pacific Jan 2012.

future. Therefore, for a maritime nation like Australia, our influence and effect will need to be projected from and by the sea - and upon that projection will rest the success of our Knowledge Enterprise Economies and our political surete economy. These economies will be based upon exploiting integration and modularity - the content - rather than the platforms (cars / hulls etc) that 'underwrite' and convey them. It is within the content, which includes the Cyber (which is also part of the Maritime)[2] that Australia needs to define, identify and leverage its future co-adaptive advantage. And it is here that we are in potential competition not with China but with the US.

In this context, Australia needs to tread very carefully between US policy seemingly aimed at containing China, our major trading partner, and a China balanced precariously between the forces of growth and decline. From a military perspective, this is about interest and influence; recognising that for the majority of the time an effective Armed Force will be occupying the prevention and recovery roles and, if its interests are strategically aligned, only engaging when and where necessary. This is also the underpinning concept behind Asymmetric Offshore Counter Balancing (AOCB) - the de-facto post Afghanistan maritime-based policy being adopted by the US and UK[ul

This comes down to how we crew our future Fleets of the White; the Blue and the Red. A strategic assessment based upon the interests of Australia and what Australia wants its disciplined, commanded forces to do, would ask 'what should the size of Australia's Armed Forces be?'[ul Given a population of 20-23 million, a reasonable suggestion would be about 85,000:45,000 in the Army; 20,000 in the RAN and 20,000 in the RAAF; supported by an effective APS (the 4* Arm) of about 20,000. TThis is broadly

Issue 153


the size of the Army (with Reserves) over the last decade but would mean growing the RAAF and RAN by between 17 and 25%, respectively. This would require a new model.

A potential design may be the Federation militia model with an RAN consisting of 11,000 regulars; 4,500 Reserves and 4,500 Private Reserve (potentially an auxiliary service as in the RFA[5]). The issue is that personnel designs need to change to enable the provision of worthwhile careers that will also align affordably with national, economic, security and industrial interests and strategies - which current models do not. These designs will also mean pump-priming Research; not simply in Defence but within academe, Government and industry. The RPDE9 model may be one on which to build. [ul The ships needed for this force will be different - they need to be able to take the hits, which means being able to sustain (not simply survive) losses. This is not an attritional design - in fact quite the reverse. It recognises that designs need to be affordable if they are to be used politically, militarily and economically: 'affording to lose in order to use[71'.


By Strength and Guile

What is changing is the shape, size and ontology - if not accent - of our Navy. Chief Navy has achieved a remarkable balancing act of expanding the Navy to take on the additional tasks and roles expected of us today and, more significantly, tomorrow. Put simply, for the tasks we are already planning, Navy is significantly under strength - by some estimates as much as 50%. Navy has achieved this, in part, by

  1. The Rapid Prototyping, Development and Evaluation (RPDE) Program is a joint initiative between industry and the Australian Department of Defence.

  2. Motto of the old Special Boat Service comprised by Royal Marines and Royal Navy.

recruiting a remarkable group of sailors from recession-torn Britain (hence the accents).

By my assessment, these Royal Marine and Royal Navy lateral entry recruits into Navy are all in the top 25% quartile. And they and their families have got going all the way to us here in Australia. However, this is perhaps a one off, the supply will dry up at some stage and we need to be able to sustain their / these skills and capabilities well into this century. There is also an impact upon those sailors home grown by Navy and who see these lateral entries competing successfully for jobs they saw as theirs and so pushing out rosters.

We are similarly expanding the Reserves who come from all walks of life - some with remarkable skill sets that, I suggest, we would wish to use rather than fit into a naval cocked hat. At the same time, the system is groaning to take on and suitably apply this talent appropriately - which is in clanger of becoming a classic case of 'use it or lose it!

Trumping all of this is the fact that our existing ship and crewing designs are simply unaffordable over the short and longer term - yet if we are to return to the seas[5] we are going to need to significantly enhance the scale (size and numbers) at which we operate. At some point this is going to mean deploying to sea something that looks remarkably like an Aircraft Carrier, even if it is UCAVs and Turboprops deploying from its decks.[ul

To do this we are going to have to start doing some real thinking if we are to design, shape and sustain an Amphibious Maritime Force (including our Submarines) capable of exercising the type of political influence projection we will need to maintain the peace. A secure maritime industry will provide Australia with the type of assurances and security necessary to walk with

confidence along the seaways of an uncertain future. It will enable Australia to do what it does well - to speak quietly and assuredly and to carry a big stick for those times when diplomacy fails. Australia is of the sea and will always be so.[5] Navy is right to have as its motto 'Fight and Win! There is though a problem with this motto in that, in the recent past we, or at least our principal Allies, have been doing rather too much fighting and too little thinking, hence the strategic failures (certainly for the UK) of both Iraq and Afghanistan. [12] As a result, it has been argued that as we exit Afghanistan we need to move from 'fought to thought In this respect and as we capitalise of those remarkable strengths that make us Australians and as we glimpse a Pacific future rich with promise, we may also wish to consider revising our motto along more Sun Tzu and Clausewitzean lines to: 'Think, Fight, WinliW

Robert Cuthbert Blake is a non-de-plume


  1. Horrigan, F., No Writing the White. The Navy, 2012. Vol. 74, No.2: p. pp. 27-30.

  2. Hemlock, J., Cyber /Maritime Security. The Navy, 2012. Vol. 74, No. 4: p. pp. 21-23.

  3. The Honourable Anthony Albanese MP, Stronger Shippingfor a Stronger Australia. The Navy, 2011. Vol 73, Oct-Dec 2011.

  4. ICCVM, Submission for the Australian Government's Productivity Commission Public Enquiry into Public Infrastructure, in Public Enquiry. Editors: University of Sydney, University of Adelaide, Curtin University, QUT & CSIRO, 2014, ICCPM: Canberra.

  5. Blake, R.C., Return to the Seas. The Navy, 2012. Vol. 74, No.l: p. pp. 11-14.

  6. Grisogono, A.-M., Co-Adaptation. Proceeedings of SPIE - the International Society for Optical Engineering, 2006. Volume 6039, Article No. 603903.

  7. Reay Atkinson, S., I., Hassall, N.H.M., Caldwell, M., Romilly, & R., Golding., Versatile Modular System VMS™ designs for a Versatile Modular Fleet VMF™, in EAWWEV, 2011, IMarE: Old RN College, Greenwich, London.

  8. UK-MoD-DCDC, British Maritime Doctrine. Joint Doctrine Publication, 2011. JDP 0-10, August 2011.

  9. Pugh, EG., Retrospect and Prospect: trends in Cost and their Implications for UK Aerospace. Defence and Peace Economics, 2007. Vol 18(1), February: p. pp 25-37.

  1. Augustine, N.R., Augustine's Laws, 1997, Reston, Virginia, US: American Institute of Aeronautics.

  2. Hemlock, J., The Defence Enterprise. The Navy, 2012. Vol. 74, No. 4: p. pp. 17-20.

  3. UK-PASC, Who Does UK National Strategy?, in Public Administration Select Committee (PASC),12 Oct, 2010, House of Commons London.

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


Cut and Come Again - a Barber at sea


I Coverof I The Magic Pudding book, by Norman Lindsay, originally published \in1918

As an Albert, I've always felt empathy with Norman Lindsay's 'cut-and-come-again' Magic Pudding. Initially this was purely physical because as a youngster I was, like that Albert, rather pudding-shaped, with spindly legs. I was probably grumpy like him too.

Fortuitously I escaped the blight of some of my peers - the basin-cut hairdo, so named because it was achieved by one's mum via judicious trimming with scissors around an upturned pudding basin on the head.

My dad Ted had been a barber. He hated it, even though eventually he had his own shop in premises that he shared with Will Alma, the famous Australian magician (who no doubt had magic puddings of his own).

Ted must have thought WWII a godsend because it imposed an excuse to leave the barber shop. He enlisted, and after training at HMAS Cerberus at Crib Point, was posted as a stoker aboard the ex-WA State Shipping Service MV Kybra that had been commissioned in 1940 as HMAS Kybra and sent to Sydney for naval service as an anti-submarine escort and training ship.

But one's past always catches up. In no time Ted found himself the surrogate ship's barber.

During a recent haircut I mentioned my father's story to Leo, my barber at the time. He explained that he had done his apprenticeship in Italy many years ago, before he migrated to Australia. He said his mentor had told him 'When you're a barber, you'll always have money in your pocket. But they'll only be coins!'

Leo said that while this had been his own experience in relation to acquiring wealth, he had always found his profession 'transportable' and in demand. He said the same applied for cobblers and tailors.

'Somebody will always need their

hair cut, or their shoes or clothes mended. It doesn't matter whether you are on a ship or in the army. Even if you are in prison there'll always be a warden who wants to look good for his girlfriend, and who will tender favours in return.'

Ted didn't work as a barber after the war (except that his mother insisted that he cut her hair, which he did until her death). Instead, in Melbourne, he worked on ships on the piers and docks as a 'wharfie'. After about five years, looking to build a better future, he took on a small mixed business that incorporated a post office, newsagent, grocery and milk bar.

It was a seven-days-a-week job for him and my mother (and for that matter to a fair extent for me also). After seven years of this we moved to a small self-service grocery store that was closed from midday on Saturday until Monday morning, providing some respite.

By the end of another seven years Ted felt it time to retire from the retail game. He was tired of the long hours, but was also faced with declining custom because of the opening half-a-mile away of a new shopping mall that incorporated a large supermarket.

After selling the shop and biding time with some interim part-time work, he and my mother embarked on the world-cruise holiday that they had worked towards for their 14 years in retail. They left Melbourne for Sydney, catching up \ there with some old friends from their war years. Next came Auckland, their first foreign port, where they enjoyed local sightseeing before setting out for Fiji.

But Ted suffered a fatal heart attack one morning in the shower two days before reaching Suva. Strangely, he had always told my mother that he would like to be buried at sea; and so, sadly, his wish was granted.

HMAS Kybra

MV Kybra was a single screw passenger and cargo motor vessel built for the Government of Western Australia by the Coastal Construction Company of Montrose, Scotland. She was requisition for naval service on 8 July 1940.
Ted at work on HMAS Kybra in alight-hearted moment on a supposed "customer" (AlbertCaton)

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

Issue 153


Ted Caton on HMAS Kybra (Albert Caton)

After discharging a cargo at Esperance, WA, Kybra sailed for Sydney to be fitted out as an auxiliary anti-submarine vessel. She was commissioned on 30 September 1940 as a tender to the anti-submarine training establishment, HMAS Rushcutter, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Basil T Brewster, DSC, RN.

Over the next five years she served in eastern Australian waters mainly off the NSW coast but as far north as Townsville and as far south as Devonport.

In June 1942, with the institution of the convoy system, Kybra began operations as an escort vessel out of Sydney In March the following year, she was attached as a seagoing radar training ship to the RAN radar school located at South Head, later named HMAS Watson. She was later relieved in this capacity by HMAS Yandra. On 12 May 1943, she escorted SS Ormiston, damaged after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, back into Sydney.

On 19 October 1945, Kybra departed Sydney to return to Western Australia. She decommissioned at Fremantle on 23 November 1945 and was returned to her owners on 25 March the following year. She was sold to Panamanian interests in 1957 and later re-sold to a Singapore company and re-named Floretta. She departed Fremantle in tow on 28 February 1958 bound for Singapore.1 iW

1 Kybra history and specifications courtesy of the Royal Australian Navy

Type: Anti-submarine and RDF Training Vessel

Builder: Coastal Construction Company Ltd, Montrose, Scotland

Launched: 13 January 1026

Commissioned: 30 September1940

Decommissioned: 23 November 1043

Displacement: 858 Tons (Gross); 440 Tons (Net)

Length: 204 feet 2 inches

Beam: 31 feet 1 inch

Draught: 11 feet 10 inches

Speed: 10.5 knots

Complement: 55

Propulsion Machinery:.. six-cylinder oil engine, single screw, 233 NHP Armament:

1x4 inch gun

1x2 pounder gun

2 machine guns

2 depth charge throwers

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


Recording Naval Valour and Service - the Bravo Zulu Project



f Australians in general and the RAN in particular, have a very shaky grasp upon the major events which have shaped this nation's naval history, then they have even less recall (and perhaps regard) for the exploits and achievements of those naval men and women Australia has chosen to distinguish and recognise with honours and awards.

Up until very recently, and perhaps not even now, how many knew and acknowledged that the first decoration won under the Australian flag in World War I was the DSO awarded to Lieutenant Thomas Bond RANR for his actions at Bita Paka on 11 September 1914? There are records of other awards winners - almost all of them officers, and admirals at that, until very recently - in the names given to naval formations, organisations buildings and ships, but if there is any remembrance within the RAN, or anywhere else, of the exploits of Lieutenant Bond, I'm not aware of it.

Don't feel too bad about that: until I started my research in 2009,1 didn't know about his DSO either after 35 years of naval service and eight years researching our naval history.

The Project

The idea for the project came about in conversation with my collaborator and researcher-in-chief for several of my books on Australia's naval history, David Ruffin. We had noted that, except for the significant record of honours and awards (H&A) in the two world wars created by Chief Petty Officer Atldnson in the 1980s, With Skill and Valour, and that for the most part was just a bare record of the awards, one had to hunt around for any similar information on H&A for later conflicts.

As well, there was no record we could find of H&A for service in what is now termed 'non-warlike'

circumstances. (Veterans of the committee battles in Defence during the 1980s and 1990 may well bridle at that description of what it was they were engaged in!) So, as regularly as clockwork, twice a year (after 1983) the media would carry as series of those little one-line citations for fortunate folk in the Military Divisions of the Honours lists. 'Chief Petty Officer M. Bloggs, OAM for services to motor transport

Working on the premise that one can tell quite a lot about the development of an organisation and its activities by the H&A it dishes out, we resolved to make an attempt to put flesh on these little bland notices. We would find out and tell the story of Bloggs, starting with his service history and things he had been engaged in, and then why he had got his gong. Women readers can relax: I've used the male pronoun because the vast majority of the nearly 3,600 recipient of H&A on whom we have assembled data were men. I don't endorse this; if s just the way it is.

We resolved to go back as far as we could and still be able to claim that the recipient was Australian! That turned out to be a DSO won in 1900 in South Africa, but presented in 1901. We would draw a line on our research sometime in the future as we concluded the writing. We thought that might be 2011 - the centennial of the RAN - but, although we are getting much closer to the end we haven't reached it yet, and Queens Birthday 2014 might turn out to be the finish line.

The net crucial decision was who we would include in our research. 'Everybody' sounded good, but even then we recognised the danger in biting off more than we could chew. All with post-nominal entitlements' sounded better, but we recognised that scales for awards active during four of the conflicts meant that, in many cases, there was little to choose between the actions which eventually gained a recipient a DSM and those that resulted in a MID. So, we decided to include the MID and its later Australian equivalent.

Foreigners who got gongs while they were serving with the RAN or on RAN service would be included. Foreign awards to Australian naval people would also be included where these had a similar status to Imperial or Australian awards, as would bravery awards, governmental or otherwise. Campaign medals and awards for longevity and service would not, nor would commendations. For those who will take umbrage at their omission under these criteria I can only say that we have left the field open to you to produce the companion volumes to Bravo Zulu covering what we have omitted and wish you an easier time with your research.

French soldiers in their distinct crested helmets stand in a group the Military Medal, establlshedon 25th March, 1916, foractsof bravery. They have probably been awarded forthelr
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