HMAS Vampire and her Last Captain: CMDR WTA Moran RAN
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As a seaman officer who served on various projects with Admiral Purves, I was delighted to read Dr. Tom Lewis's article in the December 2012 issue. However, there was no mention of his most obvious habit of smoking cigars.
Freddie told me on various occasions that he acquired this habit whilst serving as an engineer in the Bolivian Air Force. He said that, during the 1930s when it was difficult to get a job as a ship's engineer, he responded to an advertisement in a British paper inserted by the Bolivian Air Force and was accepted. He wasn't an airman for very long, just long enough to take up cigars.
Late in the evening, he was proud to declare that he was the only RAN officer to have served in the Bolivian Air Force. I am sure that he was not pulling my leg...
To the Editor,
I have now received the December copy of Headmark. I must express my admiration for the professionalism and excellent presentation of this j ournal; it has changed immensely from way back when my husband was named as the "publisher" so that he could be sued and no-one else for the content - or at least that was as I understood it! Jonathan Brett Young also asks me to thank you as he also received a copy of the December Journal - indeed I think he was so impressed he may take out a subscription! Despite his resignation from the RAN many years ago he retains close ties with his year; writes many obituaries for the London Times etc., and has only just resigned as Deputy Lord Lieutenant, after many years, of Sutherland County in Scotland.
I appreciated the biography of Fred Purves and was interested in the Vernon Parker Oration; he was also a close friend.
I wonder if you might be interested in a further story about Fred Purves told by him tome many years ago. During the Depression, when jobs were scarce and he was apparently in UK (and had some connection with Vickers; I'm speaking here of 1934/35 (?); he was in Bolivia during the war between Bolivia and Chaco and operating as an aircraft mechanic or engineer. He was arrested; placed, with others, on a truck, menaced by machineguns and threatened with death (he must have been all of 22 plus or minus at this stage) but managed, with the help of the Brit Embassy (or whoever the diplomatic people were then) to be repatriated to UK as a distressed British seaman. My husband and I did send him a postcard from La Paz in 1990 to remind him of his time in Bolivia!
There are many stories that can be told about Fred Purves but my favorite is after the first ships that were introduced in the RAN with "bridge control" which meant not having to signal down to the engine room for forward or reverse thrust etc., my husband (at this time a Commander) was with Fred Purves at a gathering in Garden Island or Penguin or somewhere like that in Sydney in the company of a number of senior officers, where one said senior officer brought up the subject of these new ships with "bridge control."
Fred's response was "you can give the bastards bridge control but you can't give them bloody brains!" Being the junior officer present my husband chose to absent himself very quickly!