- Moffatt, Allan (Shorty)
- Ship histories and stories, Post WWII
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Snipe, HMAS Ibis, HMAS Teal, HMAS Hawk, HMAS Curlew, HMAS Gull
- June 2006 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On 31 March 2006 at 10.00am, I attended a Plaque Dedication Service at the West Wing, Australian War Memorial to honour those who had served on the sweepers during Indonesian Confrontation, 1964 – 66. Along with former crews, there were many in attendance who had served either before or after that period, but only the years 1964 -66 are shown on the Plaque, as this was the period when they were assigned to Active Service there.
The Plaque contains a photograph of HMAS Gull with the following inscription:
16th MINESWEEPING SQUADRON 1964 – 66 DEDICATED TO ALL WHO SERVED DURING THE INDONESIAN CONFRONTATION ON HMA SHIPS, CURLEW, GULL, HAWK, IBIS, SNIPE AND TEAL The Order of Service commenced with a very warm welcome to all in attendance given by Carol Cartwright, Head of Education and Visitor Services, Australian War Memorial. She then read the Prime Minister’s message, which follows this article.
The Opening Prayer was given by Chaplain Colin Acton, Navy Chaplain, Australian Defence Force Academy, followed by the Commemorative Address by Commodore Jim Dickson, AM MBE RAN (Rtd), who brought back a lot of memories to all, with the patrols and the ‘stop and search’ activities from the Eastern approaches to the Singapore Straits around to Penang at the northern end of the Malacca Strait. Who could forget those 28-30 day anti-infiltration patrols off the coast of Borneo to prevent Indonesian Forces crossing into East Malaysia from Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo)?
The Plaque unveiling was carried out by two previous Commanding Officers, Commander Bill Wilcox RFD, RANR (Rtd), and Lieutenant Keith ‘Gus’ Murray DSC, RAN (Rtd). Lieutenant Murray was awarded the DSC for an action which took place on the 13th December, 1964. HMAS Teal intercepted two Indonesian sampans off Raffles Light in the south western corner of the Singapore Strait. One sampan opened hostile fire when illuminated by Teal’s Signal Lamp. Teal retaliated, killing three of the sampan’s crew and the remainder of the enemy surrendered. One was an officer of the Indonesian Navy and the sampan was found to be carrying a quantity of explosives, weapons and other military equipment.
The Plaque Dedication and the Naval Prayer were delivered by Chaplain Acton and Commodore Martin Salmon RAN (Rtd), recited The Ode. The Last Post and Rouse were played by Corporal Aaron Madden, Bugler from the Band of the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
All sang the National Anthem with full expressions of how we all served our Country so that all may live in Peace. This was followed by the Closing Prayer, again by Chaplain Acton and the Thank You and Farewell by Rodney Clarey , former Member of the 16th MSS. For those who are not aware, it was due mainly to the efforts of Rod and his wife Jacquie that this Plaque Service came about. They gave much of their time to this project.
For those who were not ‘sweepers people’, a little of their history is in order here. They had a very interesting life from their time of Commissioning into the RAN. All six were built in the UK for service with the Royal Navy and launched in the period 1953 – 1955. Their original names were Chediston, Swanton, Somerleyton, Singleton, Alcaston and Jackton, all named after English villages, or ‘tons’ as they were called in ancient English.
Approximately 125 of this class of minesweepers were built in the United Kingdom between 1953 and 1960 and served at various times with the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Malaysian Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy and the Argentinean Navy.
The six which were selected for service in the Royal Australian Navy were commissioned into the RAN in various ports around the UK in 1962 and sailed for Australia in company with HMAS Supply, Ex-RFA Tide Austral. When the HMAS Melbourne – Voyager collision occurred during night flying operations off Jervis Bay, all sweepers except HMAS Gull participated in rescue operations.