- Barrey, R.B., Flying Officer
- Biographies and personal histories, Naval Aviation, Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney II
- September 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Editor’s note: This letter was written by Flying Officer R.B. Barrey who was the pilot of the Walrus Amphibian aircraft in HMAS Sydney in 1941. He did not survive the encounter with the Kormoran. The letter was sent to his brother, Sergeant (later Wing Commander) Clement Barrey, DFC, DFM, AFM, who joined the Royal Air Force and served for nearly thirty years.
The letter provides some interesting insights into life on board HMAS Sydney. It comes to the Naval Historical Society with compliments from Commander Greg Swinden, RAN from the Australian Command and Staff College.
At Sea Pilot Officer R B Barrey HMAS Sydney C/- GPO, Sydney, NSW Tuesday, 27th May, 1941 My Dear Brother,
Well old scout, now that my schooling has ceased for the time being, and my commission having been granted, plus a transfer from the Fleet Co-operation Base at Rathmines, NSW as OC in charge of the R.A.A.F. Detachment.
I now find that I have much more time on my hands which permits me to catch up on a good deal of my back correspondence.
You have probably learnt through Mother that I let my head go in February when I was home on leave and decided to get married, thereby using up my last three days. Since then I have only had about seven days with Glad as I was posted (with about 2 ½ hours notice) four days after she arrived at Rathmines. I had taken a house there.
However, she has now taken a flat at Kings Cross, Sydney. And now every time this ship returns to its port, I’ll be able to reap the benefits of my new home for these ships never put out into the Outer Harbour during wartime.
Gladys is an entirely different girl from when you knew her and both Mother and Pop have taken a definite liking to her now.
John, I suppose it isn’t fair to tell you this after what you’ve had to put up with, but the life aboard this ship is really first class, and the meals are more-or-less like a Government House touch.
Our duties at the present moment are mainly patrol and escort work around the whole coastline and at the same time, the almost entirely new crew are getting in as much practice as possible at their various action stations, so I don’t think they’ll be venturing over to your side of the globe till they’ve attained a little higher standard.
I took over from Flight Lieutenant Price, DFC (a South Australian) on 29th April, 1941 after completing one dual catapult and recovery underway, so now I have the Walrus and 1 Sgt Fitter II, 2 LAC Fitters, a LAC Fitter Armourer, a LAC Photographer under my charge.
The Navy supply the observer who is a Lt/Cmdr and also the Telegraphist Air Gunner. As you probably know, these ‘Ducks’ are used mainly for spotting purposes and make ideal targets for enemy planes. However, as far as I know, there hasn’t been another machine of this type built that can take the bashing they get when landing in rough seas.
We paid a visit to Singapore recently and while there, I called on Alan Brewin. He was very surprised as he had not seen me since I was at Parafield. He is absolutely fed up with his present posting and reckons it’s rotten to the core. I’m a bit ‘wid-im-dere’ as what I saw of the place was bloody terrible.
Since I’ve come aboard, my flying hours have slipped to blazes and I’m told that 15 hours a month is considered quite good going round these parts. My hours are now up around the 280 mark in just over thirteen months (Air Force training only). I really think my 18 months of Aero Club flying before the war has placed me in good stead, and so has been one of the main factors in the granting of my commission.
I am still getting 17/9 per day, the same as I received as a Sergeant, with an additional 3/- a day marriage allowance. I have joined up for the duration of this bloody war and twelve months thereafter, and so if it finished up tomorrow, I’ve still got to complete my term of twelve months before being relieved.