- Linton, E.W. (Jake), BEM, MCD, Commander, RAN (Rtd)
- Biographies and personal histories, RAN operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Rushcutter (Shores establishment), HMAS Penguin (Shore Base - Balmoral)
- March 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On my return from the States I was posted to the RAN Research Laboratory to produce a draft of the first of the Mine Warfare Pilots and then, much to my surprise, was offered Command of HMAS Curlew, a Ton Class Mine Sweeper that had been converted to a Mine Hunter. I learnt a lot in Curlew, mostly the difference between being a member of a ship’s company and being in Command. I survived the job and had the wonderful experience of circumnavigating Australia in command of a warship. After Curlew there was a stint at HMAS Waterhen as Staff Mine Warfare Officer, then two years as OIC of Clearance Diving Team 1 (CDT1)
CDT1 was another very rewarding job with highlights of Defence Cooperation Program tours to the Solomon Islands and standing by to go to the Gulf, both events worth a book in their own right. By now I had well and truly learnt that I had had ‘A Fortunate Life’, and if Albert Facey had not chosen that title for his autobiography then I would like to have used it for mine if and when I ever write it. The other great piece of wisdom that had finally dawned on me was that working for or with Clearance Divers and/or being in charge of them is a great experience. They all want to get the job done and properly, don’t take a lot of leading, and if you have their respect you have the game sewn up. Then lo and behold, somebody must have been sleeping in Navy Office as they promoted me to Commander.
In 1982 I was given a Pierhead Jump to take Command of Curlew as a Commander, again this time for just a bit over three months, when her Captain became indisposed. Being in command of a relatively small ship as a Commander had a lot of benefits. We visited Port Fairy in southern Victoria, a most difficult port, as we were too big to enter the river and anchored offshore in the long swells from the Southern Ocean. I had visited there once before in my previous commission and recommended we not return. I forgot that it was Prime Minister Fraser’s electorate
Then came a posting as Officer in Charge of the RAN Diving School. I spent over four years there and didn’t have a lot to do, as Clearance Divers who all knew what they were doing surrounded me and I was only there to be responsible for their actions. Not too tough, for about 99.9% of the time, their actions and accomplishments reflected very well on me. The hardest thing about this period in my career was providing Clearance Divers to the Counter Terrorist Organisation.
SAS and Clearance Divers
The Special Air Service (SAS) were given the task of providing a Counter Terrorism Force when the Government felt there was some danger of a terrorist attack on our oil rigs in Bass Strait. It is my understanding that to provide this force would have stretched the SAS resources too thin to enable them to meet their other commitments, and it was decided that that the Clearance Diving Branch would supplement their forces. Along with the OIC of the SAS Regiment, my role was to select appropriate personnel. My feeling was that there wasn’t much need for selection as any Clearance Diver, because of his training, would be suitable for the role. The Regiment didn’t feel that way and were fiercely protective of their role and reputation. As a result there were times when Warrant Officer Clearance Divers were working for SAS Corporals, a situation which at times caused some interesting get‑togethers in the Bar with an odd trip to the Sickbay afterward. In retrospect, whilst I was fiercely protective of my Clearance Divers it is not surprising that my counterpart in the SAS Regiment felt the same about his troopers and ‘who could do it better’ was always going to be a bone of contention. I just felt that I was providing cannon fodder for the SAS and that there was not a lot of career enhancement for those who volunteered – and there were plenty of volunteers. In the years since then Clearance Divers have proved that they can fill any role in counter terrorism with great professionalism, but they still get very little recognition for their service in that field.