- van Gelder, Commander John RAN (Rtd)
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Quickmatch, HMAS Queenborough
- September 2005 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Acting on this principle I reduced revolutions to give the ship 14 knots and she started to decelerate. Things were going very smoothly, but how did one measure distance between ships and in this instance it was to be Standard Distance precisely? Again the Navigator came to the rescue and in about 30 seconds flat. I was fully qualified on the use and intricacies of the Stuart’s Distance Meter. Actually, I had used this little instrument in HMAS Australia some years previously; however, in intervening years matters of aviation had taken precedence and erased my memory.
Lo and behold; there we were by sheer chance and good luck in station astern of Quickmatch at precisely the correct distance. Due to this surprising and unexpected outcome to the manoeuvre the Captain was moved to say to me:
…. Well, I think that deserves a Bravo Zulu …. ” I did not know quite how to take his remark since I had no idea what the term “Bravo Zulu” meant.
However, this remark was quickly followed up by him admonishing me to use the Battenberg for the next change of station, which was to join the submarine some distance away. Here we go again, an insurmountable problem. I had never heard of a Battenberg, let alone seen one. What followed was a 30 second crash course in the use of a Battenberg by the Navigator, which left me very little wiser. As we were about to execute the next change of station I fiddled with the arms of the Battenberg, made an assessment of the course to be steered with my “trained aviator eyes” and went for it. I would like to think that others on the bridge thought I had used the less than efficient and clumsy Battenberg. But who knows?
Following this day we were engaged in an extremely intensive work-up period prior to joining the Far East Fleet for an equally intensive period of six months or so. To suggest that I was involved in an extraordinarily steep learning curve in matters of seamanship during this period would be a gross understatement. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience immensely, to the extent that I found myself on the bridge of HMAS Queenborough some years later in a very different capacity indeed.