- Letter Writer
- Ship histories and stories, Letter to the Editor
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Patricia Cam
- March 2018 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The following email was recently received addressed to the President of the Naval Historical Society and your Editor from Michael Owen a Darwin based historian who operates Top End Heritage Services. It provides some background to the behind the scenes activities provided by your Society, including a visit of 32 Pat Cam family relatives, which are not necessary apparent to our members.
Walter & David – a note to express gratitude for the wonderful trip around the historic naval sites of Sydney Harbour. All the families were deeply touched by the respect and recognition so generously afforded them by the Navy and the Naval Historical Society. I’m sure that many of the sea-going descendants will follow up the plaques in the chapel opportunity and contribute to the excellent work being done by your Society to preserve & celebrate the nation’s history.
The descendants believed that the Pat Cam affair had been swept under the carpet and forgotten by the Navy – somewhat akin to being rejected by your parents – with the unresolved grief getting amplified by the next generation to cast themselves down as powerless to avenge the perceived wrongs. This self-sustaining notion of isolation & helplessness makes it difficult for them to separate the events into their respective contexts of war & peace – Navy & Defence Department. The concrete realism of being ferried across the stream to the old fort and fading graffiti then ushered through the Garden Island Gates into the modern naval dockyard worked like a charm – they now feel their forebears have been recognised as rightfully belonging amongst the nation’s great naval tradition. The Pat Cam cap tally at Spectacle Island did the trick – not necessarily pride of place but a place nevertheless.
For me, Spectacle Island was the highlight of the weekend – the relics invite one into their company to hear their stories. Not as a bowed & shuffling pallbearer for the past but a participant in the on-going maritime community. From Nelson’s fleet orders at Cape Trafalgar to the piece of clay pipe dropped by the lads having a crafty smoke behind the powder magazine – it is a living tradition.
The Last Post was an essential part of the recognition process but the place is cold & funereal – more Mausoleum then Museum – needs a few warm cannon to brighten it up a bit. Maybe there would be a bit more humanity in Canberra if Lake Burley Griffin was salt water.
Michael B. Owen