- Letter Writer
- Biographies and personal histories, Obituaries
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2000 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Captain Gerald Haynes’s wartime career combined skill and daring at sea and in the air. He was officer of the watch in HMS Victorious in the chase that destroyed the German pocket battleship Bismarck. Gerald Haynes, who has died at the age of 88, said modestly that he won the Distinguished Service Order for, as he put it, “getting back” but the citation speaks of “great bravery, skill and determination in torpedo and dive-bombing attacks on enemy shipping and aerodromes”.
Gerald Mellor Haynes was born in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton and educated at Haileybury and Melbourne Grammar before entering, at 13, the naval college at Jervis Bay. He served between the wars in cruisers, battleships and a destroyer. His first command was the drifter Crescent Moon.
He then transferred to naval colleges at Greenwich and Portsmouth; later he served as a watch-keeping lieutenant in Canberra.
His first love was engineering and he left the navy to train as a fitter, after which he bought an interest in the small ship Defender, in which he sailed as able seaman.
He had brief civilian pilot training and before World War II rejoined the Royal Australian Navy, being posted again to Canberra and flying as an observer with convoys in the Indian Ocean. Next he was seconded to the RN Fleet Air Arm on the Navy’s assumption, which he did not discourage, that his nine hours and 50 minutes’ civilian flying was 950 hours.
Meanwhile he was the naval liaison officer to the captain of the Mauretania on convoy. He took a course of Fleet Air Arm sailors to Trinidad for navigation training after sandwiching in lots of pilot training hours on Harvards.
He joined 828 Squadron as senior observer on the aircraft carrier Victorious and flew in Swordfish and similar aircraft on Arctic convoys attacking naval targets.
He was the officer of the watch in Victorious in the chase that destroyed the Bismarck, showing exceptional skill as a navigator both marine and air. While his squadron was en route to Malta with him as second in command, he also served as officer of the watch in the new cruiser Eurylaus.
In Malta in November 1941 Lieutenant Haynes succeeded his Squadron Commander when the latter was lost and he became very highly regarded. He was the first Australian to command a Fleet Air Arm squadron.
He led many successful bombing, dive-bombing, torpedo and mining attacks on the Italian fleet and installations in Sicily, Italy, and North Africa.
He experienced more than 1,000 air raids while in Malta, where conditions were very grim and was awarded the DSO.
The citation reads: “For great bravery, skill and determination in torpedo and dive-bombing attacks on enemy shipping and aerodromes.”
Later he hitched a ride in the Stirling Castle to Australia. Then followed a stint at instructing 100 Squadron in New Guinea on torpedo dropping. After this he took himself off to England again. He became chief instructor in the School of Naval Warfare at St Merryn, Cornwall, for two years. His job on D-Day was to fly in a Hellcat armed with rockets.
He assisted in the formation of the Australian Fleet Air Arm and ended up in Australia as a staff officer in navy planning. He attained the rank of lieutenant commander and was discharged from the RAN as commander.
After the war he led a group that built, owned, charted and operated small merchant ships around the Australian coast, to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. He also served Melbourne Legacy for 35 years.
He married Pauline in 1942 and is survived by three daughters, Jan, Jenny, and Pamela and six grandchildren.
Ron Foskett, Mervyn Davies, The Sydney Morning Herald 7.1.00