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- History - general, Obituaries
- RAN Ships
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- June 1991 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Captain Harvey Mansfield Newcomb R.N. (Ret) and also R.A.N. (Ret) was born in Kidderminster in England on 18th September, 1899. He was educated at Bedford School and entered the Royal Navy in 1917, under the Public School Entry Scheme introduced in 1913. After four and a half months of very intensive training at Keyham in Devonport, he took up his first sea appointment in H.M.S. CENTURION, one of the Grand Fleet Battleships mounting ten 13.5 inch guns and coal fired. He was able to obtain one of her 13.5 inch tompion badges – a fine first ship souvenir. This ship formed part of the escort for the German High Seas Fleet surrendering in the Firth of Forth.
Promoted to Acting Sub Lieutenant in November, 1919 he shifted to a destroyer – WITHERINGTON – named after a celebrated figure who, after having both legs shot off, continued fighting on the stumps!
He saw service in various destroyers in the Baltic mostly connected with the handing over of German destroyers. In October 1921 he attended Cambridge University for some five months and then after sub-lieutenant’s courses, he had a number of appointments to destroyers. After a period in CALLIOPE, a light cruiser, he specialised in A/S at OSPREY. After qualifying he spent considerable time acting as a link between the experimental boffins and the users. ASDIC was still in its infancy and this was important work. He also attended many dockyards overseeing the installation of equipment in new construction and conversions of vessels. This must have been interesting and successful because he joined CORNWALL – 8 inch cruiser – which had a special dome fitted. This dome had glass ports and pressure cocks, and he had to observe water flow patterns, pressures etc. from inside it at various speeds and sea conditions.
In 1932 he married Miss Anne Palmer of Bristol. They had two children, Simon born in England and Sally born in Sydney.
He was back in OSPREY in 1937 as First Lieutenant and Senior Instructional Officer, and in 1938 volunteered to go to Australia to start an A/S School for the R.A.N. and train some 60 officers and 160 ratings of the Reserve per year. Of course R.A.N. ratings were also to be trained. So war was seen to be unavoidable.
He chose an excellent team of S.D.L.s and H.S.D.s to accompany him, as the School had to do its own fitting out of the instructional gear.
The new School was under construction in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve Depot at Rushcutters Bay when he arrived in late November, 1938 and although he had not had anything to do with the planning he was able to get approval for alterations, which he had already incorporated in a new Instructional Block at OSPREY, and which proved excellent in due course,
The selection of trainees was on the agenda, and 66 young men were recruited and the first batch started training in February, 1939.
Two of that class are here today. VENDETTA and KOOKABURRA provided sea training. Without a submarine as a target, in VENDETTA we used to charge in at Commonwealth merchant ships disguising our motives by exercising signalling with these ships. But it did give sea training to these people. The Merchant Service must have cursed us.
By September 1939, 62 officers had trained, 4 falling by the wayside. One can only imagine the prodigious efforts put in by the staff, in installing the equipment and training these people in such a comparatively short time.
Indicator loops, for at least instructional purposes, were required, so the seaward loops were laid in their war positions and of course instruction had to be given to those manning the loop stations.
He then had to travel around Australia to advise on loop systems off major ports, and any other seaward defences considered necessary off intermediate ports.
The New Zealand Naval Board requested his services to advise on their seaward defences, and of course the training of N.Z. personnel was also discussed.
As much equipment necessary for local new construction and conversions was being lost by enemy action on the way out from the U.K., he had to organise local production and repair of equipment. This sounds fairly easy but it raised tremendous problems, e.g. production of drawings and testing of products. In the course of this local production, many modifications were made to Admiralty specifications. But the equipment still had to be interchangeable with the Admiralty patterns.