- Smythe, D.H.D., AO, Commodore, RAN
- Biographies and personal histories, Humour
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1996 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
There are Fabulous Admirals and Legendary Lieutenants. In our Navy a few years ago there was a fabulous and legendary Commander. Even today, whenever officers of the Navy meet, the talk is bound to turn eventually to this man, and to the stories of his exploits. Lest time should dim the memories of his contemporaries, / have collected some of those stories. Here they are:- “The Arnold Green Legends. “
During the Olympic Games in 1956, Hobart, the city where Arnold was the Naval Representative, was inundated, like so many other cities in Australia during those times, by visitors from overseas. Among them were the crews of four American destroyers who were on their way to Melbourne itself for the Games. Parties, excursions and hospitality generally had been lavishly organised for the men who could be seen all over the city throughout the day and night.
Arnold was driving past a group of them standing at a street-corner, and noticed that they were looking rather lost. He stopped and enquired whether all was well, only to learn that they were off on a trip to visit some beauty spot but that their bus transport had not turned up.
At this moment a municipal bus was passing on its scheduled run, full of commuters and shoppers on their way to the city. Arnold stepped imperiously into its path and raised his hand in a stop signal that no driver could ignore. He then stepped into the bus itself.
‘Everybody disembark.’ His commanding tones brooked no refusal, and the startled passengers rose to their feet and shambled sheep-like and almost guiltily onto the roadway.
‘Now, gentlemen, would you please embus?’.
The sailors filed wonderingly aboard.
‘ere, wait a minute, mate’, the driver recovered from his initial shock at this unusual procedure, ‘what’s all this about.’
‘My man, these men are due at the top of Mount Wellington in half an hour. Drive them there, wait whilst they are shown the sights, and return them to their ships on completion’ instructed Arnold.
‘But I’m on me regular run. The transport commissioner’ll be onto me over this. I’m due at the depot in ten minutes. And anyway, whose going to pay for all of this?’.
‘The account’, announced Arnold, ‘is to be sent to the Premier, by direction of the Resident Naval Officer’. He turned to the new passengers: ‘Well gentlemen, I hope you enjoy your trip. The Commonwealth of Australia and the citizens of this city are proud to have you with us.’
The bus drew away. Arnold watched it turn and head for the mountains, and then strode masterfully to his car through the muttering and wondering group of evicted passengers.
A few weeks later Arnold was summoned to visit the Premier. This honourable gentleman, barely suppressing his anger, waved under his visitor’s nose the quite considerable bill for the bus-ride, and demanded an explanation.
‘Mr. Premier’ replied Arnold, ‘I saw these esteemed maritime visitors – guests, Sir, of you and your state – standing forsaken on the footpath. I felt, Sir, that the good name of the State was at stake; so I asked myself, Sir, what YOU would do in similar circumstances. Knowing you to be a man of direct action, the answer, Sir, was obvious, so I acted accordingly!’
‘Well done Green. Have a Gin‘, quoth the Premier.
A week or two before I was due to arrive in my frigate in 1953 for several month’s operations based on Darwin, at which Arnold was the Naval Officer-in-Charge, I wrote to him enquiring as to the chances of renting a house or flat in the town. If so, I wrote, I could fly my family up and install them there so that I would be with them when in port.
‘Accommodation’, wrote Arnold in reply, ‘is as scarce as hen’s teeth, and even when available is at exorbitant rates for even the most lowly hovels. I have searched and investigated (leaving no stone unexplored or avenue unturned) and am afraid that what you ask is impossible’.
The next few paragraphs contained odd snippets of news and the writer remained, sincerely mine, Arnold Green. There was, however, a postscript, saying that he would like to ask a favour of me. One of the Naval married quarters, he said, was becoming vacant, and therefore open to intrusion by the locals. Could I possibly, he wondered, find my way dear to providing someone to live in it as caretaker? He could not, of course, pay any reimbursement to me or my agent for this arduous duty, but he hoped that as the dates of the vacancy coincided with those of the visit of my ship, I might be able to help. My wife enjoyed the visit very much.