Born at Corowa, NSW and educated at Geelong Grammar School. Anthony Synnot joined the RAN as a cadet midshipman in 1939 as a Special Entry and trained in Britain with Prince Philip of Greece (now HRH Duke of Edinburgh). His first ship was HMAS Canberra and later. During WW II he served in HMAS Stuart in the battle of Matapan in the Mediterranean, and later during the evacuation of Greece and Crete. Subsequent ships included war service in HM Ships Barham (battleship), and Punjabi (destroyer). In the latter ship he was sunk in an accidental collision* with the battleship HMS King George V off Iceland. His next ship was HMAS Quiberon (destroyer) engaged on North Sea convoy duties and later during the North Africa landings, where he eventually became the executive officer. Later his ship proceeded to the Indian Ocean for operations against the Japanese.
In 1945 he qualified as a gunnery specialist at HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth UK. He was subsequently promoted and served in command of HMA Ships Warramunga 1956-57 and, as a captain, Vampire 1960-61. Subsequently he was appointed (1962-65) to Navy Headquarters, Kuala Lumpur, in command of the Royal Malayan Navy, which became the Royal Malaysian Navy. Soon after his return to Australia he commanded HMAS Sydney, taking troops and supplies to Vietnam, and then the flagship HMAS Melbourne.
He attended the Imperial Defence College in London in 1968 and was then appointed Director General Fighting Equipment on return to Australia. Promoted Rear Admiral in 1970, he served as Chief of Naval Personnel in Canberra and then Deputy Chief of Naval Staff. He flew his flag afloat as Fleet Commander in 1973, then came ashore as Director Joint Staff in the Department of Defence in 1974. Here he was able to provide organisational support for ongoing relief effort after the Cyclone Tracy disaster at Darwin.
In 1976 he was promoted Vice Admiral as Chief of Naval Staff, and then promoted again to full Admiral as Chief of the Defence Force Staff in 1979. Admiral Synnot served with great distinction in both posts, seeking to improve defence capabilities with a new carrier and the latest technology. He was awarded AO in 1976 and knighted in 1979, retiring in 1982 after 43 years of active service.
Admiral Synnot spent his retirement on his properties outside the Canberra region where he bred cattle and horses and indulged in competitive carriage-driving. He was accorded a Naval Funeral in Canberra at the ANZAC Memorial Chapel at RMC Duntroon, where the RAN paid him their last respects in a magnificent traditional parade, drawing his coffin on a ceremonial naval 12 pounder gun carriage. He would certainly have approved of the Navy’s immaculate display on that wintry day.
*(HMS King George V was covering a distant Russian-bound convoy, escorted by destroyers. In company with some American ships, including the battleship USS Washington, KGV was leading in single line ahead with her destroyers in close screen formation and zigzagging in poor visibility. Late in the afternoon watch the Fleet was ordered to alter course by W/T. Onboard the battleship she was felt to heave suddenly out of the water, followed shortly after by loud explosions down the ship’s side. It was immediately thought that the ship had been mined but it was realised that KGV had sliced HMS Punjabi in half. The destroyer had primed depth charges on her quarterdeck which rolled overboard after the collision and exploded – not much comfort to half her crew in the stern section. Survivors were picked up by other destroyers, while KGV returned to shelter in Iceland, embarking the survivors there, to be landed later in Scapa Flow. KGV herself was detached to Liverpool for repairs.)