- Wright, Ken
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Some of the men of the RANVR seconded to the Royal Navy were among the highest decorated Australian servicemen of the war.
Forgotten and Ignored
When they first arrived in England they had been welcomed with open arms and when they left their contribution was greatly appreciated. In contrast, when the volunteers returned to Australia after four years with the Royal Navy, they found public and official attitudes had changed. No longer was the emphasis on the war in Europe and defeating Germany as Australia herself was now in peril of being invaded by Japan and foreign policy was, by necessity, now firmly directed towards the United States and the war in the Pacific.
One officer possibly summed up the frustration felt by most if not all the RANVR members when they returned to Australia. ‘Naturally, we were delighted by the prospect of returning to the RAN but our homecoming was saddened and soured by the shabby treatment we were given on our return and in later years. We volunteered to go, served in most sea actions of the Battle of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and our deeds are hidden in just eight lines in the Australian Official War History. We didn’t expect a hero’s welcome when we returned but to even be denied gazetted Australian leave allowances of two days per month for overseas service was indicative of the RAN’s attitude towards us and was rather demeaning to say the least.’
The Australian Government had suggested and paid for their participation during WW2 yet there are no nominal rolls of these men in Australia or the UK. On 25 April every year when Australia holds the Australian New Zealand Army Corps [ANZAC] Day marches throughout the country, there has never been an allocated march position for the men of the RANVR. Those who wanted to march had to do so with the retired naval officers section. In 2008, there are about 50 of the original 500 left and the entire history of this small band of men who are the forgotten few lies neglected in a cardboard box waiting.
‘Tell them of us and say for your tomorrow, we gave our today for under our ships’ propellers, the sea boiled like green fire. For half a mile our wake stretched astern as plain as a road. Then the sea slid across and smoothed away all trace of our passage. It forgot us as it has forgotten every ship and sailor it has ever known and settled down again, an infinity of blue, to dream under the sky’.
Special thanks: Historical information and selected photographs supplied by RANVR Lieutenant Keith Nicol. [Retd] Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.