- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1988 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
PRIOR TO 1956 Cadet-Midshipmen entered the RAN College in January after reaching thirteen years of age. Late in 1946 six hundred thirteen year old candidates went before a Naval Selection Committee seeking twenty-four boys who possessed potential qualities of leadership, intelligence, initiative and responsibility. Twenty-four were selected, six of whom were from Naval backgrounds. The fathers of Eric Johnston, David Martin, Mike Rayment and John Waller had lost their lives in action in the Second World War.
The young cadets arrived at Flinders Naval Depot, HMAS Cerberus, on Western Port Bay, Victoria, in January. Newly appointed Cadet Captains introduced the newcomers to college life, rules, regulations and uniforms were issued.
One brash young cadet whistled at a very attractive young lady who passed by – the next day he learnt to his misfortune that she was the wife of a newly joined College term officer.
The cadets’ day began at 7.00 a.m. After a hot splash from filled washbasins and a cold shower summer and winter, and then went on a smart double of about half a mile to warm up before breakfast.
After breakfast sundry ‘chores’ followed – sweeping, boot-cleaning, etc. then Studies, with Sport in the late afternoon. After supper ‘prep’ (evening study) lasted until 8.30 p.m. On occasions after prep Lt. Cdr. Bill Cook introduced to a captive audience of cadets some classical music played on his old wartime portable gramophone.
Commodore H.A. Showers, CBE, was Commodore Superintendent of Training, and as Captain of his old College, had therefore gone a complete circle from acceptance as a RANC Cadet. The Commander of the College was Commander J. Plunkett-Cole.
Mrs. Plunkett-Cole recalled that threepence a week was deducted from the Cadet-Midshipmen’s pay to go towards the Food for Britain Fund. The boys were invited to the Commander’s residence on Sunday afternoon to pack the food parcels.
The First Lieutenant in 1950 was Lieut. Commander W.F. Cook, LVO. At 28 years of age he had wartime command of HMAS Voyager, followed by commands of HMA Ships Vendetta and Nizam. Another highly respected Officer was Lieut. Commander W.J. Dovers, DSC, (later Rear Admiral Dovers, CBE, DSC). The Cadet-Midshipmen called him ‘Ming’ but of course never in his hearing! Once a year the Officers played Rugby against the Cadets. Here ‘Ming’ showed no mercy.
During evening rounds when Lieut. Cdr. Dovers was inspecting the Cadet- Midshipmen’s cabins, an explosion occurred when a concealed College brew of blackberry wine could contain itself no longer and a black substance oozed over the deck. The culprits were charged with operating an illegal still.
There was training afloat in one of the corvettes of the training flotilla. The Cadets went on camping and boat picnics to Phillip Island or to Mornington and these were real survival exercises – quite an ordeal for junior Cadets. There were cross-country races of six miles.
On October 27 1950, twenty Cadet- Midshipmen ‘Passed Out’ (graduated), the largest number at that time since 1920. In his long speech to the Cadets following an impressive display of marching and the presentation of prizes at the Naval College Passing-Out ceremony, the then Prime Minister, Mr. R.G. Menzies, commented on the fact that one of those to whom he had presented prizes, including the Grand Aggregate Prize, was Chief Cadet Captain
Waller, the son of Captain H.M.L. Waller, DSO and Bar, RAN, who was Captain (D) of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla, when it attained fame as the ‘Scrap Iron’ Flotilla in the Mediterranean in 1940-41. He was subsequently lost as Commanding Officer of HMAS Perth, when that ship went down fighting against numerically superior forces in Sunda Strait during the night of February 28th-March 1st, 1942.
Mr. Menzies said that when he as Prime Minister was in the Middle East in 1941, he was taken by the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, to visit the Australian destroyers. As the Admiral’s barge sped across the water of Alexandria Harbour towards HMAS Stuart, Sir Andrew turned to him and said, ‘You are now about to meet the finest captain that sails seas; his name is Waller.’
Senior Cadet Captain Martin’s father, Commander W.H. Martin, was Second in Command of HMAS Perth. He saved many of the lives of Perth’s crew by embarking two dozen life-rafts six hours before the Cruiser was sunk. His own life was lost.
After leave the graduates sailed in the P. & O. passenger ship Strathaird for the United Kingdom then spent eight months of 1951 aboard the training cruiser HMS Devonshire in the West Indies and Scandinavia. They were then appointed Midshipmen. By the 1953 Coronation year, the Midshipmen had been promoted to Sub-Lieutenant.
At the 1953 Coronation Review at Spithead, Sub. Lieut. Ian Knox had gotten wet through motor boat running with Prime Minister R.G. and Mrs. Menzies taking them from SS Orcades to HMAS Sydney. In October 1986, as the Fleet Commander he led the RAN 75th Anniversary Flag Review in his flagship HMAS Perth. In 1954 homeward bound in SS Oronsay, a father took Sub. Lieut. George Halley aside and asked ‘What do you fellows know about astronomical navigation’ George: ‘Quite a bit sir’. Father: ‘Well, my daughter has been going up to the boat deck every night since Naples with one of you chaps looking for the Southern Cross and I understand you do not see the Southern Cross until a day out of Colombo!’