- A.N. Other
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2013 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By Harry Anderson
HMS Sussex was a fine example of Royal Naval ships of her era. She was a London class heavy cruiser of 9,830 tons fitted with eight 8 inch guns and carried an amphibian spotting aircraft. She was sent to the Australian Station in 1934 while HMAS Australia operated with the Mediterranean Fleet. The exchange concluded in 1936 when Sussex resumed her presence in the Mediterranean. Sussex was a sister ship of HMS Shropshire which came to our shores in 1943 as HMAS Shropshire, a replacement for HMS Canberra, which had been lost in the Battle of Savo Island.
The best courses in Sydney
Shortly after I arrived in Australia in February 1983 to start my service in the RAN I was invited by a naval friend to join the Royal Australian Navy Officers Golf Society (RANOGS). I was lucky to play regularly in the RANOGS events which were held each month at what were considered to be the best courses in Sydney. We played at the Australian, Royal Sydney, The Lakes, New South Wales, Pymble, Elanora and Monash. The highlight of each year was the Sussex Trophy which had been contested since 1936 at the Australian Golf Club (AGC). When Sussex was berthed at Garden Island in Sydney in 1936, the ship’s officers made a small replica of a ship’s cannon available as a golf trophy, to be competed for between Sussex and the AGC. Sussex was deployed from our shores before WWII broke out but over the years the RAN has taken up the challenge and today members of RANOGS are able to appreciate a vigorous contest played on one of Australia’s finest courses. Unfortunately the cannon was stolen in 1979.
In the mid eighties the event was played by 20 RANOGS members paired with 20 members of the AGC. It was always held on a Sunday and I remember how we would turn up and have a snack in the Portacabins in use at the time as the new clubhouse was still under construction, meet our partners for the day, and start the rounds around midday. Drinks and a sausage sizzle were available at the halfway mark and when the golf was over we would all make our way to a naval wardroom mess for dinner. By the end of the day we all agreed it was hard to beat the occasion, yet each year it seemed to get even better.
RANOGS was fortunate in the mid eighties to have Commander Ray Hughes as its Secretary, he created a very good rapport with all the captains, secretary managers and members of the clubs who played with us, and ensured that RANOGS contributed well to reciprocate the wonderful hospitality we enjoyed from these clubs. Within a year of my joining RANOGS, Ray Hughes asked me to take over as treasurer; as he felt that a tight Scotsman would be good at extracting the $10 annual subscription from some even tighter RANOGS members. Naturally I enjoyed collecting money from these members and we had to make sure there was enough in the funds to pay for the dinners that we hosted after events like the Sussex. One of the problems I recall was the fact that the Sussex Trophy event was the most popular in the calendar and every member wanted to play in it so entry was restricted to fully paid up members on a first in best dressed basis. I had a couple of memorable disagreements with one fairly senior officer who had not yet paid his subs but wanted to play and pay on the day, he actually tried it two years running without success.
50th Anniversary Dinner
In 1986 when the new clubhouse at the AGC was opened, the club advised RANOGS that it wished to have its first major function in the new clubhouse to be a dinner after that year’s Sussex Trophy to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the event. In return for the dinners that had been hosted by the Navy, firstly those in HMS Sussex then in numerous ships and naval establishments, the AGC would host the 50th anniversary dinner and as it was a special occasion wives and partners were also invited.
This was of course greatly appreciated by the RANOGS members but I ended up with funds intended to pay for the dinner, and we always tried to use up all the available funds. So Ray Hughes and the Captain of RANOGS, who at that time was Captain Bryan Wilson, directed me to try to obtain photographs of HMS Sussex and I found a maritime artist in Hunters Hill to produce a painting that we could provide as a surprise gift on the night. Fortunately I had enough time to obtain several photographs from the Naval Historical Society including a photo of Sussex just after she had been hit by a bomb when alongside in Clydeside in Scotland, and this gave the artist enough time to conjure up his interpretation of Sussex entering Sydney Harbour.
The 1986 event was memorable especially the dinner afterwards. Bryan Wilson had arranged for the RAN Band to be there to play Sussex by the Sea, and it was a huge success. I remember the enjoyment I had seeing how well the painting was received and it clearly was a surprise. At the end of the evening the Captain of the AGC said that because the day had been such a success he was proposing that the AGC host the dinner at every tenth anniversary. I’ll never forget the good feeling I had when at the end of the applause at this suggestion, Captain Bryan Wilson immediately responded with his gratitude on behalf the RANOGS members and asked the question ‘…will that include the ladies’. With all the lovely ladies in attendance there could only be one answer and we were all thankful for that.
In 1987 I retired from the RAN to work with the new submarine project in Adelaide but on return to Sydney in 1996 Ray Hughes was quick to get me back with RANOGS and to nominate me for the 60th Anniversary event coming up, so my wife and I were fortunate enough to enjoy both of those excellent evenings at the Australian. I subsequently went on to win the Sussex Trophy with Arthur Johnson in the early 2000s which gave me immense pleasure. Support for the event dropped off a few years ago but it is now back in our calendar and hopefully will be contested for many years to come.