The MONAB Story

A history of the mobile airfields of the Royal Navy



Mobile Naval Air Base No. VI

 

Assembly and commissioning in the UK

Personnel and equipment for Mobile Naval Air Base VI began to assemble at RNAS Middle Wallop, Hampshire, the new headquarters of the Mobile Naval Airfields Organisation (MNAO) on March 1st 1945. The previous HQ, at the former RAF Station Ludham, Norfolk had been exchanged for RAF Station Middle Wallop once MONAB V and TAMY I had been despatched to their ports of embarkation in mid-February.

MONAB VI was to form as a type A (Small) MONAB tasked with supporting up to 50 aircraft and was allocated the following maintenance components:

Mobile Maintenance unit (MM) No. 5 supporting Avenger Mk. I & II, Corsair Mk. II & IV, Hellcat Mk. I & II and Seafire Mk.III & L.III
 Maintenance Servicing unit (MS) No. 9 supporting Avenger Mk. I & II
Maintenance Servicing unit (MS) No. 10* supporting Vengeance TT.IV *
 
Mobile Repair unit (MR) No.2† supporting Avenger Mk. I & II, Expeditor, Martinet TT.I, Sea Otter I
*These were initial allocations, the unit did not receive any Vengeance equipped squadrons, the unit primarily supported Corsair squadrons so it is probable the MS 10 was re-tasked to support these.†Attached to MONAB V on arrival in Australia, joined MONAB VI (at Schofields) from November 5th 1945

The formation programme called for the unit to complete its assembly and be ready for despatch overseas in six weeks but as with the five units before it, MONAB VI was to find that this was insufficient time to successfully form up and be at operational readiness. In 4½ months of operations the MNAO had learned few lessons; most of the problems that were encountered by the units assembling at Ludham were to persist at Middle Wallop.

A great deal of the unit’s motor transport was delivered late, no establishment for stores was available until three weeks or a month after the date given for forming, and when received it was found to be out-of-date. Instructions were eventually received, verbally, to disregard it and to work on the Ship's own copies of S.134d raised at Admiralty. Instructions for marking packing cases were found to be problematic, the process was very complicated and were frequently altered.

During the six-week forming up period much time was spent in giving drafting leave to Officers and ratings who were supposed to have had it before they joined, also a large proportion of personnel that were being drafted to join the unit were found to be untrained for their assigned billets, especially drivers, or were too old or unfit for service overseas, and replacements had to be requested.

Despite these obstacles MONAB VI commissioned as an independent command bearing the ships name HMS NABSTOCK, on April 1st 1945, Captain. H.V.P. McClintock D.S.O. in command.

 

Despatch overseas

The unit’s stores and equipment were transported to Liverpool overnight by road and rail on April 20th for embarkation. MONAB VI and MR 2 personnel travelled by train to Greenock, on the Clyde to embark in their transport, sailing for Sydney onboard the Troopship NIEUW AMSTERDAM on April 22nd. The stores and equipment were loaded onto three separate ships, S.S. TROJAN STAR, S.S. EMPIRE SPLENDOUR, and S.S. EMPIRE CAPTAIN, at Sandon dock; first to sail was EMPIRE SPLENDOUR on April 17th with Convoy ON.297 followed by EMPIRE CAPTAIN on the 23rd with Convoy UC.65A – both these ships took the Panama Canal route. The TROJAN STAR, sailed on the 27th with convoy OS.125/ KMS.100, detaching at Gibraltar she proceeded independently to Port Said for the Suez Canal.

Unlike the previous MONAB despatches the NIEUW AMSTERDAM sailed independently for Australia via the Suez Canal, calling at Gibraltar, Port Said, and Fremantle, arriving at Sydney on May 23rd. The personnel disembarked to Warwick Farm Race Course, part of RN Barracks, Sydney, HMS GOLDEN HIND, to await the allocation of an operating base.

The senior officers had travelled to Australia by air, arriving in advance of the ship borne elements to meet with Flag officer Naval Air Pacific (FONAP) staff to plan the unit’s allocation on arrival. On May 19th Captain McClintock, in company with Commander Wilson, Commander Coote, Commander Kennet and Lieutenant Commander Lavers, visited Royal Australian Air Force Station Maryborough, in Queensland, to assess the station as a potential host airfield for MONAB VI to lodge with. The decision was taken to accept Maryborough as a suitable location for MONAB VI, in lieu of another station becoming available.

The advance party of HMS NABSTOCK arrived at RAAF Maryborough on May 24th. A second party comprising of 2 Officers, 6 Petty Officers and 30 ratings arrived on the 28th. One of the main functions of the MONAB was to hold a stock of reserve aircraft, mainly Corsair and Avengers, for squadron replacements. The first RN aircraft, a corsair, arrived at Maryborough, along with six (loaned) vehicles of the units MT section on the 29th.

 

Commissioned at RNAS Maryborough, Queensland

MONAB VI commissioned as HMS NABSTOCK at RAAF Maryborough, Queensland, on June 1st 1945 at a ceremony attended by Rear Admiral Portal, Flag Officer Naval Air Pacific. The unit’s existence as a MONAB effectively ceased at this point, becoming a Naval Air Station sharing the establishment with the RAAF Radar School and lodging on an airfield which nominally remained under RAAF control. At this time the unit had limited capabilities since most of its stores equipment and vehicles were still on passage, the EMPIRE CAPTAIN docked at Sydney on May 30th followed by the TROJAN STAR on June 10th the stores and equipment then had to be transhipped by road and rail to Maryborough. The EMPIRE SPLENDOUR was diverted and docked in Brisbane on the 15th.

The first squadron to arrive at Maryborough was 'A' flight of 1701 Ait Sea Rescue (ASR) squadron on June 15th, operating 4 Sea Otter amphibians which disembarked from the escort carrier HMS BEGUM. Next to arrive on June 23rd were 1845 (Corsair) Squadron from Transportable Aircraft Maintenance Yard (TAMY) 1 at Archerfield, Brisbane where It had reformed with 24 Corsair IVs. They were joined by 843 Corsair) Squadron which disembarked its 24 Corsair IVs from the escort carrier HMS ARBITER on July 4th. Both Corsair squadrons had departed by July 16th; 1843 for RNAS Jervis Bay (MONAB V) on the 14th and 1845 for RNAS Nowra (MONAB I) on the 15th.

RNAS Maryborough aerial photo

MONAB VI installed at RNAS Maryborough in early July 1845, Two Dorland hangars have been erected for servicing aircraft. A large number of Corsair fighters are present in this photo, those nearest the camera and bearing the tail code letter ‘X’ belong to 1843 squadron.

The aircraft of 1701 were to operate from both RNAS Maryborough and RNAS Bankstown (MONAB II) in Sydney, and the first detachment departed for Bankstown on July 24th. On the same day a detachment of Seafires from 899 Seafire OTU at RNAS Schofields (MONAB III) arrived on the station in preparation for carrying out Deck Landing Training (DLT) for Australian pilots on No. 1 RANVR conversion course; the 12 pilots carried out their DLT sessions in the Fleet Carrier INDOMITABLE between the 24th & 27th of July, all being certified for Deck Landing after completing 10 landings apiece. The successful pupils received RANVR(A) commissions and were to form the nucleus of the Australian Fleet Air Arm. The detachment returned to RNAS Schofields on completion.

 

Victory over Japan and the rundown to closure

August was a busy month at Maryborough, the 1701 detachment returned from RNAS Bankstown on August 7th and a second period of Deck landing practice for pupils of No. 2 RANVR conversion course was planned for the 15th, this utilizing the escort carrier ARBITER operating off the Brisbane coast. The DLT session was under way when Victory over Japan was announced and appears to have been cancelled. On August 23rd 1834 & 1836 (Corsair) and 849 (Avenger)squadrons disembarked from HMS VICTORIOUS, the Avengers departed for Mascot airfield, Sydney, the next day.

On the 28th a new resident unit, 706 Pool & Refresher Flying Training Squadron arrived having been transferred from RNAS Schofields with a squadron strength of 36 aircraft, 6 each Avenger, Barracuda, Corsair. Firefly, Hellcat, & Seafire. Another unit to arrive from Schofields on the 29th was 1770 (Firefly) squadron; this was transferred to make room at Schofields for squadrons disembarking from HMS INDEFATIGABLE. MONAB VI was not equipped to handle Fireflies so a detachment of 13 men from MONAB III was assembled from the personnel of MS 3 to travel to RNAS Maryborough to support 1770 & 706 squadrons; the detachment comprised of Lt. Romanoff, CPO Hughes, 8 POs, 2 Leading Air Fitters and one steward. This party left Schofields for Maryborough by train, and was issued with equipment from MONAB VI on reaching Maryborough.

September started quietly, 899 squadron returned to conduct DLT with ARBITER to complete the second and final RANVR conversion course during the period 10th to 13th, again all trainees qualified for Deck Landing. The personnel of 1834 & 1836 squadrons departed on the 25th to re-embark in VICTORIOUS for passage to the UK where they were to disband upon arrival, their aircraft had been flown to RNAS Bankstown for disposal earlier in the month. 1770 squadron was disbanded at Maryborough on the 30th leaving only 706 and 1701 squadrons on the station.

As part of a review of the naval air support in the Pacific theatre the Admiralty announced in October that four Mobile Units were to be disbanded in early November 1945, these were to be MONAB I, III, IV and VII; MONAB II, V & VI plus TAMY I would continue operations in support of fleet operations and the reception and disposal of aircraft arising from the disbandment of squadrons as the BPF began to reduce its size. As part of this downsizing operation MONAB V was to replace MONAB I at Nowra and MONAB VI would replace MONAB III at Schofields. MONAB VII personnel were to be redistributed to other units, many joining TAMY I. MR 2 was to be reallocated from MONAB V to MONAB VI and it arrived at RNAS Schofields on November 5th.

A detachment of Sea Otters from 1701 'A' Flight again flew south to operate from RNAS Bankstown on October 15th returning to Maryborough on the 21st. October also saw the departure of 706 Pool Squadron which moved to RNAS Nowra (MONAB I) on the 24th, its strength having reduced to two of each aircraft type in service with BPF. Flying operations ceased on October 24th once 1701 detachment had landed and MONAB VI began migrating men and equipment to their new home at RNAS Schofields, New South Wales. On November 1st 1701 'A' Flight left Maryborough for the final time, the squadron moving to TAMY 1 at Archerfield in preparation for redeployment to Hong Kong.

HMS NABSTOCK paid off at Maryborough on November 15th 1945, the unit transferring its commission to RNAS Schofields on the same date; MONAB III, HMS NABTHORPE having also been paid off the same day, A small retard party remained at Maryborough to complete the clearing up operations and to hand the facilities back to the RAAF, the last RN personnel left by train in early December 1945. The stations flying safety record was very good, in the five and a half months of operations only four accidents are recorded: Firefly MB503 of 1770 squadron flown by Sub-Lt A.R. Thomas RNVR, stalled on approach during an Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landing session on September 6th; Hellcat FN378 of 706 Squadron, flown by Lt DR Crabtree) RNVR, made a forced wheels-up landing, in a farmer's backyard after his throttle linkage became disconnected at the bulkhead on September 8th,; a 706 squadron Corsair, JT313 flown by Sub-Lt N. Williamson RNVR, swung on landing and ground looped, damaging one wing & tail plane which struck the ground on September 29th; a 1701 Sea Otter, JN118 flown by Sub-Lt R.N.C. Carr-Gregg RNVR, had its Starboard oleo collapse on landing on October 16th.

 

Commissioned at RNAS Schofields, New South Wales

The units present at Schofields at this time were one resident unit, 702 Instrument Flying Training & Checking Squadron (5 Oxford & 3 Harvard), and five disembarked squadrons, 801, 887 & 894 (Seafire), 1772 and 1790 (Firefly) squadrons. There was some reorganisation of equipment as unnecessary components were packed up, others were retained, for example support for servicing Firefly aircraft which NABSTOCK now inherited. 887 re-joined INDEFATIGABLE on November 15th followed by 1772 on the 18th and 894 on the 23rd. All three squadrons returned on December 22nd disembarking from INDEFATIGABLE, the carrier also flew ashore 820 (Avenger) squadron on New Year’s Eve. There were three flying incidents during this period: On November 29th Sub-Lt L.J. Norton RANVR of 801 squadron was killed when his (unidentified) Seafire Mk,XV disintegrated in a dive; Avenger JZ712 of 828 Squadron, flown by Lt R. New RNVR, swung on landing and stressed the airframe on December 17th; Seafire L.III NN625 of 887 Squadron, flown by Sub-Lt E.O. Atkin RNVR, crashed on landing when the starboard undercarriage leg collapsed on December 19th.

RNAS Schofieelds aerial photo

MONAB VI installed at RNAS Schofields in early 1946.

&In the New Year 1850 (Corsair) squadron arrived on January 12th disembarking from VENGEANCE with 12 aircraft. The 12 Fireflies of 1790 Night Fighter squadron departed on the 16th embarking in IMPLACABLE. On January 18th the first of 4 squadrons arrived from RNAS Nowra as part of its rundown to closure; 706 Crew Pool & Refresher Flying squadron (now operating 2 each of Avenger, Barracuda, Corsair, Firefly, Hellcat & Seafire), they were followed on the 21st by 723 Fleet Requirements Unit (8 martinet & 8 Corsair). 814 (Firefly) squadron arrived on the 22nd and 1851 (Corsair) on the 24th these collectively were the 15th CAG attached to VENERABLE. Both of these squadrons had been reorganised earlier in the month at Nowra, 1851 being reduced to 12 aircraft and 814 had exchanged 18 Barracudas for 12 Fireflies. 814 was to work-up with their new aircraft in readiness to re-join the carrier. On the 31st 820, 887, 894 and 1772 squadrons departed, re-joining INDEFATIGABLE.

January was a busy time with several front-line squadrons conducting on-going flying training and working-up with new equipment resulting in 7 flying incidents 2 of them fatal: On January 4th 1946, 1790 Squadron Observer Lt J.R. Oxley RNVR was killed when he fell out of Firefly MB501 over Quakers Hill Park on approach to Schofields while the pilot, Sub-Lt R Roberts RNVR was conducting ADDLs ; Sub-Lt PB Clayton RNVR of 801 squadron taxied his aircraft, Seafire F.XV SR580, into another 801 Seafire F.XV SR537 on the 6th; the following day Sub-Lt M Reid RNVR of 702 squadron prematurely retracted the undercarriage of Avenger JZ709, causing it to collapse, he had a second incident on January 13th, this time in Harvard KF519, he overshot landing and ground looped; on the 19th Seafire F.XV, SR539 of 801 squadron, flown by Sub-Lt R.A.H. Beaton RNVR, dropped its starboard wing on approach and ran off the runway, the undercarriage collapsed; Firefly MB629 of 706 squadron , flown by Sub-Lt G.R. Harrison RNVR, ran off the runway on landing after the aircraft swung to starboard and the undercarriage collapsed on the hard ground on the 23rd. While returning to Schofields on January 31st, after a training flight over the sea to the south east of Sydney Firefly DK480 of 814 squadron began to experience control problems, the pilot Sub-Lt C.B. Ratcliffe tried to change course but found his rudder to be locked and the aircraft, which became more unstable could only fly straight. He ordered his navigator Petty Officer Airman E. M. Butterworth to bale out just before the aircraft flipped onto its back and he then exited the aircraft himself. The plane fell to earth striking first the lift tower of the main building at Lewisham Hospital, Sydney before crashing into an old boiler house. Rescue workers found the navigator was still in the aircraft when it hit killing two men working in the building.

On February the 12th 812 (Firefly) squadron disembarked from VENGEANCE to join the other half of her Air Group, 13th CAG. The 15th CAG began to embark in VENERABLE on the 22nd when Corsairs of 1851 departed, the Fireflies of 814 followed them on March 13th. Two days later 801 (Seafire) squadron disembarked from IMPLACABLE. The 13th CAG departed on the 19th, re-joining VENGEANCE and 1790 (Firefly) squadron disembarked from IMPLACABLE on the 28th. There were only three flying incidents during February and march: Sub-Lt J.E. Letham RNVR of 801 squadron taxied Seafire F.XV SR589 into a lorry causing damage to mainplanes & prop on February 22nd; the other two incidents involved the phenomena known as ground looping, Firefly MB635 of 814 squadron, flown by Sub-Lt G.S. Robson RMVR ground looped on landing on March 9th stressing the undercarriage, and Firefly MB508 of 837, flown by Sub-Lt G.G. Pruden RNVR ground looped on take-off on the 16th.

At the start of April 1946 HMS NABSTOCK was the only MONAB still in operation in Australia; MONAB V had been paid off on March 18th followed by MONAB II and TAMY 1 on March 31st having transferred all remaining squadrons to Schofields. The last of these squadrons was 724 Communications Squadron which arrived from RNAS Bankstown on March 31st, equipped with Expeditors and Ansons they had flown regular passenger and light freight services to other Naval Air Stations and cities in Australia. The last front-line units to depart, 801 & 1790 re-joined IMPLACABLE for passage to the UK on April 29th. The last recorded flying incident took place on April 12th when Martinet PX197 of 723 FRU, flown by Sub-Lt H.C. Stoke RNVR, swung off the peritrack and fell into a ditch while taxying to dispersal.

Paying Off

HMS NABSTOCK was now scaling down its operations; the whole of April and May were spent packing up the MONAB equipment and stores, along with preparing the airfield for return to the RAAF. Anything which was not to be kept for return to the UK was broken up and burnt in large bonfires on the airfield, the remains of these bonfires were then ferried out into the bush and dumped by the clean-up parties which had been drafted in to replace ratings who had been released for demob after February.

The second-line squadrons 702, 706, 723 and 724 were all disbanded at Schofields on May 31st. HMS NABSTOCK and MONAB VI paid off at Schofields on June 9th 1946 and Schofields airfield was returned to RAAF custody.


 

 

HMS 'NABSTOCK'

Blank ship’s badge
No badge issued for this ship

 

 

Function

Support for disembarked front line & spare squadrons, Refresher FLying Training.

Aviation support Components

Mobile Maintenance (MM) 5

Maintenance Servicing (MS) 9& 10

Mobile Repair (MR) 2
 

Aircraft type supported

Avenger Mk. I & II

Corsair Mk. II & IV

Expeditor Mk. II
Firefly Mk. I*
Hellcat Mk. I & II
Martinet TT Mk. I
  Seafire Mk. III & L.III
Sea Otter Mk. I
Vengeance TT Mk. IV
 

Commanding Officers

Captain H.V.P. McClintock D.S.O. 01 April 1945 to 09 June 1946

 

 

 

 

Related items

R.N.A.S. Maryborough
R.N.A.S. Schofields
 
History of the airfield and other information - part of the Fleet Air Arm Bases web site

 

 

 

 

 

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HM Ships COLOSSUS, GLORY, VENERABLE and VENGEANCE. GLORY did not arrive in Sydney until August 16th.

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At the end of June 1945, the Admiralty implemented a new system of classification for carrier air wings, adopting the American practice one carrier would embark a single Carrier Air Group (CAG) which would encompass all the ships squadrons.

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Sturtivant, R & Balance, T. (1994) 'Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm’ list 899 squadron as conducting DLT on the Escort Carrier ARBITER on August 15th. It is possible that the usual three-day evolution was cancelled due to the announcement of the Japanese surrender on this date and was postponed for a month.

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The reminiscences of Aircraft Artificer 4th Class (Ordinance) Maurice Ayling

Extract from the reminiscences of Aircraft Artificer 4th Class (Ordinance) Maurice Ayling, formerly of 1843 Squadron,, working up in Australia as a part of the reserve No. 3 Carrier Air Group. HMS NaNabstock 4th June - 15th July1945p>

Remembering  RNAS Maryborough

The airfield was still occupied by the R.A.A.F, in the process of being handed over, and we were the first Squadron to be supported by "Nabstock", after its location there on 1st June.

It was a pretty relaxed establishment, with many bolt holes in the perimeter fence. There was also a fairly large contingent of W.A.A.A.F in two or three rows of the huts. Returning from our first run ashore into Maryborough, an oppo and I walked down the main road of the camp which, because of its proximity to the sea, was blacked out, and turned up a side road into what we took to be our hut. It was very late, so we were very careful to make no noise. Having felt my way to my bed space, I sat on the bed to take off my shoes and felt someone in it! I quietly made this known to my oppo who had made a similar discovery. Suddenly, a female Aussie voice let rip "What the bloody Hell do you think you're at?" We had turned up the wrong side road - we shot out of there like a pair of scalded cats! Some of those Aussie women would have had the likes of us for breakfast!

I had had my 20th birthday in the Red Sea on the way out, and was now entitled to draw my tot. In the ship, we had had the normal Jamaican rum, but I must confess that I was not enamoured of 'Grog', - 2 parts water to 1 of rum. In Australia, we were issued with Aussie rum, considered to be a pretty inferior tipple especially when watered down. I therefore opted to change from 'Grog' to 'Temperance' (G to T), and was not very popular. My messmates thought I should have drawn it and shared it around. Not on your Nelly! I was just coming to the end of my training and rating to PO.

There were four of us on the Squadron from the same entry of Apprentices, me, Jimmy James, Darby Allen, all (0), and Bill Ellis, an (L). There had been 5, but Stumpy Tucker left us for South Africa on our return to UK from the US. Hitherto, we had been advised that we would be rated PO Air Fitter and have to do some more courses to become Artificers. This was the case with those who had trained at Halton (RAF). Fortunately for us, there was a very switched on Gunnery Officer at Maryborough, having as his senior rating, an AA4 from 3 entries before ours. We were therefore rated correctly for ex-Newcastle-under-Lyme Apprentices, as Acting. AA4, on 1st July.

However, there was no slops at Maryborough and therefore no PO badges to be had. Our new messmates donated some rather tatty cap badges and gilt buttons. Strictly speaking, we should have retained our red badges and black buttons while in the acting rate, but the CO gave us permission to wear gilt, as that was the only available distinction of Petty Officer status.

As Artificers, of course, we wore no trade badges, and un-shipped our Air Fitter badges. Since Bombay, we had our tobacco issue in Indian manufactured cigarettes labelled Players, Senior Service, and Woodbines, which Jolly Jack described as camel, horse, and donkey shit. Just how horrible they were was illustrated when I offered one to the father of a young lady who had taken me home as a trophy. He, usually rolling his own, eagerly took one from my packet with the sailor looking through a lifebelt. Having lit up, he exclaimed "Jeez! where'd you pick that camel crap up?".

Even though it was Aussie winter, it was hot at Maryborough, which is well up the coast above Brisbane. There were therefore many of the noises of the tropical night, including frogs. All of this was new and fascinating to us youngsters. The citizens of Maryborough were very good to us. One armourer trapped a young lady who had her 21st birthday while we were there, and almost the whole of the Squadron armament section were there. The family was delighted to have so many from "The Old Country" and, for once, they behaved themselves reasonably well. (FAA armourers were noted as a rip roaring bunch)..

Darby Allen and I had a few problems at Maryborough as we had joined the Squadron as Able Rates under the supervision of three or four Leading Air Mechanics, who were now our subordinates. In peace time of course, we would have been moved, but we had to stick it out. The Chief Air Mechanic (0) I/C the armament section was not much help either, letting it be known that "he couldn't stand jumped up Tiffs". It must be understood that there were few Aircraft Artificers in those days and that most of them were Ordnance Artificers from the other half of the RN, with little understanding of aeroplanes. While I was at Lee after passing out, there was only one Artificer, and he was a 'direct entry' from civilian life i.e. he had been called up as a skilled tradesman.

"Nabstock" provided my first opportunity to sample a passion fruit. A young lady and I ate one each sitting on the front door steps of her home at about 0100 one balmy evening. This was particularly memorable in that that was all the passion I did get! It was also as good place for sea food.

There was a very intensive period of flying at Maryborough, requiring a considerable amount of second line support. Although this was good in many respects, there was a dearth of spares, probably because the MONAB had not been in commission long enough. MONABs had to support both UK and US manufactured aeroplanes, but could never hope to support every type in use by the BPF at any one time.

Our next move was ordered for July 15th to Jervis Bay.

 

Maurice Ayling

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The reminiscences of Aircraft Artificer 4th Class (Electrical) Laurence Russell

Laurence joined MONAB VI at Schofields When MONAB II closed at the end of March 1946 He returned home to the UK on the same vessel which carried him out to Australia, the troopship ATHLONE CASTLE.

Joining MONAB VI

It is March 1946, and the MONAB at Bankstown was closing down. I am drafted to the Royal Navy Barracks was HMS GOLDEN HIND at Warwick Farm. It had been a tented camp on the racecourse, but when I went there in March 1946 it had moved into a complex of wooden huts that for many years after the war served as a migrant hostel.

The first night that the cells were occupied several prisoners escaped. A contractor had “forgotten” to remove some hacksaw blades. The main reason for being in the cells was desertion. With the war over, some sailors were looking to a new life in Australia and went to live with girls, who when the money ran out, turned them in. The Provost Marshall had a waiting list for the cells and arrested candidates as vacancies occurred.

I was only at GOLDEN HIND for twelve days, but I got lumbered one Saturday with the job of Petty Officer in charge of the Shore Patrol in Parramatta. There are two sorts of Naval Shore Patrols. The first is a properly trained full-time patrol. These mainly operate in major ports. Ships visiting small ports and establishments remote from major ports provide their own patrols. The patrol was randomly selected for a one-day duty. There was no training, experience of observing other patrols was the only guide. A webbing belt with a bayonet, gaiters, and an armband are the only equipment, no baton, no handcuffs and certainly no pistol. Reliance is placed on superior numbers (hopefully) and respect for authority. There is another factor, next week you might be the enforcer.

Parramatta is a few kilometres west of Sydney, there were very few sailors there, but two of them gave problems. The first a cook was lying unconscious in the churchyard with half a bottle of rum beside him. I called the local police paddy wagon, put him in a cell, had his property listed except of course for the half bottle of rum. The patrol enjoyed that! When I released him some hours later and escorted him to the railway station, he spent a great deal of time bemoaning the loss of the rum. We were called to a cafe to find a quietly drunk Chief Petty Officer, he posed two problems first if I were not in charge of the patrol he outranked me, the second was that he was a very strong man. He was sitting waiting for his meal and passing the time twisting the admittedly rather flimsy forks and spoons into fancy shapes. Fortunately, he cooperated and I took him to the Railway Station and not the Police Station.

After GOLDEN HIND, I went to HMS NABSTOCK, MONAB VI at Schofields, I was in charge of the Instrument Workshop here. One day a F24 Aerial reconnaissance camera came in. I tested it could not find anything wrong with it and sent it back noted as “unable to fault”. It was not long after that an irate squadron commander appeared, saying “What do you mean there is nothing wrong with it”, and flourishing a handful of very peculiar looking prints. I then got the story; a Seafire had been modified for this photographic role, these prints were the results from the first use. A study of the peculiarities showed that the shutter was opening while the film was being wound on. I checked the controller, it was OK. There was only one thing left, the wiring between the controller and the camera.

I examined the wiring harness from a system that had not yet been installed. Part of it was a cable with a 7-pin plug at one end and a 7-pin socket at the other. They had been wired from opposite ends. Pin 1 was connected to 7, 2 to 6, 3 to 5 and so on, only pin 4 was correctly wired! It was only luck that this set of misconnections did not result in a fuse blowing.

Schofields is about 30 kilometres from Sydney harbour bridge. I had a girlfriend that lived at Lindfield well up the North Shore. An evening out involved taking the train into Sydney, out to Lindfield, going back to Sydney for entertainment, see her back home to Lindfield, then back to Sydney. The last train to Schofields left fairly early, but I got the first morning train, I spent the night at Central Station. A blanket deposited in a left luggage locker ensured a comfortable night’s sleep. I really got value from that railway pass. The drought had now broken; the road to the station from the airfield was sometimes flooded, so it was trousers rolled up, shoes, and socks in hand.

Coming home

My next move was back to England, once again in the ATHLONE CASTLE. After a 12-hour delay due to mechanical problems we sailed round the south side of Australia to Fremantle, Western Australia. Due to further engine problems we had two days leave to visit Perth. A run ashore in Perth saw a group of us having lunch at a hotel with a few beers. When lunch was over, we asked where we could go to drink. The answer was “Take a train to Mount Helena” which was the nearest country hotel to Perth. This was a wood fired train; occasionally a lump of wood that was too big to fit the firebox would fly past the window. In Sydney there had been a complete dearth of bottled beer, when we pleaded for some bottles to take away, we were astounded to be asked “Yes how many”. While buying this beer we heard a loud whistle. It was the train signalling patrons to leave. As we walked down the platform the driver leaned from the engine and said “are you the last”. Once we were settled the train took off. There were four other people in the carriage who came from a railway town and knew the train crew. When they invited the guard to have drink he declined because there was a station master at the next station. He joined us later however. These were the type of carriages that did not have toilets, at one point the guard flashed his lantern to the driver, the train stopped, and it was ladies to the left gentlemen to the right. I blotted my copy book here coming off shore two hours late.

At Singapore we picked up soldiers going home for demob. Their complimentary comments on the troopship food which we thought not to be up to Navy standard made us feel that we had in the past been too harsh on our cooks. We made one more stop; a few days in Aden to restock supplies before continuing on through the Suez Canal and the Med to Southampton. Travelling up the Red Sea we saw many overcrowded pilgrim ships heading for Medina, the port for Mecca. One of our group commented “This is where the next World War will start” There is still time for him to be proved right. The Bay of Biscay lived up to its reputation. The weather was awful.

Laurence Russell