Leeuwin Survey Report final v1.0

Report of a Survey of ex-Junior Recruits who attended the RAN Training Facility – HMAS LEEUWIN


image1.png                                                July, 2021



I became a Junior Recruit (JR) and was posted to HMAS Leeuwin at the age of fifteen. Despite having experience of neither boys’ boarding schools nor Navy Cadets, I retrospectively imagine Leeuwin as a cross between the two. I disliked the discipline, but quickly learnt to fly under the radar and avoid activities that may have resulted in ‘chooks’. I don’t regard my year there with fondness; nor do I look back in anger. Although I sought, and was granted, a free discharge from the Navy prior to completion of my twelve-year term of enlistment, I’ve never regretted my time in ‘Pusser’s’ and am so glad I served my first year at Leeuwin. It was just the right foundation for a satisfying career and a fortunate life.

In 2020, I was one of a number of ex-JRs who responded to a list of survey questions addressing our time at Leeuwin. The survey was devised and issued by ex-JR, Ron Giveen, who subsequently compiled a numerical table and developed a pie chart for the answers given for each question. When Ron asked whether I would assist in producing a report of the survey, I was only too pleased to do so. Because responses had been given to Ron in confidence, he scrubbed the names and other identifying details before forwarding to me.

Michael Shephard (ex-Leeuwin JR of 1963).


CMDR Ken Railton RAN, OAM, BA (Admin), Grad Dip (Admin)

Cmdr Railton obtained a teacher’s certificate and joined the RAN as an Instructor Officer in 1960. His leading roles in training, organisational change and development of training systems included a posting as a Training Officer (and Assistant Divisional Officer) in HMAS Leeuwin from 1962 to 1964, where he dedicated his time to supporting Junior Recruits in achieving their potential in both education and sports. After leaving the RAN in 1983 he continued his career as an organizational change and training consultant to many clients such as the RAN, foreign navies, state governments and the automotive industry, retiring from full-time work in 2007. His personal sporting achievements included rowing titles at state, country and international levels, and selection for WA and Victorian rugby squads. He continued his involvement with the service and ex-service community and, in 2007, was awarded an OAM for service to the welfare of current and former service personnel and their families. Sadly, Cmdr Railton did not live to see the completion of the work he initiated (i.e. this report). He passed over the bar in 2020.

Warrant Officer Ron Giveen OAM, OAM(Mil)

Ron Giveen enlisted as a Junior Recruit, undertaking basic training in Fremantle WA at HMAS Leeuwin (Jan-Dec 1963). He served in HMAS Melbourne(on three occasions), HMAS Brisbane, HMAS Parramatta, HMAS Canberra, HMAS Success and HMAS Newcastle. He served in both permanent and reserve service capacities until 2009. He was awarded an OAM in 1993 for his work in HMAS Success and then again in 2020 for his work in assisting the community and the veteran community. He is still actively involved with the Leeuwin 1963 community http://hmas-leeuwin-1963.com/, and remains the curator of the RAN Rugby Collection which is located in HMAS Kuttabul https://www.ranrugby.com.

Michael Shephard, BA (Computing), Grad Dip (Accounting)

Michael Shephard joined the RAN as a Junior Recruit and trained at HMASLeeuwinin 1963. He served on HMASMelbourne(1964) and HMASParramatta(1966-7)., He discharged in 1971 after the ‘Data’ rate became redundant to RAN requirements. During a career in Information Technology, he was employed by the Australian Public Service, Computer Sciences Corporation and IBM before becoming a private consultant. His clients included Federal and state government departments and telecommunications companies, and he specialised in managing large infrastructure migration and replacement projects for banks.Before retiring to pursue, with his wife, their hobbies of photo-art, creative writing, and travel, he studied at the Photography Studies College of Melbourne.

Table of Contents

     Preface and Co-contributors                                           1

  1. Executive Summary                                                        4

  • Background                                                                   5

  • Purpose of this Survey                                                    5

  • Conducting the Survey                                                   6

  • Bullying and Abuse                                                        6

  • List of Questions                                                            7

  • Observations and Conclusions                                        8
  • Bibliography                                                                  9                                          

Appendix 1: Data Analysis                                                  10

Appendix 2: Narrative Responses to Each Question             23

Appendix 3: Glossary of Terms                                            73

  1. Executive Summary

  1. For a period of 24 years (commencing in 1960), some 13,000 Junior Recruits (JRs) were trained at a RAN training establishment, HMAS Leeuwin, in Fremantle, WA.

  1. There have been two major investigations of bullying and abuse alleged to have occurred at Leeuwin, the Rapke review of 1971 and the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART)inquiry reporting in 2014 and again in 2016.

  1. A former Divisional Officer / instructor and an ex-JR were concerned at the language of the DART report and its potential effect on the legacy of the ex-Leeuwin community.

  1. A survey consisting of 21 questions was issued to 245 ex-JRs to determine what a wider ex-JR population thought of Leeuwin, and their experiences there. None of the survey questions specifically addressed bullying and abuse, but it was open to respondents to comment on any matters.
    1. Thetarget group for the survey was all of the surviving ex-JRs who joined Leeuwin in 1963, providing they could be contacted. Those that didn’t initially respond were followed up. A few ex-JRs from other Leeuwin intakes were added later.

  1. Seventy-five responses were received, a participation rate of 30%. Two of the responses mentioned bullying, or alluded to difficulties for those who did not ‘fit in’.

  1. A significant majority of respondents indicated they enjoyed their time at Leeuwin, never considered discharging from the Navy during that period, found the education and training beneficial to their careers in the RAN (and afterwards), matured quickly, left Leeuwin in a good frame of mind, and acknowledged that Leeuwin served its purpose in readying them for the Fleet.

  1. Many respondents provided interesting comments that provide a valuable insight into the life and times of fifteen and sixteen year old boys removed from their families and confined within a highly disciplined environment for twelve months. These are presented in Appendix 2.


2.0 Background

Between 1960 and 1984, some 13,000 fifteen and sixteen year old boys from all states and territories of Australia were trained for twelve months as JRs at HMAS Leeuwin, formerly a shore base in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Following complaints to the news media in April 1971 by both an ex-JR and the mother of another ex-JR of bullying, initiation ceremonies, assaults, theft and humiliation allegedly carried out by more senior JRs, Judge Rapke QC (then the Judge Advocate for the RAN) was appointed to investigate. Although he found that Leeuwin had been ‘the scene for unorganised and repetitive acts of bullying, violence, degradation and petty crime during most of the years of its existence,’ he concluded that bullying and violence were not institutionalised, systemic or even particularly widespread at Leeuwin and that the officers who staffed the establishment were by and large upstanding men who carried out their duty of care with diligence.

In 2014, the Australian Government’s Defence Response Abuse Task Force (DART) produced the first version of its Report of Abuse at HMAS Leeuwin. The Task Force investigated 234 complaints by those who claimed to have been victims of abuse. It documented alleged abuses of Junior Recruits by staff, sponsors and other JRs, and many of the details were shocking in the extreme. It criticized the earlier Rapke report, inferring that (based on the evidence) it should have found the abuse to be more systemic and widespread.

In 2016 there was an invitation by the Defence Ombudsman to ex-JRs (and other Service and ex-Service personnel) to submit claims for reparation up to $50K if they believe they have suffered historical bullying and abuse. This invitation is still open.

3.0 Purpose of this Survey

The DART Report indicated that ‘the Taskforce received very few positive or neutral reports’ in regard to Leeuwin, and concluded that the ‘overwhelming majority of information provided to the Taskforce by complainants or witnesses portrays a very different side to HMAS Leeuwin’. This is hardly surprising. How could anyone expect that many submissions from complainants (including those seeking compensation) and their witnesses would provide positive, or even balanced, views

One former Divisional Officer and teacher from the early days of Leeuwin, (then) Lt Ken Railton, was interviewed by the DART Task Force, and was shocked to learn of the complaints of bullying and bastardization. Whilst he was horrified to hear the details of some of the cases of abuse, particularly those of a sexual nature, he had always considered that most staff did their utmost to properly prepare the JRs for their life in the Navy. He assessed his time at Leeuwin to be a high point of his twenty-three year career in the Navy, and took the criticisms of the DART Report to heart. He expressed to ex-JR Ron Giveen his concern that the legacy of the dedicated management and staff of Leeuwin, and the ex-JRs themselves, would be forever tarnished by the language of the Report. He considered that, post Leeuwin, most of the boys and their Divisional Officers went on to distinguished careers and fulfilling lives. Ken expressed to Ron that he would be surprised if Leeuwin was substantially worse than most boys schools in regard to bullying and bastardization– especially during the period of his service there.

It should be noted that less than 2% of all ex-Leeuwin JRs submitted a complaint to the DART Task Force. It would be interesting to compare this metric with those of similar investigations of abuse at boysboarding schools. Ken wondered what the wider ex-Leeuwin JR community thought of their time at Leeuwin and suggested to Ron that they be asked to write their own stories of their experiences, or that their views be canvassed in a survey.

Ron manages an active social group of ex-JRs consisting of the 1963 January and July entries (6th and 7th intakes) and decided he would survey the opinions of members to determine what they liked and disliked about their time at HMAS Leeuwin. Ex-JRs would also be asked about the relevance and effectiveness of the training and experience to their subsequent careers (both within and after their Naval service).

Note that this report seeks neither to refute nor to trivialise complaints by former Leeuwin JRs to the investigations. It merely attempts to answer the question, based on a reasonable sample size – how do the majority ex-JRs feel about their time at Leeuwin?

4.0 Conducting the Survey

Ron Giveen devised a list of twenty specific questions and a prompt for any other comments that a respondent would like to make. He sent it to 245 ex-Leeuwin JRs, most of whom joined in 1963. Ken Railton read the first batch of responses, and indicated he would work on encapsulating the data in a report. Ken was quite ill by this time and, tragically, did not live to commence this work. Ken had always been very supportive of JRs and ex-JRs, proud of his ‘boys’ and highly respected by all of us. We owed it to Ken to finish the work he encouraged.

Seventy-five ex-JRs provided input to this survey – a response rate of over 30% – lower than Ron expected, but more than reasonable considering the target community had an average age of seventy-three, many were not well, some had no access to (and/or skills with) a computer, and the period in question was some fifty-seven years earlier. In my view, it is testament to Ron’s influence and the standing he has in the ex-JR community that the response rate was as high as it was.

Some questions required binary answers; others more qualitative ones. It should be noted that at the time the questions were drafted and issued, little thought was given to how the answers would be collated and tabulated. Use of a computer-based software tool such as SurveyMonkey was not contemplated. In the main, survey questions were distributed, and responses received, by email. Ron followed up those who did not immediately respond, including a few who had, from time to time, indicated that they did not particularly enjoy their time at Leeuwin.

5.0 Bullying and Abuse

Although the DART report was the catalyst, there were no questions in the survey that related specifically to abuse that may have been incurred, observed or perpetrated by the respondents. Had there been, the participation rate may well have been lower as there are many potential reasons for a person not wanting to discuss such matters. Nevertheless, it was open to respondents to mention anything they liked or disliked about Leeuwin. Only two mentioned bullying in the context that they may have been victims of it.

I didn’t include knowledge of bullying in my own survey response because it didn’t happen to me and therefore not uppermost on my mind. Now I know the background to this survey, I feel I ought to mention it here. I wasn’t bullied; nor did I bully others. I did observe a kangaroo court for a JR who was accused of habitually failing to wash himself and/or his clothing sufficiently often. Although I took an active part in neither the proceedings nor the punishment, I recall all or part of the sentence – the victim was to have his head pushed down a toilet and the chain pulled. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the short and long-term harm this may have caused the victim, nor did it occur to me to intervene.

I know that some boys had pranks played upon them, such as the short-sheeting of their bunks. Seemingly harmless pranks become bullying where they repeatedly target the same people. I’d be surprised if this didn’t happen, however (perhaps due to the passage of time and a fading memory) I’ve no recollection of any specific cases of bullying other than the one mentioned above. I heard rumours of nuggeting (the application of boot polish to someone’s genitals,) but am unsure whether this occurred during the time I was at Leeuwin or whether it was just anecdotal – something alleged to have happened in an earlier intake. I’ve only recently read of the more excessive, and frankly sickening, bastardization techniques described in the DART report. I’m aware that incidences of bullying and abuse are considered by some to have increased in number and intensity after we left Leeuwin, when the number of intakes was raised from two to four per year – increasing the number of tiers of ‘superiority’.

6.0 List of Questions

The questions issued to the target group were:

  1. What did you expect to get out of Leeuwin?
  2. Did you enjoy your 1st three months at Leeuwin, when did it dawn on you that you were in the RAN for 12 years not 12 minutes and how did you react?
  3. What was your favourite activity?
  4. How beneficial was the additional education we received in later life?  Do you think it helped in your career?
  5. Did you enjoy the Navigation classes; how about the Speed-reading sessions?
  6. Did you enjoy the other Instruction at the school like English, Maths and Physics?  
  7. What didn’t you like about the routines?  Getting up at dawn, perhaps? Or no leave for the first 6 weeks?
  8. Did you like compulsory church, remember the milkshakes at the local cafe or Seaman’s Mission?
  9. Did you at anytime think of discharging when at Leeuwin?
  10. When did you decide on what category you wished to pursue?  Did you get allocated that category?
  11. Did you enjoy the Friday night dances?
  12. Did you enjoy the sports and the compulsory cross-country?
  13. Did you enjoy the seamanship and ABCD?
  14. Did you mind wearing pusser’s clothes that didn’t necessarily fit?
  15. Did you like doing your own dhobying and ironing?  Spit polishing your boots?
  16. Did Leeuwin practices alter your personality and help you mature?
  17. Did you leave Leeuwin in a better frame of mind than when you joined?
  18. Would you like your time again in Leeuwin?
  19. Do you think Leeuwin served its purpose in readying you for the Fleet?
  20. Are you involved in any Service Organisation now?
  21. Other comments.

7.0 Observations and Conclusions

Some of the questions in the list above addressed various likes and dislikes that ex-JRs may have relating to their time at Leeuwin. The questions that addressed what they thought of Leeuwin as a whole, whether they ever contemplated discharge from the Navy during that year, whether Leeuwin had a positive influence on their future lives and careers, whether it made them more mature or put them in a better frame of mind, and whether they would do it all again are the important questions. These are Questions 2, 4, 9, 16, 17, 18 and 19. Responses to all of these questions indicate that an overwhelming majority of respondents hold positive views of their time  at Leeuwin (see Appendices 1 and 2).

Question 2 indicates that 91% of respondents enjoyed their first three months and, through their comments reproduced in Appendix 2 of this report, it is apparent that most also enjoyed the other nine months of their year at Leeuwin.

Whilst other questions reveal that many respondents disliked particular educational subjects or thought them a waste of time, Question 4 shows that 75% of respondents consider that, in general, their education at Leeuwin assisted their Naval careers, and 71% consider their education assisted their post-Naval careers.

In answers to Question 9, none of the respondents indicated they ever thought of seeking a discharge from the Navy during the year. Some said they didn’t know one could, and it certainly wasn’t presented to JRs as an option (we had signed on the dotted line for twelve years). Nevertheless, it is notable that no one can recall even considering the prospect. Of course, it’s possible that some of those who elected not to respond to the survey, or could not be traced because they are not participants in the ex-Service community,  may have considered seeking a discharge at some stage.

Question 16 is about whether Leeuwin changed respondents’ personalities and / or helped them mature. While some personalities can, and do, change over a long period of time, it would be unusual for any major change to occur within a short period such as a year. Some respondents picked up on this, and indicated that their personalities didn’t change, but that their maturity did. One respondent inferred that in cases where a JR was not accepted by his peers, his personality was probably subdued and not allowed to develop. All in all, 91% said that their personality changed (for the better) and / or they became more mature.

            Question 17 asks whether respondents left Leeuwin in a better frame of mind than when they joined. 97% said they did. From the narrative answers in Appendix 2, some left Leeuwin in the frame of mind that they were all trained up and ready to take on the world. Others were happy because they were finally leaving the training establishment to do what they enlisted to do – join the Fleet (and start receiving full pay). One response was about seeing a dockyard worker falling to his death in a dry dock, and being disturbed by this for some time. Stories such as this (and another elsewhere in Appendix 2 alluding to the impact of the loss of life due to the Melbourne/Voyager collision), whilst not directly relevant to the questions, serve to remind us that there was a paucity of counselling for young sailors (or, indeed, any sailors) back in the day.

Question 18 asks whether the respondents would like their time again in Leeuwin. It is an interesting one, in that respondents interpreted this in different ways, e.g. (a) if you had your time all over again, would you still choose to join up and go to Leeuwin as a sixteen year old; (b) knowing what you know today, would you like to do go back and do Leeuwin again as a sixteen year old; and (c) would you like to go to Leeuwin again at your current age. Only 60% indicated they would do it all again... Some said yes, if they were 16 again, knowing what they know now. Others said no, they are too old but it would be good for younger people to do it. The percentage is unreliable, given that some respondents are glad they went to Leeuwin as sixteen year olds, but no, they wouldn’t like their time there again. Some considered it was good for that time period, but may not be acceptable in today’s world. One mentioned he would not want to do it again if he was to be on the receiving end of the bastardization he subsequently heard about.

Question 19, on the other hand, straightforwardly asks whether Leeuwin served its purpose in readying respondents for the Fleet. 80% indicated that Leeuwin served its purpose, while 17% indicated they had reservations due mainly to life in the Fleet being very different to life at Leeuwin.

A reader would need to peruse the survey response narrative comments in Appendix 2 to get an overall appreciation of the regard most respondents have for Leeuwin and their time there. It is notable that many of them still keep in touch and socialize with other ex-JRs from the same period, despite moving on to different units after Leeuwin.

From the high percentages of positive responses shown in the pie charts of Appendix 1, and the comments in Appendix 2, it is clear that most ex-JRs in the participation group have largely favourable memories of HMAS Leeuwin. Of course, many of those who are not in the participation group (either because they could not be traced as they no longer connect with other ex-JRs, or they elected not to respond) are, perhaps, less likely to regard their time at Leeuwin favourably.



8.0 Bibliography


  1. Rapke, Records of an Inquiry into Events that Allegedly Occurred at HMAS Leeuwin and Onboard HMAS Sydney, May and July, 1971


Commonwealth of Australia, Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, Report on Abuse on HMAS Leeuwin, June 2014









Appendix 1: Data Analysis


Where quantifiable, the answers to each question have been totalled, and percentages calculated. This is the full extent of our application of statistics. No attempt was made to correlate answers. For example, we haven’t produced statistics such as ‘90% of respondents who answered no to Question x also answered no to Question y’ because we have no need for such data.


Below are pie charts and a summary of the results for responses received. Where the percentages do not add to 100, the difference is where respondents were unsure of the answer.


Q1: What did you expect to get out of Leeuwin?


Over half of the respondents expected to start a new life and/or embark on an adventure. Others expected to further their education, and experience Naval training. Some expected just naval training, and were surprised to be studying normal school subjects. There were a few who merely expected to escape from their home life or country towns. 11% had no idea what to expect.




Q2: Did you enjoy your 1st three months at Leeuwin, when did it dawn on you that you were in the RAN for 12 years not 12 minutes and how did you react?


91% enjoyed their first three months and, through their comments, it is apparent that most continued to enjoy the rest of their year at Leeuwin. Most were unconcerned that they had signed up for twelve years, and many did not even think about it.



Q3: What was your favourite activity?



Unsurprisingly, Sport leads the way with 51%. Seamanship, recreation and parade training, in total, make up another 40%. Very few listed Education as their favourite activity.



Q4(a): How beneficial was the additional education we received in later life? 



71% considered the education received at Leeuwin helped in later life; 20% did not. From the comments, it would seem that the education was appreciated more when looking back than it was at the time.



Q4(b): Do you think it [formal education] helped in your career?


75% considered the education received at Leeuwin helped their Naval careers; while 19% did not. Those in the latter group had a high correlation with those who considered that the education did not help in later life, i.e. Q4(a).




Q5(a): Did you enjoy the Navigation classes?


78% liked the Navigation classes; 12% did not. It is knowledge that few would have used after the course, as it was generally the purview of seaman officers. A few indicated that the lessons learnt here helped them in later life, e.g. aircraft pilots and yachties.




Q5(b) How about [did you enjoy] the Speed-reading sessions?

44% liked the Speed Reading classes; 20% did not; and 4% struggled with it. It was one of those subjects that you either loved or hated. That 32% cannot remember doing it leads one to suppose that it was not a subject that everyone had to do.




Q6: Did you enjoy the other Instruction at the school like English, Maths and Physics?  


55% liked one or more of the English, Maths and Physics classes; 45% disliked all of them. Some of those that did not particularly like these subjects could still see value in doing them.



Q7: What didn’t you like about the routines?  Getting up at dawn, perhaps? Or no leave for the first 6 weeks?



49% liked the routines; while 35% were ambivalent. Quite a few found having to get up early every day (including weekends) a bit of a shock. From their comments it is evident that many just accepted routines as part of life in the Navy. Unsurprisingly, a few expressed a dislike for punishment routines.




Q8: Did you like compulsory church, remember the milkshakes at the local cafe or Seaman’s Mission?



20% liked the compulsory church on Sundays; 39% were OK with it; 34% disliked it. Many said it got them off the base, others enjoyed the march to the church. Some enjoyed moving on after church to places such as the Seaman’s Mission.



Q9: Did you at anytime think of discharging when at Leeuwin?

No respondents admitted to harbouring thoughts of leaving the RAN during their year at Leeuwin. Perhaps those that wanted to leave the RAN that early are part of the ex-JR population that, for whatever reason, elected not to respond to the survey or were unaware of it.




Q10: When did you decide on what category you wished to pursue?  Did you get allocated that category?



88% got the rate category that they wanted; 12% did not. This was often a question of timing – it frequently depended on what rate categories were short of personnel at the time.



Q11: Did you enjoy the Friday night dances?



50% enjoyed the Friday night dances; 21% did not; 16% did not attend because they were either too shy, couldn’t dance, or both. As attendance was not compulsory, it is somewhat surprising that 21% attended even though did not enjoy the experience. A number of respondents said they were unaware of Friday night dances. Answers to this question show that many of us were just awkward adolescents in uniform.




Q12(a): Did you enjoy the sports?


94% liked sports; 6% did not. This result correlates with that of Question 3, where 51% of respondents listed sports as their favourite activity. Many strong bonds between JRs and staff seemed to be formed through a JR being good at sport, e.g. Rugby and Rowing.



Q12(b): [Did you enjoy] … the compulsory cross-country?


46% liked cross-country runs; 42% did not. 12% did not like one particular Physical Training Instructor who would make everyone do the cross-country run again whenever anyone took a short cut or exceeded his time limit.




Q13: Did you enjoy the seamanship and ABCD?






94% liked seamanship and damage control drill (ABCD), correlating with Question 3 on favourite activities. It should not be surprising that most of those who joined the Navy would like seamanship.




Q14: Did you mind wearing pusser’s clothes that didn’t necessarily fit?


With the exception of shoes, 97% were OK with wearing the uniform, ill fitting or not. 9% were not OK with ill-fitting shoes, and four indicated that their feet were affected throughout their lives. Several admitted that they bought tiddly uniforms (fitted better and looked better) in the civilian shops once they were out in the Fleet.





Q15: Did you like doing your own dhobying and ironing?  Spit polishing your boots?


70% either loved it, or just accepted it as part of being in the Navy. 14% disliked some chores but not others. Many revealed that they still do washing and/or ironing today, and some even consider it made them more popular with females! Several indicated that they weren’t that excited about spit polishing boots.



Q16: Did Leeuwin practices alter your personality and help you mature?


91% considered that their year at Leeuwin changed their personality for the better and/or they gained in maturity. Some said that their personality didn’t change, however they certainly left as more mature young men.





Q17: Did you leave Leeuwin in a better frame of mind than when you joined?


97% said they left in a better frame of mind, but several of those providing positive responses found the subject complex, with a number providing thoughtful and qualified responses.



Q18: Would you like your time again in Leeuwin?


60% indicated they would do it all again. But respondents tended to interpret this question differently – the comments in Appendix 2 show this. Some said yes, if they were 16 again, knowing what they know now. Others said no, they are too old but it would be good for younger people to do it. Some considered it was good for that time period, but may not be acceptable in today’s world. One mentioned he would not want to do it again if he was to be on the receiving end of the bastardization he has heard about.





Q19: Do you think Leeuwin served its purpose in readying you for the Fleet?


80% indicated that Leeuwin served its purpose, while 17% indicated they had reservations due mainly to life in the Fleet being very different to life at Leeuwin.



Q20: Are you involved in any Service Organisation now?


58% are members of the RSL (with some also being members of other service organisations), 23% are members of other service organisations only, while 8% claim to be members of the ex-JR group managed by Ron only. Given that almost all of these contacted by Ron are regular recipients of his newsletters, it is arguable that almost all respondents are members of Ron’s informal group.




Q21: Other Comments


Some comments were made directly under this heading on the survey form, others were moved here by me because they didn’t quite fit where they were put by the respondents. It is notable that, of the eight responses in this category, several acknowledge the role Ron has played in bringing (and keeping) the group together.


Appendix 2: Narrative Responses to Survey Questions


Not all of these comments are verbatim. Some have been edited to reduce size or (hopefully) slightly improve the spelling and grammar to enhance readability. Modifications have also been made in the interests of anonymity. Other than references to Ron and Ken, the names of superiors, instructors and peers have been removed or genericised. References to specific towns and, occasionally, states have also been modified. Branch names of RSLs and other associations have been omitted.


The main change, however, was relocating each survey comment to a position under the heading of the question it purports to answer (rather than leaving them grouped by respondent). This has the effect of increasing anonymity.


For any reader curious about the meanings of acronyms or jargon encountered here, the answer may (or, perhaps, may not) lie in Appendix C: Glossary of Terms.


  1. What did you expect to get out of Leeuwin?


  • A career in the RAN.
  • Introduction to a career in the RAN.
  • Experience and guidance.
  • A grounding in basic Navy training.
  • At the time, did not know.
  • Wanted to be a Seaman, but that didn’t happen.
  • Travel, excitement and to get away from school.
  • Basic sea training.
  • A life after boarding school.
  • Wasn’t sure, just wanted to join the Navy and be a diver.
  • I had no idea at all.
  • A good basic training, and the basis for a long career.
  • Certainly not high school – hoped at the time I had left that behind.
  • To learn a bit more schooling and find a Navy career. 
  • Exactly what we got – schooling and regimented training.
  • Training for a naval career. 
  • Not too sure at the time. 
  • No preconceptions. 
  • A good start to life in the Navy.
  • A job, with schooling.
  • Adventure and a chance to see the world.
  • A career, and a start in a bigger world than the one I was living in.
  • An escape from my home state. 
  • To escape a small town rural existence.
  • Sport, schooling and a change of life style.
  • Absolutely no idea, all just a big adventure.
  • A stepping-stone to a Navy career.
  • At the age of 16 years I had no idea. It was an adventure.
  • A start to a career in the Navy.
  • Less schooling and more Pusser’s stuff.
  • I had no preconceptions.
  • Further education and improved career prospects.
  • The start of a new life.
  • I didn’t know what to expect, other than to become qualified to go to sea.
  • Out of my hometown.
  • Some additional schooling, but mainly the opportunity to be in the Navy.
  • I joined the Navy on a whim. Navy life looked exciting, better than a fitter and turner apprenticeship. I had no expectations at first.
  • I didn’t expect anything in particular. I only wanted to survive and join the Fleet.
  • I just wanted to sail the ocean waves, like my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, etc.
  • Didn’t really know. I always wanted to join the Navy since the age of about 10. 
  • At the time I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it would be a great adventure.
  • The opportunity to be trained in a Naval occupation that I could use in civilian life.
  • I wanted to improve my education, as I was not a good student at high school..
  • As the son of an Air Force squadron leader, I felt as though I was starting on my life journey.  
  • Didn’t really think about it, thought I was carrying on from my father who joined the R.N. during war.
  • Joining Leeuwin got me away from my small hometown, gave me some education and training and high expectations for travelling the world.
  • A new start in life, a long-term job, some excitement, travel the world. I somehow thought I was joining the Navy; instead went back to school.
  • I was in the Sea Cadets before going to Leeuwin, so had a vague idea about what Navy life was all about and just wanted to ‘take it to the next level’.
  • Wasn’t sure what I was getting into but it all worked out OK at the end of the day. Quite an adventure for a 16 y.o. – especially the train trip from Melbourne to Perth.
  • I guess it was the thought of travelling to foreign ports, after listening to my uncle’s tales of runs ashore and him showing me the incredible things he bought in these locations.
  • I thought it was to be grounding for a Naval career, which I consider it was. In many ways it consolidated my grounding in the Naval Cadets prior to joining.
  • Really wasn’t sure what to expect. To me it was just like going away on a football trip (went with my football club to the VFL grand final the year before I joined) or a scout camp.
  • I didn’t know what to expect when accepted for Leeuwin. I was not in a good place prior, having left school (midway through 3rdyear of high school) and had an attitude that was not the best. I think I expected it to be an adventure!
  • I had no idea what to expect as I had family problems that I wanted to get away from.I had military training prior to joining as I was in the Army Cadets at my high school. I then had to learn how to march in the Navy style.
  • I joined up from country Queensland and was just looking to get out of the place. I applied to be a Mobi but my school results were not up to scratch, so recruiting suggested becoming a JR. That was good enough for me, so away I went.
  • I emigrated with my family from the U.K. in ‘62 and loved the sea voyage, and when the opportunity arose to join Leeuwin after seeing an ad in the paper, I asked my Dad and he said ‘a great idea’. I think it was about December ‘62, after arriving here in July.
  • The Navy was instilled into me at a very early age, what with my father going to the Greenwich Naval Academy as a boy and my relations serving in the Royal Navy during the 2ndWorld War. There was no pressure from my father to enter, but when I did decide to join and go to Leeuwin, all my family were very proud.
  • As I had a long desire to join the Navy, entering at an early age seemed attractive to me. I had already applied three times prior to being accepted – twice at Leeuwin and also for the first intake of JRs at Cerberus. I was on standby for the Cerberus intake but fortunately I did not make it. Several postings to Cerberus later on definitely made me detest the rotten place.
  • My parents were dairy farmers north east of Melbourne. My father wanted me to join the Navy; I am not sure why as he had not been in the services himself. I was not selected at the initial selection and my father took me to Williamstown Dockyard for an interview as an electrical fitter and I was accepted to start in 1963. My father passed away one day and my mother received a phone call one week later that a plane was coming from Sydney to Melbourne that day and I was first reserve. There was a place for me to leave that night. To be honest I don’t think I had an expectation of anything except a job.
  • My dad died when I was 6 months old and my Mum did a great job of raising 3 children (2 older sisters).  As I reached my teenage years the era of ‘Rock and Roll’ was in full swing, I was going to dances and staying out late – a recipe for possible trouble for a young bloke. I was in 4th form at technical school and enjoyed the trade subjects but had no idea what I wanted to do or what would be a good career for my future. Not sure I remember how the idea ofjoining the Navy came up, but I’m glad it did. I thought, and my Mum agreed, that it might give me a sense of direction and also a bit of discipline to keep me on the straight and narrow.
  • I was expecting to join in the 6th Intake in January 1963 but, due to illness, I could not proceed. As I had turned 16 years of age in January 1963, I was lucky to be accepted into the 7th Intake (July 1963). Coming from a military family (father, Army and brother, Navy) I had a good understanding of service life, having spent the whole of my life to then living in military establishments. I had a good background in discipline, military protocols, drill, etc. as my father was an artillery / infantry sergeant major. Read a lot about the Leeuwin and Tingira early years. I believed it would be a good avenue to get fit, and a chance to grow – I was only short when I joined Leeuwin and after Leeuwin in June 1964 I was much taller – but still quite small to my shipmates.



  1. Did you enjoy your 1st three months at Leeuwin, when did it dawn on you that you were in the RAN for 12 years not 12 minutes and how did you react?


  • Yes – before I signed the dotted line.
  • When I posted from Leeuwinto HMAS Sydney.
  • I enjoyed all my time at Leeuwin.
  • I enjoyed it very much.
  • It didn’t register with me.
  • Yes, loved it. Didn’t think about the 12 years until much later.
  • Was OK until I had to do punishment detail.
  • Yes, good fun. Did not dwell on the future, other than getting away to sea. 
  • I can’t recall that moment, so probably didn’t think it.
  • I was missing home. I knew what I had done.
  • I enjoyed my entire time at Leeuwin with no regrets.
  • I enjoyed all my Leeuwin
  • Never thought about it.
  • Yes, but a bit of a shock.
  • I was a bit homesick in the first few weeks but got over it pretty quickly.
  • Easy, straight away.
  • Yes, too busy to get homesick – 12 years went quickly, lots of different jobs.
  • Always knew about the 12 years – enjoyed the first 3 months.
  • Yes, we were reminded several times it was not a short time commitment.
  • Had no comprehension of what 12 yrs was – knew it was a long time.
  • I enjoyed every day of my 12 months at no time did it cross my mind that I had made a bad choice.
  • Initially, I felt a little daunted but still excited to join the RAN and not the Army.
  • Yes really enjoyed the first three months – the combination of discipline, sport and education.
  • Leeuwin was a life changing/forming experience. No surprises re the 12 years bit. Fully cognizant of the 12 years.
  • If I kept my nose clean I’d have a job for 12 years. It was a better prospect than staying in my hometown.
  • I enjoyed the whole year, as a 16 year old you don’t know how long 12 years is.
  • I did enjoy my time at Leeuwin – well most of it anyway. Chooks was a bit rough.
  • Enjoyed the whole time at Leeuwin. Was never worried about signing on for 12 years.
  • Although homesick at first, did not even think about the 12 year term – it was just part of getting ahead.
  • I was quite shocked at the 12 years when I had to sign up at the recruiting centre. I thought 28 when I got out would be ancient.
  • Had a great time, tucker was good and our time was well organised and fully committed.
  • Yep loved it all, the sport especially. The new friendships and seeing Australia was a large country.
  • I had no problems at Leeuwin from staff or from other JRs during my time there. 
  • Mostly, the interaction with others was quite new and I don’t recall having any thoughts about how long.
  • Have to admit, yes, I did enjoy the first 3 months – getting to know lots of new faces and still, after all these years, call them mates.
  • Yes it was just an extension of my life but more exciting in the variety of daily activities – not just a classroom. 
  • Yes, I did enjoy it, but was a little intimidated by the senior JRs. After a few months, I got used to the pecking order.
  • I enjoyed my time at Leeuwin and I didn’t realize at the time how long almost 10 years 315 days 12 hours was going to be. 
  • Yes, a bit homesick at first but, as time went by, this faded and things started to gel.
  • I was happy to serve for 12 years as I knew this is what I wanted and couldn’t see any alternative. I just went with the flow.
  • I did enjoy all of my time at I knew it was 12 years; I just did not realise just how long 12 years was. I then went on to complete 20.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed my time at Leeuwin after the first couple of months. Up to then, I was thinking ‘what the heck have I done’, then it was great.
  • Enjoyed most of my early time, new friends, and new I was well aware that I was in for 12 years, but no Navy punishment was ever as bad as my father’s.
  • Yes, I did not have any regrets during the first 3 months. Did wonder what hit me, though, with the early morning starts, etc. I never thought about it being for 12 years.
  • A very different life style, but I knew I had nothing to go back to at home, so was determined to stick it out in spite of home sickness and the discipline.
  • First 3 months – yes. 12 years didn’t seem to have much affect. Was just the start of my working life. Took it as it came and resigned myself to the fact I was in the Navy.
  • Apart from 2 weeks in hospital, after having my appendix removed, my first 3 months was what I had expected. The thought of 12 years did not faze me.
  • Knew I was there for the long haul and was determined to make the most of it. Certainly, the first 3 months was daunting but I quickly adapted to the discipline and routines. Hated the dentist!
  • I think I enjoyed the first couple of weeks but then remember thinking that the holiday is over and it is time to go home. So I was a bit homesick for a while, before the realization finally struck.
  • Everything new and, at times, quite scary. I felt it important to be part of the team to survive. Twelve years was so far into the future that I could not imagine it ever arriving.
  • This wasn’t a problem. I thought I’d be a sailor for life. That’s why I got a tattoo. As it turned out, I was in for eight years and spent the rest of my life in corporate jobs with my sleeves rolled down.
  • The first three months was a reality check – just how many activities can you fit into every 24 hours? You got the impression that the powers-to-be were unsure what to do with 15-year-old kids.
  • I didn’t really enjoy the first six months as I was on chooks most of the time. Only got to go ashore three times. Don’t think the 12 years was an issue at the time.
  • I went in with my eyes open and knew there would be very restricted leave for the first three months. At the time I understood what 12 years meant and regarded this as acceptable.
  • The 1st three months was OK as that was when new friendships were made – they have lasted to this day. I always wanted to join the Navy and 12 years never worried me.
  • I enjoyed the whole time at Leeuwin and was well aware that I had signed up for 12 years. Don’t think my parents were all that happy with the 12 years, but …
  • After the initial homesickness, my first three months were an eye opener. I felt this was the best decision I had ever made and, being so young (as young as Greta Thunberg), I would’ve signed on for twenty years.
  • I enjoyed all of my time at Leeuwin. When asked how I liked it whilst on my first leave period, I replied that I loved it and would most likely sign on again after my initial 12 years. (However, since then there were many occasions that I thought otherwise.)
  • The first three months were certainly an eye opener, but once again I was lucky being a Sydneysider. Plus a sea cadet that had been on three RAN ships alongside, spending a week aboard each time – storing, cleaning, standing rounds, etc.
  • About 1 hour after arriving at Leeuwin I thought ‘what the hell have I done’. I just wanted my mum. However, once I settled in I began to enjoy the show. The skylarking, food and camaraderie was worth the early rises and PT, but not quite the cross-country runs. 
  • The 1st three months were good. I had a rough idea what to expect. My mother made sure I knew how to wash darn and iron. Spit polishing boots, learning how to wear the uniform and how to tie a tally, came from other, more experienced, members who had been in the Sea Cadets prior to entering.
  • Yes I really enjoyed the first three months, meeting new friends, the training, the routine. I was lucky as I had 2 uncles who lived in WA so it was a chance to meet my dad’s brothers and their families. Don’t think the 12 years crossed my mind at the time as I was too occupied with everything that was going on.
  • Initially I was homesick. Then on striking duty the second day, and having to stand rounds to present the heads and shower that we hadn’t cleaned to the OODs expectations, I was ‘run in’. (My first lesson in being responsible for directing and controlling the work efforts of others.)
  • It was a big ‘sea change’ for me but I knew what to expect, having been in cadets in high school, so I was prepared. My dad was a tough disciplinarian and ex army too. 12 years did seem like a long time, of course, but I was prepared for it and reasoned that, if necessary, I could discharge without penalty during that time.
  • I always knew that my engagement was for 12 years and it never worried me until after I was married and had a wife and 2 children. And then along came Gough Whitlam who brought in that if you gave 18 months’ notice you could be discharged. At that stage I was posted to Navy Office in Canberra and was due for another sea posting, so I signed on the dotted line to be discharged.
  • I cannot say I enjoyed it, but it was not that bad. I realised it had to be done. It was hard work for me being overweight and very unfit. They did, however, have some impact on my weight and fitness and I managed OK. Went to Duchess 1stdraft and had my own personal PTI to give me exercises on B gun deck. Great bloke. Met him in a pub in Hervey Bay in 2007 and he said he did remember me, and my weight problem.
  • It started badly. When I got to the table in the drill hall, my name wasn’t on their list. I was sent to sit in the corner. Just got settled there when a staff member challenged me, wanting to know my name. He sent me back to the queue that I had already been on. He wouldn’t listen to my side of the story, hence got to the table, found I was not on their list. ‘Wasn’t I sent to sit in the corner?’ So back to the seat I went. [Several paragraphs deleted by editor at this point, for the sake of brevity. Long story short, he eventually found somewhere to sleep, but not his own bunk.] My name appeared on a list the next day and I was sorted by stand-easy. After that, the first three months was a breeze. Took two days to remember my official number.



  1. What was your favourite activity?   


  • At first, just getting used to a different life.     
  • The TV room – 6 O’Clock Rock on Saturday nights.
  • Seamanship, loved it. That’s why I was there.
  • The boatshed. 
  • Scran time.   
  • OXP, Seamanship, sport.
  • Sport, and going to the tip sometimes when on duty.
  • Sporting activities.               
  • The physical sport availability.  
  • Sailing and visiting relatives in Perth.
  • Wasn’t very good at most, but enjoyed it.
  • Sport.
  • All of the sport when in tropical routine.
  • Sport and Seamanship.
  • Weekend leave and soccer.
  • Playing sport.           
  • Seamanship – I quite liked doing practical stuff.
  • No favourite. I just saw them all as a means to an end.
  • The sport offered.
  • Probably sport and Seamanship.
  • Sport & Navigation lessons.               
  • Loved the Maths classes.
  • Seamanship and sport.   
  • I enjoyed parade training, hence I became a QMG.         
  • Sports and Naval subjects.              
  • Going on leave on weekends, midterm and annual.
  • I don’t remember. It wasnot parade training, church or “chooks”.
  • I did enjoy the school, especially Navigation. I also enjoyed the OXPs.
  • It opened doors in many ways.
  • Sport in all forms except cross-country runs.
  • Yes, I have my BR68 beside my bed. 
  • Scoffing orange Madeira and cocoa, sailing whalers and, of course, rowing.
  • Sport was my favourite activity; I enjoy competition in all sport.
  • I enjoyed most activities – this was all a blast compared with school. 
  • Rowing the 27 ft whalers down the Swan River and then swimming.   
  • The ability to get out of the classroom every day and do an organised sport.
  • Scran time, parade ground, school; not too keen on 14 days chooks!       
  • Sport, as I got to try out various sports I had not done while in civilian clothing.
  • Soccer, rowing (coxswain), band (Leeuwin & Reserve Unit Band trips (drummer).
  • I really enjoyed the options for sport (specially the team sports) and outside activities that we had available.
  • Sport, namely tennis. I was singles and doubles champ in 1st six months, and doubles champ in 2nd
  • My favourite day, or activity, is when you got out of school and did work in the galley, where the cooks looked after you.
  • I think it was the Seamanship side of things, because that was totally new to me.            
  • Companionship and friends: 56 years later – just look at our friendships with others from JR intakes.
  • I really liked sailing the whalers, especially sailing back from Garden Island. Rugby union and being coached by the LCDR.   
  • I would say MUP during the Dogs was the least favourite activity as I did about 200 days of them, almost got discharged but I survived.  
  • I particularly enjoyed the Seamanship and Naval indoctrination classes. I did not particularly enjoy the school block. I enjoyed the developing camaraderie.
  • I really enjoyed the pomp and ceremony, the marching and band music. Still do, as a matter of fact – not much marching now though. Sport and learning about the Navy.
  • I enjoyed the tucker and hoovered up as much as I could as we were burning a lot of calories. Thursday chicken Maryland was my favourite.
  • I also enjoyed the on-water activities – messing about in boats, rowing and sailing Pusser’s dinghies. The Topmen also did an OXP to Rottnest Island in an SDB.
  • I can’t think of anything that was my favourite activity but I did enjoy Seamanship – but not knots and I could not splice for the life of me.       
  • I liked Seamanship and sport as a part of the daily routine, and particularly enjoyed getting away from the base to spend time with our sponsors.Tas T and I liked going to gymkhanas. 
  • Sport has to be at the top of the list. The rowing under Ken R was fantastic. The rowers had special privileges arranged by Ken, which made us feel ‘special’. Athletics was also right up there, as I was pretty good at most disciplines. Awarded the Champion Athlete trophy (cup and blazer patch) at the end of the year.
  • Activities (plural). Going ashore, eating (I was always hungry – loved curry prawn and lobster Wednesdays), playing cricket, soccer, athletics. Also sailing, swimming around the jetty. Trips to Garden and Rottnest Islands were good. Speared my first fish (a flathead) with a fork tied to a broom handle at Garden Island on the day JFK was assassinated.
  • Playing sport, particularly Aussie Rules. I remember being seconded into Rugby, and not being impressed. But a PTI saved me. He used to pick me up from the Topman’s donga twice a week to go and train with the Coburn Sunday League FC. I played three games for them before being found out. I think the PTI fared worse from that adventure than I did.
  • I was fortunate enough to be chosen to be in the 8ts rowing team assembled by Ken R, we were coached by a civilian and were attached to the Fremantle Rowing Club. We were a bloody good crew and the secret of our success was that, because we were so fit, we could up our stroke rate as we neared the end of each race when the opposing crews were tiring. We had some very interesting times on the river whilst the rest of you guys were doing P.T. and cross-countries etc. Two that spring to mind are that one night we were training after sunset when we collided with another crew coming in the opposite direction and because I rowed “bow” I copped an oar, fair in my back. The other was when we rowed in the ‘Bridge to Bridge’ race, that was the Fremantle rail bridge to the Narrows road bridge, we got about as far as opposite the Swan brewery when the river became quite choppy and our boat began taking on water, so we had to “abandon ship’. I remember going back the next day in a workboat with Ken R to bail out and retrieve our shell and tow it back to the rowing club. [The editor in the interests of brevity has omitted some sentences.]



  1. How beneficial was the additional education we received in later life?  Do you think it helped in your career?


  • I don’t think it was any help.
  • Not at all.
  • Yes, made me more focused.
  • Not really. Not enough support after discharge.
  • The whole experience was beneficial
  • Not really, I tried to escape schoolwork, but failed to do that.
  • Yes it did. 
  • Yes, both in education and discipline.
  • Have to say no.
  • A good leg up, yes. 
  • Yes, particularly English and Physics.
  • Navigation & Seamanship helped.
  • Not particularly.
  • Not much.
  • Not convinced that it did me any good.
  • Speed-reading.
  • Most helpful and useful.
  • The Speed-reading was a pain in the butt.
  • No, a lot of it was a repeat of my last year at high school.
  • It didn’t, I hated school and didn’t pay much attention in class.
  • Certainly would have, had I made a life career of the Navy.
  • I think it was beneficial, especially getting to a higher level of education.
  • It proved to be the best pathway to a career and advancement. 
  • Excellent, discipline was important. Always learning, different courses.
  • Completed my education. It most certainly helped to start my career.
  • Yes, I was a poor student at high school and had no time to study after school.
  • Yes – no education is a drawback, even if it takes years to recall and use.
  • Given my chosen branch, cook, I don’t think any additional education was particularly beneficial to me.
  • Whilst it was a disciplined life, it taught respect and life skills. Yes, it did help in my career and beyond. 
  • The additional education was good, the Maths and Physics definitely helped.
  • It was a sound grounding, enabling me to complete Marine & Mechanical degrees. 
  • I was a bit slack at tech school, so the additional education put some perspective on what I had already been exposed to. 
  • I studied new subjects (Navigation, etc.) that have held me in good stead all my life.
  • Wasn’ttoo happy having to go back to school but I knew this before joining and, as it turned out, was very demanding.
  • The additional education was well received and kept me in good stead throughout my career. It was a good foundation for more advanced education.
  • I don’t think the additional education had much of an impact in later life, especially my career after the Navy.
  • It was a continuation of high school and any further education was beneficial to me, especially as it helped for promotion prospects. 
  • Having left school at the end of 3rdyear high school, I think the education side helped me a lot. It definitely helped later in my career.
  • The actual knowledge was great and I’m sure it helped in my life after the Navy, especially the ‘learning how to learn’, if this makes sense.
  • I think it was very beneficial – although I didn’t realise it at the time. Helped me to go on to further education and get my matriculation in Fremantle.


  • Very much so. Never passed Junior at school (as it was called then) – however it counted towards future employment with a state government.
  • Enjoyed the education, seemed like carrying on from high school. It did, but not towards greenie industry. It helped towards management in hospitality.
  • Also joined McDonald’s, excellent managerial training in all aspects of business, then moved interstate and commenced a specialised transport business, ended up a national enterprise.
  • Being just a little more mature than at school before joining, the appreciation of the benefits of more education and a study/work ethic made me utilise the improved skills.
  • Education was good, as I was in year ten when I joined midway through the year. It helped me though my 12 years in the RAN, and also in my later civilian life for sure.
  • It helped me focus on education without outside distractions and showed me I could attain a reasonable level of academic success. I excelled at Navigation.
  • Some parts of the education such as Navigation and Maths assisted in my life after the Navy. But I would say discipline set a very good basis for later life. 
  • Looking back, I think that because it was the first time that I had been involved in non-coeducational classes, I applied myself more and attained much better grades than I had at school.
  • I wasn’t great at the academic side of things, but enjoyed going to school at Leeuwin. This additional schooling was very helpful in the career I chose and in employment after I left the Navy.
  • I had already been away from the schooling system for a good twelve months before I joined Leeuwin, so I guess whatever education I received was going to help me. A definite advantage for the remainder of my career.
  • Initially, it caused me to have an inferiority complex, which caused me a deal of angst for some years until I decided to achieve. That swung the pendulum the other way (towards me becoming a workaholic). But no regrets.
  • Enjoyed most general education subjects other than Advanced Maths. And Physics classes which I had not done in high school – this also a little daunting. All general subjects did help in my later educational achievements in both Navy and civilian service.
  • I guess any education is beneficial in later life. I found that all of the education received on the EMP and TOW courses contributed to my career after the Navy, including ultimate success in my own consulting business within the supply operations of mainly mining and construction companies.
  • What I learnt in the 12 years made life after the Navy easy in getting different jobs. Stationary Engine driver in a sugar mill, power house engine driver in an alcohol factory, and Queensland Railway engine driver (longest trains in Qld).
  • Definitely beneficial and, yes, it helped in my future career because I was confident I could achieve most anything I put my mind to. I recall being offered the Topman Course (I think maybe by Ken R) but I knocked it back (silly me!) as I wanted to get ‘out there’ and do some of this Navy stuff.
  • No, not really as the level of education taught at Leeuwin was similar to that I had done during my school years. Just further consolidated what I had done prior, with the exception of the Navigation, Seamanship & NBCD – i.e. the non-academic subjects.
  • All the training was great. Leeuwin was the start of one of my greatest Ah Ha’s. It doesn’t matter who someone is, where they come from or what their politics, religion, colour, creed, etc. is – if they are reliable and trustworthy, they are best people to have as mates.
  • Because I did not complete the Topman’s course it is a bit difficult to determine the benefits I gained, but I am a firm believer in further education. And I am sure that the discipline of study did help me later in life. The years from 14-17 years old are really the formative years of a person’s character.
  • Well, besides learning Naval lore and about our entry into the real Navy, nothing from Leeuwin. But I did finish up as an RO and that really helped me after I left. Had a few short jobs but worked as a telex supervisor for a big import-export company due to being taught to type and use telexes. It eventually enabled me to work for OTC and later Telstra as a ship shore radio officer, working in Sydney, Broome, Townsville and Brisbane radio.
  • It certainly helped me. Prior to Leeuwin I wasn’t much interested in school at all, and never did my homework. After Leeuwin I became a study junkie. I got the HET, the Navy SGCE, the NSW HSC, a B.A. in Computing Studies and a Graduate Diploma in Accounting – all part-time study. Before I got a free discharge, the civilians I worked for in the computer room at Navy Office used to let me change into civvies and sneak off to uni.
  • Initially it did nothing for me. I was placed on Commodore’s warning for failing my ET1. I was placed on remedial training classes and finally walked away with HET English. When I left the service, I obtained my first university degree and was studying for admission as a barrister, however, ill health ended my studies. During my service career, I undertook a number of courses for both promotion and branch enhancement; the most difficult course was the Naval Police Investigation course, which went for three months. I also did a three months course with astate Fire Brigade to the level of Station Officer/Senior Fireman. This course was an essential element prior to posting as Senior Policeman in charge of an interstate or remote area. I also sat for examination for a commission for which I was unsuccessful; however I would never pass the politics of selection.







  1. Did you enjoy the Navigation classes; how about the Speed-reading sessions?


  • I still speed-read.
  • Navigation was great and I still use the basics in my life today.
  • Speed-reading was the better one.
  • Nav – not so much. Reading – it was a challenge, had to beat it.
  • Yes to Navigation. Can’t remember Speed-reading.
  • Not really, but it was all part of ‘being there’.
  • Naval subjects & HET subjects created a number of challenges.
  • Thoroughly enjoyed the Navigation but not so much the Speed-reading.
  • Nav – useless, speed reading – loved.
  • Cannot remember Nav classes. Speed-reading certainly helped in later life.
  • Not Navigation, but have realized later in life that Speed-reading is great.
  • Hated Navigation and Speed-reading.
  • The Navigation classes were good; don’t recall the Speed-reading.
  • Don’t remember the Speed-reading; enjoyed the Navigation classes.
  • Navigation was my favourite subject (HET qualified, but only just).
  • Navigation, Seamanship and Speed-reading were enjoyed.
  • Nav – most helpful, Speed-reading – interesting.
  • Enjoyed Nav classes, hated Speed-reading
  • Navigation enabled me to circumnavigate Australia in a yacht. 
  • Enjoyed both, although I was not very proficient in the Speed-reading.
  • Navigation – yes. Speed reading – did not do it.
  • As English was a weak subject, Speed-reading was a struggle. 
  • Yes, would have liked to continue Speed-reading.
  • The Navigation course and reading charts were most interesting. 
  • Yes, enjoyed Nav.
  • Enjoyed Navigation class, can’t remember Speed-reading.
  • Yep, enjoyed the Nav. Actually got a ticket at tech in coastal navigation from AYF. 
  • Navigation was something new but I always ran aground or got lost. No good at Speed-reading
  • I didn’t like the Speed-reading classes and later realized that, if you didn’t use the technique all the time, you lost it.  
  • Very much. Nav was new to me but I picked it up and it set my later career life. Speed-reading, ugh!
  • Yes enjoyed both and the Speed-reading has been beneficial over my whole life.
  • Navigation was a favourite. I could not come to grips with the Speed-reading and failed miserably.
  • Navigation was good, as I had to have Navigation to become a SAR winch man.
  • The Speed-reading was about how many answers you could correctly guess.
  • I did enjoy Navigation but never had the opportunity to use or improve my skills. Speed-reading? Don’t recall.
  • Enjoyed Navigation, didn’t do any Speed-reading except to see what was on the menu at scran time.
  • Navigation, yes, I went on pass the extra training later on. I am a very poor reader and I really struggled with the Speed-reading
  • Did not enjoy Navigation classes, however when I went to sea it started to make sense. Don’t remember any Speed-reading.
  • Yes they were all new and unexplored worlds. The Speed-reading sessions definitely left a long-lasting impression, even to this day.  
  • Enjoyed both of these, my preference was Speed-reading and I still find this useful in everyday things I do.
  • Yes, Speed-reading was a helpful subject, especially the comprehension test on completion of each session.
  • Speed-reading helps with the news reading. Three papers a day in no time. Navigation was a plus.
  • East is least and West is best didn’t help me when I couldn’t get back up onto my sailboard. Never got the hang of Speed-reading.
  • Navigation was great, something outside our normal teachings. Speed-reading was challenging but paid dividends in years to come.
  • Navigation was my favourite subject. I still have a good understanding of it, being able to transform the basics to aircraft movement.
  • Loved the Navigation classes and still remember many of the things we were taught. Speed-reading – although it was beneficial I thought it was boring.
  • I didn’t mind the Navigation classes and obviously the Speed-reading classes didn’t have an impact on me because I can’t even remember them.
  • Navigation classes were a bit out there, and good for laugh. I am not sure I learnt a lot. Speed-reading classes, I am not sure about.
  • The Speed-reading was great and I still use it today. I enjoyed Navigation but was no good at it; I seem to remember taking a Navy ship across land (no one said it was easy).
  • Yes I did enjoy Navigation – a lot of it was logic but it really was a part of your education, which has been useful in other areas. The Speed-reading was great.
  • Speed-reading, forget it. I am a hopeless reader, have to read things twice to get meaning and fall asleep over a book. Only enjoy factual and practical publications, particularly about sailing and the sea.
  • I excelled at Navigation and really enjoyed it. I thought the Speed-reading was a waste of time. It may have suited people with photographic memories, but I needed time to absorb what I was reading.
  • Navigation classes were possibly the most enjoyable classes I ever undertook and, of course, only a couple of years down the track proved invaluable. Being a prolific reader, the Speed reading classes still provide benefits for me.
  • Perhaps I would have liked Navigation and excelled in it if I had known at the time that, when using the Chart of Lands End, that my ancestors lived there – one even being a keeper on the Long Ships lighthouse.
  • Yes indeed, I really enjoyed Navigation except for using the Almanac to find out about the moon and tides. But I did pass the final exam. I speed-read to this day and I liked putting myself to the test at Leeuwin.
  • They were very interesting and enjoyable, especially Navigation which was one of my HET subject qualifications. Most of my experience in speed-reading was a pre-introduction to my selected career choice as a Radio Operator Specialist (ROS).
  • I found Navigation very interesting and later on in life it came in handy when I got my pilots licence. I kept up with navigation and I ended up being one of the few stokers to spend a fair amount of time on the bridge. I failed with Speed-reading – it was not until much later in life that I realised I was slightly dyslectic.
  • Initially, I enjoyed the Navigation classes, however it became complicated mainly due to the ever-increasing mathematics and the teacher was a ditherer. I often wonder why those desiring a non seaman-like career would need to do this course. The Speed-reading sessions were the best course of instruction I have ever undertaken and are still of enormous benefit for me.
  • I thought the Speed-reading was a load of crap at the time but I believe it helped me later in life. I didn’t mind the Navigation classes but I seemed to manage grounding my ship during most of the exercises. Fortunate for all that I did not end up being a seaman officer. 
  • The things that I did enjoy at Leeuwin were mostly practical disciplines. Navigation and Seamanship classes were particularly helpful later, as I have been a sailor all my life. Being able to plot a course, tie knots and splice ropes formed the backbone of my life on the sea. Having become a LAMET also helps tremendously in being able to read weather charts.
  • I did enjoy learning Navigation, however as I became an Electrician it was a bit useless. I remember the Speed-reading sessions and also a class where we were shown a bunch of photos and we had to say if we thought if we were more attractive than the person in the photo. The mind boggles as to what that was all about.
  • Didn’t enjoy Navigation all that much at the time. I failed it by positioning the HMAS Melbourne 20 miles inland on top of the Great Dividing Range. However, I have since used some of these learnings when navigating yachts in the Mediterranean Sea. Enjoyed Speed-reading, and have since done similar courses in Civvy Street.
  • Yes, I enjoyed Nav very much. I already had small boat experience, sailing and fishing with my uncle – including navigation at night. It was good to build on that knowledge and the experience kept all the new geodetic and radio navigation information very relevant. I couldn’t see the value in Speed-reading, though, for anything technical. Maybe speed-reading novels, newspapers and magazines is OK, but for me, I needed to read technical detail carefully, slowly and re-read everything until I thoroughly comprehended and could recall the facts.



  1. Did you enjoy the other Instruction at the school like English, Maths and Physics?  


  • Big no.
  • I did enjoy Physics, not so much English. Maths was OK.
  • Total waste of time.
  • Yes, with my favourite being English.
  • Loved both Maths and Physics. English was marginal and boring.
  • Yes, to an extent.  
  • Not really. 
  • Not particularly. 
  • Physics was OK. 
  • I enjoyed all the academic subjects
  • No, I wasn’t into Maths & Physics, ‘tho I did enjoy English.
  • No, but it was part of life.
  • Yes, all of them.
  • Not much. I thought I had left school.
  • Did them under sufferance, but the diversity helped the process.
  • Physics yes, Maths not my strongest.  
  • No, not really.
  • Liked English and Maths, but no to Physics.
  • Yes, enjoyed it immensely.
  • Maths and Physics, yeah. English sucks.
  • Maths and Physics great, English not so. Have improved since then.
  • I think I had a thirst for knowledge, but was too immature to understand. 
  • English – yes. Maths and Physics, regrettably, did not hold a great interest for me.
  • I knew there was benefit in it for me and I was reasonably intelligent, so it wasn’t a struggle to pass the exams.
  • I was happy with it all. The Physics proved a great background for my EMC’s course.
  • The instructors seemed a bit different to those I had at school, so I found that I was enjoying learning these subjects again.
  • Yes, mostly, but it was just a rescrub of what I did at schoolprior to joining. Remembering some divisions did a higher level than others.
  • English I did not enjoy, only acquiring pass marks. But with Maths and Physics I could gain top marks as I did at school.
  • All classes were basically the same as in the normal education system.
  • Physics was my best subject at state high school, but failed me in getting into Nirimba. Enjoyed the rest.
  • English and Maths, as Mr U explained everything to us.
  • Had no problem, but had covered most at school beforehand. Yes, gave me a grounding and interest in all of the education provided.
  • Not much.
  • I particularly liked English and was pretty good at it. The other two – not quite so.
  • Generally, yes. I was not very good at Maths and still struggle with non-arithmetic problems.
  • I liked Mathsand Physics, but English was not me. That’s why I became a good stoker. 
  • The homework and study period each weeknight was new to me, as my parents had never encouraged us to study.
  • Maths, English & Physics were OK. I was good at English but not a Rhodes scholar when it came to Maths and Physics.
  • Maths and Physics were interesting and understandable but English was not my strong suit.
  • Putting it bluntly, Maths and Physics were way beyond me and I was pretty lazy. I did, however, pass English.
  • English and Physics were wonderful. Mathematics was a problem as Lt U, a Maths genius, could not really teach the subject well.
  • I can’t say that I enjoyed these subjects as I joined the Navy to get out of school. However, I did much better at these subjects than I had at high school.
  • The way Maths, English and Science were presented was different to that which I had been used to at school, and did not have a great impact.
  • If it were not for the intervention of the Training Officer, I would have been kicked out for initially failing my ET1.
  • Enjoying these classes is possibly not the right statement, but they certainly filled some gaps in my education levels and increased my ability to use them.
  • Yes, very much. I saw it as very necessary to training in my preferred branch. I liked the ‘schoolies’ and their techniques. I had a much better school learning experience at Leeuwin compared to my old high school experience.
  • A lot of extra learning was necessary to achieve the required subject standards. Extra tuition was provided but, because I had not done Advanced Maths or Physics at high school to Year 3, it was a struggle.
  • Loved English. OK with the Maths (it was fairly basic), however the Physics was new to me (the only science I had done prior was Biology). I didn’t enjoy it much but it was probably useful later. I did HET British Naval History and General Knowledge subjects also, but that was after Leeuwin.
  • Not particularly. I think it was in a Maths class when the instructor said that if I didn’t buck up he wouldn’t recommend me for the Topman’s course. My reply, ‘I don’t want to be an officer anyway, sir’ went over like a lead balloon and funnily enough I didn’t get recommended.  


  1. What didn’t you like about the routines?  Getting up at dawn, perhaps? Or no leave for the first 6 weeks?


  • No problem, good learning curve.
  • All the routines began to get a bit boring after the first 6 months.
  • Chooks!
  • I enjoyed or, should I say, relaxed into the routines.
  • PT at 0600, especially in winter.
  • Just accepted those things as ‘that’s the way it is in the Navy’.
  • No problems with any of these.
  • Duty watch.
  • Didn’t bother me. Rather liked it.
  • Loved the routines.
  • Never really worried me.
  • No problem with routines, still luv ‘em.
  • Got used to it, still do it today.
  • I enjoyed every bit of it.
  • Yes, these practices were accepted and taken on.
  • No leave, definitely.
  • No leave, compulsory church, those bloody cross-countries (hate, hate, hate).
  • Neither worried me at the time.
  • The indoctrination phase was, at best, a pain in the ….! 
  • Was OK. 
  • The ‘no leave’ bit didn’t bother me. 
  • T.
  • They were the routines at the time, so I accepted them.
  • Routines were no problem as I was very fit when I joined up.
  • Accustomed quite easily – had always got up before sunrise prior to the Navy.
  • All good. 
  • I didn’t like getting up at six and avoided it as much as possible.
  • Quite hard to adapt at first, but no problems. 
  • Still remember PT and being locked in my locker, especially during winter, to escape the torture.
  • I had no issues with this; it was part of the deal. Still get up early everyday – normallyaround 0530.
  • Getting up at dawn, particularly not being able to sleep in on weekends. Morning exercise classes.
  • Always up early for MUP. Wearing winter rig when it was hot, or summer rig when it was cold. No leave for 6 weeks was OK.
  • Used to it, as I was up at this time normally for early swimming training before going to high school.
  • Looking back on that time one can see the reasoning, but it did allow us to gel as a group, and discover routine.
  • Didn’t like getting up early in winter, but can’t remember worrying about the lack of leave.
  • Liked everything, rifle drill, precision marching, put some swagger into you lot!
  • Was used to getting up early for swimming training, but not a fan of six weeks on base.
  • I honestly cannot remember disliking any routine; was just so hungry and $3.00 didn’t go far.
  • At the time, it didn’t matter much as everyone else was doing the same thing. It was just the way it was.
  • I was quite happy with the routines, we had a lot on the farm including getting up early, still continues today.
  • Getting up at dawn in winter was tough, especially as I was from central Queensland. 
  • I enjoyed the routines. Previous to joining Leeuwin I was a Sea Cadet so I had an idea of routine.
  • At first, the early mornings and then straight into PT was daunting, but as I got used to the routine I really enjoyed it.
  • At that stage of my life I was looking for a leader. I found one at Leeuwin so I enjoyed the routines, however menial some were.
  • Routines, I think we grew into. All part of discipline and something that benefited me in my 34 years as a professional fire fighter.
  • Kit musters and trying to get your washing and ironing done on time with only 2 boilers and sinks.
  • Did not mind them at all. The bed inspections and kit musters were a bit much to take at times, but understood.
  • I thought it was a bit hard at first, but got used to it as we didn’t have much choice.
  • Those activities were no problem to me, as I came from a farm – getting up early and working hard.
  • I didn’t mind the routines as it set a way of doing things, and I didn’t get into to much trouble if I worked along those lines. 
  • Not fussed about either of these. But I did manage to get leave for one weekend when my parents visited Perth and I was able to go away with them.
  • Same as at home, but I didn’t have to cut the firewood. No leave was ordinary, but I didn’t have any rabbit traps to set so I lived with it.
  • I did not like the ‘Mill’ fights. I had a badly dislocated jaw after one of the fights, and nothing was done about it by the sick bay staff at the time. 
  • The tropical routine was my favourite and I still like the early start. The day went fast and you had all this time in the afternoon to relax and enjoy time with your mates.
  • I love a good sleep in and that was never possible, not even on a Sunday morning. No leave initially was hard but when it did eventually happen, it was magic.
  • It never worried me. In fact, I think that the routines stood us in good stead. No leave for 6 weeks was a bit hard to take; maybe they thought that we would all run away if we were let loose.
  • Wasn’t too fazed about most of the activities. I pretty much accepted the discipline and understood it was part of the process of getting through Leeuwin.
  • Routines kept you busy, early rising was not a problem. The heat of Tropical North Qld made this a normal event. Not knowing what leave was all about, I didn’t miss it or pine for it.
  • Honestly, I cannot say that I disliked any of the routines. Having lost my father at 3 years old and brought up in a female dominated house (single mother, sister, grandmother, aunty) I think I appreciated the structure.
  • Getting up at dawn, perhaps, or no leave for the first 6 weeks. I was quite used to being up early having had morning paper rounds for years before. The six weeks of confinement was tough.
  • Being a WA native I guess this was a little hard to take because I missed the ability to continue my football, but as it was something that was common to all of us, it wasn’t all that difficult to live with. Also, you knew it wasn’t forever.
  • Somewhat different, but I quickly learnt without bucking the system too much. More free time would have been good. Leave was good, especially having a sponsor family and away trips with the Naval Reserve Band (and treated as men).
  • Leave didn’t worry me until I had no money. Forced study time – what a waste of staff time.After a month we were all tired, so getting up before the sun was something we did with our eye closed until the PTI got hold of us. Part-of-ship – great, no school!  
  • Getting up wasn’t too bad as I used to getting up very early and going for walks.Also fished a lot from the Loved my fishing and still do a bit, but physically disadvantaged nowadays. The leave was not a real concern for me, from memory, as I knew nobody and did not go too far.
  • The routines did not worry me a great deal. We had good divisional Pox’s who helped a lot. I used to dislike with passion some PE instructors aka Stroppy R. I think everyone was getting a bit toey after the 6 weeks – except those involved in the great escape over the fence on a Friday night and came back into the waiting arms of the Naval Police. 
  • The routines were, how shall I say, rather different to what I was used to at home. I still remember one occasion in the first few days when the Topman told us in no uncertain terms what he would do with our beds if we were not out of them instantly. I remember it was not going to be pleasant. No leave for the first six weeks didn’t bother me that much, except we had our first weekend cancelled because a class member did not iron his shirt. He did so in future.
  • The routines were OK – sort of as expected and we knew it would ease up eventually. What I didn’t like was punishment routines. Discipline by the instructors and fellow JRs was not always meted out with fairness and even-handedness. It was too easy to get on the wrong side of things and too hard to be everyone’s mate and the perfect recruit all the time. Chooks and leave stoppages were tough, group punishment was really unfair and bastardization was crap. Fortunately I could stand up to that.



  1. Did you like compulsory church; remember the milkshakes at the local cafe or Seaman’s Mission?


  • Yeah, it was ok.
  • Loved church. It was a break and enabled us to get out and about.
  • Oh it was OK, but don’t remember much about it to be honest.
  • The long march there and back definitely filled the Sundays.
  • Accepted church easily, as this also figured in my earlier life.
  • Liked the march to church. Did a few afternoons at the Mission.
  • Only because it got me out of Leeuwin for a while. 
  • Only the milk shakes and going to the Mission to play snooker.
  • Not much, long march, liked playing pool at Stella Maris.
  • It was an outing. 
  • I didn’t mind the church outings, as I got off the base. 
  • Just part of our training.
  • Disliked church, I cannot remember the Seaman’s Mission.
  • No to church. Milkshakes were good.
  • I hated compulsory church.
  • I recall not enjoying church, being agnostic.
  • Did not like compulsory church – no memory of milkshakes.
  • Never went to church parade.
  • Can’t remember too much about weekends.
  • Not a problem really, except in the rain.
  • Got out of it if you had Sponsors Leave till 1600 Hrs. on a Sunday.
  • No problem at all here as I had been doing it for the previous three years.
  • Did not like compulsory church. Got 5 days punishment for skipping church. 
  • Got me off the depot for the morning. Remember the Seaman’s Mission well.
  • Not much.
  • Enjoyed the church as I had previous experience with Salvation 
  • No recollection of church.
  • Only the milkshakes.
  • And don’t remember any milkshakes (maybe only for OPDs).
  • Wasn’t fussed.
  • Church, no problem; don’t remember the Mission or the milkshakes.
  • Played rugby, so no need for church, hahaha.
  • I hated going to church. I am now a devout atheist. Enjoyed the Seaman’s Mission and, afterwards, taking in the latest movies with Eddie S.
  • I really did not like the church parade, and skulked it in the roof of the heads on a number of occasions.
  • Not much, but it got us out and about – and the march down the river was great.
  • Not really; thought it was a complete waste of a good Sunday morning sleep in.
  • Not being religious type, it didn’t worry me. Thought it was a day out; marching there and back.
  • To escape from Leeuwin was important. I was lucky and was sponsored by a local family. 
  • As a practising Catholic at the time, compulsory church was not an issue. I do remember the Seaman’s Mission, lots of fond memories.
  • I didn’t remain a protestant for very long as they had to march to church, the Catholics got the bus. ‘Hail Mary mother of God.’
  • No, only because I felt like I was over it. Don’t remember milkshakes or the Seaman’s Mission. 
  • Brief recollection of the Seaman’s Mission, but lots of memories of Port Beach and drinks from the kiosk.
  • What milkshakes? Went to early church – more time to get ready for leave.
  • I am a devout Christian and whilst at Leeuwin I took the opportunity to be confirmed in my church.
  • At home I was marched off to Sunday school, so this was just another phase plus a chance to see what was outside the fence. 
  • Wasn’t impressed with the compulsory church but did spend quite a bit of time at the Seaman’s Mission in Fremantle
  • As part of the routine, you did what was expected of you so you went along with it. Milkshakes, great.
  • Compulsory church set me up to become a practicing atheist. I do attend infrequently now, just in case there is some truth in the teachings. 
  • Wasn’t that pleased about the march up the hill. I think the church site serves a better purpose as a private hospital. My daughter was christened at the Seaman’s Mission and her name was on the bell.
  • Church was never a problem as I attended church before I joined the RAN. Never went to cafes or the Seaman’s Mission. I used to go out to sponsor families’ places on weekend leave.
  • Can’t say I remember the milkshakes, but didn’t mind marching to church as it got me off the base and let me know there were other people out there.
  • Didn’t worry me; enjoyed the Sunday morning march (stroll) to church – got me awayfrom Leeuwin for a short while. Went to the Seaman’s Mission only a handful of times.
  • Not being overly religious it was just something that had to be endured to reach your anticipated end goal. And to be honest it took more effort to get out of it than to participate.
  • I was a churchgoer before I joined, so going to church didn’t bother me. Having another ‘seniors moment’ because I can’t remember the milkshakes or Seaman’s Mission.
  • Before the Navy, it was compulsory for me to attend church and Sunday school, as my mother was a staunch Christian. I remember enjoying marching alongside the Swan River past the oyster beds on a sunny Sunday morning.
  • Can’t remember the milkshakes but vaguely remember the Seaman’s Mission. I do remember hiding in the ceiling of the old dongas to escape church and I wasn’t alone. Luckily, I was never caught by the crushers!
  • I liked going to church before I joined, but given the opportunity to leave Leeuwin for a while to go to Church and the Seaman’s Mission gave us all a different outlook and something to look forward to.
  • Yes, I think we gave the Seaman’s Mission ‘rum-flavoured’ a bit of a hiding. Church was a nice diversion; I remember that march down opposite the Oyster Bar – there were bananas growing, something I hadn’t seen before.
  • I am not a religious person. I think I learnt to dislike religion by having to attend Sunday school and a C of E primary school where one was overloaded! Time spent at the Seaman’s Mission was enjoyable, not much of a milkshake person (then or now!).
  • I found the long march to the Presbyterian Church, followed by the sermon and march back again, very tedious. With little money to spend I spent my weekends with relatives for the first 6 months and a sponsor for the second six months. 
  • I never liked church as I am agnostic, but it was over soon enough. But being a Welshman, I love singing and listening to hymns. I cannot remember the local café and never went to Seaman’s Mission. I was a quiet sort of bloke and was terrified of being late or doing the wrong thing.
  • Hated it; made to go to church before I joined up, and then still had to go. I probably knew more of the sermon than the padre. Don’t remember milkshakes. Dirtied our No 1 uniform, marching up the hill. Can’t remember what the prodo’s did after church. 
  • Not being a church going person, it really pissed me off. Catholics went by bus and the rest of us (OPD) had to march. First time I went to church the bloke up the front tried to drown me, the next time I went I got stuck with the misses so there won’t be a third time.
  • Well, I didn’t mind church. I had a fairly religious upbringing, and I could use the knowledge from religious experience to draw comfort and solace when needed. Leeuwin could, at times, be a very lonely place in some ways if one was going through a hard time. I was smart enough, though, to keep my ‘ecclesiastical awareness’ to myself.



  1. Did you at anytime think of discharging when at Leeuwin?


  • I never saw it as an option, under any circumstances.
  • No, never.
  • No way.
  • Never crossed my mind.
  • No, but a leading hand had his eyes set on doing it for me.
  • Loved my time.
  • Never entered my mind.
  • I was generally happy with my lot most of the time.
  • No not at all, I was looking forward to getting out to the .
  • Don’t think so.
  • No, never.
  • No, no, never.
  • No way.
  • No thoughts at all, my family would not accept that. 
  • Definitely not.
  • Didn’t know I could, but I think I enjoyed it too much.
  • Not really. I just keep the graduation target in sight and rode the wave.
  • I was looking forward to getting out into the real Navy life to see the world.
  • No! That came after 7-8 years and getting married. I really enjoyed my Navy life up until then.
  • Got quite homesick but learnt how to write letters and it was comforting hearing from my family.
  • I don’t think so. I couldn’t have faced everyone back in my hometown if I had quit.
  • Only in the first couple of hours after arriving at Leeuwin, and when frog marching in the drains with a rifle above my head.
  • No, I was just looking forward to getting my tid suit and going to sea, and later on doing my category course.
  • Not really, however when I was doubling around the parade ground late at night I often wondered what I had gotten myself into.
  • I got used to the routines and discipline very early and, other than the usual bullying from the bigger boys, I survived OK. No thought of discharging from the RAN at that time.
  • But it was pretty low at times of the bastardisation and general bullying for no real reason except ‘to toughen you up’, which was different to tough discipline. 
  • No, but I was advised by my uncle that, if I wanted to leave the Navy, to call him. He was a Brigadier in the Army. This was in Melbourne on that bloody train trip after the first 6 months.   
  • Discharging was the last thing on my mind. There were moments, especially during No 9s on the parade ground, when it fleetingly crossed my mind. That said, I wasn’t going to give in.



  1. When did you decide on what category you wished to pursue?  Did you get allocated that category?


  • Before I joined. Yes.
  • Right from the beginning I wanted to be an Electrician.
  • Naval Stores was picked for me, and I had no regrets.
  • At the end of the year, and
  • Before I joined and, yes, I got what I was after.
  • I got the category that I wanted.
  • After about the first 6 months. My leading seaman was a good role model.
  • Prior to joining – yes.
  • Decided after about 9 months, and was allocated to what I selected.
  • Always enjoyed airplanes. Got exactly what I wanted.
  • When on the Sydney.
  • Was undecided, didn’t get where I was originally placed.
  • I decided on engineering as my first choice, and managed to jag it. 
  • When I joined up I wanted to be a stoker and never regretted one minute.
  • Engine room on Diamantina. Yes – M(E).
  • I was given the category of greenie, wanted to be a Clearance Diver.
  • After about 9 months and, yes, I did get my category.
  • It was recommended after my Topman course to move into the Supply section – hence became a Writer.
  • I started off as a birdie Handler, but once I found out my sea time would be limited, I changed to QMG.
  • Yes, asked for Communications Operator (CO) and got CO, with Writer second choice.
  • I always wanted to be a Naval Airman, but ended up as Under Water Control (it was very interesting).
  • At the last minute, was going Clearance Diver, but changed to Communications. 
  • That I’m not sure of, I nearly became a Clearance Diver but then decided to become a ‘Greenie’ as I thought that, long term, this might be the best option.
  • I think about 9 months into the year, after we had instruction on different categories.
  • On entry. I was allocated a REM, but changed at sea to a ME to ultimately get a Mechanics course to pursue a trade.
  • Not a lot of consultation during this early phase. Upon return to Leeuwin as a JR1.
  • Joined hoping to be a Radio Operator and was successful.
  • Applied for Radar, and got it.
  • Joined the Navy to be a Clearance Diver, and was accepted for training.
  • The day they told me I had to pick one. To be a PTI, it had to be in a Seaman category.
  • Just before the completion of the second 6 months. I asked for, and was allocated, the Communication category – which I later changed to Writer.
  • Probably about 3 weeks before a decision was asked for. I wanted to be a greenie, but was told I would be a better Communicator.
  • I didn’t get to decide as they were short of Communicators and I was to be one. I had put all Seaman categories first. Bit of a joke really.
  • Before I joined up I wanted to be a Signalman, but became a sparker instead, so I guess I got part of it, i.e. Communications.
  • I selected my category, and after our Ord (Various) training I chose that category.
  • I got allocated my category after my first preference could not be pursued, due to a medical condition.
  • Three choices and I got Steward. Nothing of what I wanted. Ended up a Clearance Diver though.
  • Not sure when, although I wanted to be a Writer. I remember putting Electrician first though, as I knew I wouldn’t get it, having failed the subject dismally.
  • I chose Electrical and was allocated Aircraft Electrical, as they were rebuilding the Fleet Air Arm – a trade that I maintained my whole working life and loved it.
  • Very early on. Wanted to be a Seaman (Gunnery) STB crew, Seamanship, etc., but no – told me I would be a Communicator. As it turned out, they were right and I was wrong (Signalman).
  • Sure did. Can still see my Divisional Officer’s (a gunnery type) eyes widening when I told him I wanted to be a Stores rate so I could get all-nighters, hahaha.
  • When they gave me the list of categories I was eligible for. I originally planned to train as a Cook, but finished up with EMC as my first preference, Cook as my second and Photographer as my third – quite diversified.
  • Didn’t get a choice, was told what I was destined for – greenie. After service, I loved working with figures. Always thought I would have liked to try pay branch.
  • I talked it over with a couple of mates and my leading seaman. He didn’t think Clearance Diving was a good idea, but I wanted to give it a go. I had never seen diver in my life, only pictures. I got it.
  • My first 3 choices were stoker, stoker, stoker. Always wanted to be a stoker from when I joined the Naval Cadets. Only 2 categories – stokers and those who wanted to be stokers. 
  • At Leeuwin, was allocated Communicator.On HMAS Vampire, changed to Naval Airman (HMAS Melbourne). HMAS Albatross Naval Airman Airframes Engines (wanted SE). 
  • After I was at sea on Diamantina, where I watched the fish-heads in the wind and rain, compared to the Writers in their cosy office. Yes, I achieved the Writer category.
  • From the outset. I was always focussed on the Communications branch and was delighted when I was able to get into radio, and over the moon when I got (S). I think I would have had problems as a ‘bunting tosser’.
  • Probably towards the end of the 12 months. Can’t recall when we were required to nominate our preferred category. My older brother was a birdie greenie at Albatross, so I guess this had some influence on me opting for a Naval Air Mechanic (AE). I was allocated to this category.
  • I wanted to be a Communicator (C) but was told that I would be better suited as an Electrician (EMP) as I had a higher intelligence (?) Somewhat pissed off when the pay rates were reviewed and the C rating received more than the EMP.
  • When I left the Topman’s course and went to sea I was in contact with my ‘mentor’, a Lt Cdr, who thought that I should apply for NAMET and put it on my application as preference 1, 2, and 3. When I fronted the selection panel, they questioned me on that unprecedented preference, but granted it.
  • Very early in my Leeuwin time, as I needed a Seaman category and a P.O. rank to become a Coxswain, and it would keep me out of Victoria. Having reached the rank of P.O., much to my disgust the Coxswain branch was absorbed/amalgamated into the Regulating branch and I didn’t wish to do that. However, certainly no regrets.
  • My father was a cook in the Army during WW2, my mother was a cook in the RAF in WW2 and my grandfather was a cook in the Merchant Navy. (Also during WW2, his ships were torpedoed 3 times and he survived them all.) It seems to have been a foregone conclusion as to what I would do. Yes.
  • I think it was after my time on Melbourne that I decided that I wanted to be part of the Electrical branch and applied for the  ‘C’ course which I got at Cerberus. Wish I’d applied for the ‘WE’ course because most of that category went off to the States for the DDGs on completion of their course.
  • I think we had about 26 choices from memory. I was originally going to be a Seaman, but changed it to Communicator, mainly because a few school friends had joined prior to me and were all Signalmen. I eventually became a Signalman, turned out a very good move as Signalmen did a fair bit of Seamanship as well, so a bit of both worlds in my view.
  • My first choice was Photographer as my uncle used to be a Phot in the UK and my second choice was sparker because Perry W’s brother was one. I learned a little bit about it when on DuchessThankfully, I got to be a Radio Operator as I probably would not have been accepted at Nowra due to my weight and lack of fitness – getting on helicopters and doing transfers, etc.
  • One lunchtime on Melbourne, as an Ord in the Electrical Department, I fell asleep on the deck in 2 Papa Mess. At ‘Out Pipes’ everyone in the mess left me sleeping and later, unbeknownst to me, I was being piped to the Electrical Office. I was eventually woken with a size 10 to the stomach and the words of the Chief Electrician, ‘Whose F@#**ing Navy do you think you’re in, sailor’.
  • Well initially, I thought I would like to be a Cook. Still cut up onions as shown by a Cook at Leeuwin. I wrote home telling my parents that I’d like to be a Cook. My mother wrote back to me that if I became a Cook, don’t bother coming home! So while having dental treatment I decided to join the Dental Branch.
  • Originally, I wanted to be a ‘birdie’ and do Airframes and Engines but at the time I had no idea that it was a very small selection. When I asked the selection committee about that, they said that they didn’t want any of them. ‘How about being a stoker,’ they asked. I didn’t fancy that, as I had seen what was involved during our ‘sea time’ on Diamantina. I was asked to go away and think about it overnight, and when I went back I replied that I liked working on engines not inside them. They then offered me the Electrical branch, which I accepted and never looked back.
  • I decided quite early that I wanted to be a Radio Operator. However, when I finished the first few weeks at Signal School, the only choices available in Comms were RO (S) and Data Operator (DO). RO (S) guys didn’t send Morse code, so I didn’t regard them as true radio operators. I chose DO (even though I didn’t know what they did) so I could be reunited with my WRAN girlfriend at HMAS Harman. As a result, I spent the next fifty years working in Information Technology.
  • I was asked to undertake a few interviews for ‘up-classing’ from Nakina 4 to Kiaba 1 or 2 as a prospective Leading JR. I chose to move to Kiaba 1, as a JR1, to suit my Communications ambitions as an ROS. I wish I had known what my future would bring and my reluctant request for discharge (PUNS) from the Navy. All to do with the Navy’s decision to re-classify some of the Specialist Radio Operators working in the IT security intelligence areas within Navy (enough said the better). This affected 63 officers and other ranks from 1969 to 1971.
  • I always wanted to be a dib dab (Seaman), but many of my duty nights I worked in the scullery in addition to washing pots and pans. The cooks used to give us cookery lessons and ideas. I formed the opinion that perhaps a chef would be way to go. However my family vetoed this. Another reason I enjoyed working in the scullery was a copious supply of fresh cold milk. I eventually chose to be a QMG and I stayed in the branch for six years, rising to the rank of LSQMG. After that I transferred to the then Regulating Branch as a Leading Patrolman and subsequently a Coxswain. After that, I joined the Naval Police.
  • I asked to be an aircraft mechanic as my father was in the RAAF during the Second World War. When asked why, I replied, ‘My father was an aircraft mechanic during WW2. I always like pulling things apart and putting them back together, so I would like to make this my career’. The interviewer replied, ‘What a very mature answer from someone so young’. They wanted me to be a stoker, and I said, ‘no way’. Then I was told I would be an armourer, and again I said, ‘no way’. Finally, I started my training on the good old UH1B Iroquois helicopter in 723 Squadron. Then Trackers, and the good old C47 Dakota.




  1. Did you enjoy the Friday night dances?


  • Don’t really remember them.
  • Not really – still cannot dance!
  • I was very introverted and later in life learnt that I was on the Autism Scale.
  • Social occasions were not a highlight for me.
  • Of course!
  • Not really. I was shy and not really interested anyway. 
  • Bit nervous – girl germs – lol.
  • As I was ugly, they were a chore. 
  • Yes, but not much of a dancer
  • Think so.
  • I did go to some, but they were not a big priority for me.
  • No not really – I was too shy and naïve, at that stage, to enjoy it. 
  • Yes, my favourite was the Pride of Erin.
  • Shit, yeah.
  • Not really, but it was an outside activity that broke the cycle.
  • Bit awkward with the ladies, then,
  • Only attended very occasionally.
  • In 63, didn’t know there were dances on.
  • Strangely enough, I can’t remember them.
  • Was nice to fraternise with the opposite gender.
  • A bit of fun, something different.
  • Sort of, can’t really remember.
  • Didn’t go. 
  • I can’t remember.
  • Too shy! 
  • Loved them.
  • I didn’t go to them because I was too shy and couldn’t dance.
  • They were good, but I was a bit shy and didn’t speak to many young women.
  • I cannot even remember much about them, to tell you the truth.
  • Can’t remember going to many, one at the end of the year.
  • Didn’t attend every one, but enjoyed the ones I went to.
  • Loved them.
  • Yes, good fun, learned to dance a little.
  • Did not enjoy the dances as I never attended them. 
  • Yes, met some nice girls and loved the dancing (Rock and Roll).
  • Yes, I guess so but wasn’t into chasing sheilas in those days.
  • Didn’t go.
  • Don’t remember anything about the dances.
  • Don’t remember them, the photos were a real surprise to me.
  • Who didn’t?
  • Very much.
  • It was OK.
  • Absolutely, didn’t everyone?
  • They were OK, at least we could mix with some females instead of our oppos.
  • Attended two. Always too many JRs and not a lot of single young ladies.
  • Had a girl friend at home, who has now been my wife for 54 years. I had no interest in the Friday night dances.
  • They were OK, however I managed to win a squarie but, when she paid me off, I did not care for the dances.
  • Cannot recall ever going to them. I would have been too shy with the young hostesses.
  • Never danced at my wedding. Did dance in Subic Bay with the bar girls to Black is Black, I Want My Baby Back.
  • I was a piss poor dancer but I actually met my first wife there, got married at the age of 19 and divorced 9 years later.
  • I was too stupid and scared to get up and dance, and that is one of the things I will always regret. Talk about being dumb.
  • Not particularly. It wasn’t the same as going to the ‘Y’ with old mates back home, especially having to wear rig.
  • Did not go very often. Had a girlfriend who lived on the other side of Perth and she could not come.
  • My memory is still reasonable, but I can’t honestly remember going to possibly more than one.
  • I guess so, but can’t recall much about them – so that suggests they didn’t have much impact on me. Certainly made no lasting friendships from them.
  • Friday night dances were enjoyable. It wasn’t until you were a JR1 that you got to know the ropes and got to know the girls better.



  1. Did you enjoy the sports and the compulsory cross-country?


  • Yes, most definitely.
  • Tennis only. Hated the cross-country.
  • I was indifferent to them.
  • Yes – any sport meant time off.
  • Not really a fan of those.
  • Most certainly.
  • No way, hated it with a passion.
  • Sports were OK, cross-country the pits.
  • Sport was OK, but knew a few short cuts in the cross-country.
  • I did enjoy the cross country because I found something I could do.
  • Certainly did.
  • Yes, much so.
  • Enjoyed sports, cross-country runs were not my thing.
  • As always, any sport was enjoyable and welcome, well, maybe not the Mill.
  • Cross-country? Not particularly. Team sports? Yes.
  • Sports – yes. Cross-country – no (hate, hate, hate).
  • Yes, anything to do with sport or physical activity – I loved.
  • Got to play hockey for Leeuwin, hated the cross-country.
  • Enjoyed the sport but hated the cross-country runs.
  • Enjoyed all sports, could not beat Alan S or Neil G. 
  • Enjoyed the sports, although the cross-country was not my favourite.
  • Not the cross-country.
  • Sport and cross-country were a part of my thing. I played a lot of hockey following on from school.
  • My sport of choice was rowing with Ken, up until that time I hated sport. Ken gave me the opportunity.
  • I was never much of a sportsman, preferring mucking around in boats. The best thing about the cross-countries was finishing.
  • I enjoyed the sports, but not the cross-country. Later in life, though, I was a keen jogger (about 20 to 30 miles per week).
  • Yes, both. It was good to learn about other sports, except boxing (2 bouts were enough).
  • I did enjoy most sports and athletics, but not particularly the cross-country. I preferred shorter distances, which I did well at.
  • Excelled at most sports and found this to be an outlet from the serious curriculum. 
  • Very much. Loved the boxing, basketball and cricket (for which I got the trophy). 
  • Sports, yes. X-country, not if you had to run it 2 or 3 times because others cheated.
  • Yes, I did enjoy the sport and physical activities. Did not enjoy the cross-country that much, but the exercise was building.
  • As for the cross-country, an old sailor told me ‘don’t come first and don’t come in last’. 
  • Not being a great runner, the cross-country was a bit hard – but once over, I felt great.
  • Yes, always enjoyed sport and even morning PT, but really disliked the skulkers who made it difficult for those who attended correctly.
  • I tried very hard to qualify for various teams, including rowing, but was never selected. I was never particularly athletic, but enjoyed playing hockey.
  • Yes, except when we were sent around again because someone was caught taking a short cut and he being sent for a shower while we went around again. That Stroppy R was a bastard.
  • I enjoyed sports more in the last six months as, being a LJR, I was able to work it. If our div was doing something I liked, I went. If the div I lived with did something different, I went there.  
  • It was OK, I suppose, but the boxing wasn’t my thing. There was already enough biffo going on up in the blocks. I liked track and field and any opportunity to go sailing on the river. 
  • Cross-country was one of my better abilities, and the other sports were good. I also did join the JR lightweight rowing 8, in which we were very successful. Ken R was our coach and he was very good at helping us achieve great results.
  • No, to me PT, sports, cross-country were a form of sadistic punishment administered by a group of physical sadists – PTIs. Henceforth, any form of physical activity always represented punishment.
  • Cannot say I enjoyed the cross-country runs – running has never been my thing! Had a short stint with the rowing team and enjoyed that, but must not have been all that good at it as I never competed in any events.
  • Loved soccer, rowing and high diving – luckily I missed the compulsory cross-country, except for an experimental run along the Swan River, swim across and back again – very exhausting, that’s why we did it only once in the second term.
  • Boxing was interesting, especially when two mates had to challenge each other. Needless to say – the Mill was their outcome. Cross country, mm! Not so much, especially when JRs were caught skulking, and the just-completed course had to be rerun.
  • I was pretty good at all sport and so it wasn’t a chore to participate. Coming from Vic, rugby was a little foreign and I recall my first game on the wing where I ran the length of the field for a try, only to be told by the referee that I bounced the ball over the line – so no try!
  • Sports were tough at my weight and fitness, but managed well enough, I suppose. The cross-country was very tough. But I never came last or anywhere near it, due to all the bludgers and those only going halfway. As you remember, Stroppy sometimes sent us around again because of some bloke who cheated.
  • I was involved in rowing, which left very little time for any other sports. Cross-countries were a bit harrowing, especially when one particular PTI sprung anyone not completing the whole course. He let the miscreants go to their dongas and the rest of us had to run the course again. Later, justice was administered; these days it would be called ‘bastardisation’.
  • I enjoyed sport. Played squash until I called the Commander ‘mate’. Then allocated to the spare hands, from which teams could pick bodies to make up their team’s numbers. I ended up playing rugby. Had a couple of good games. Cross-country was OK until we had to go around again. Stuff that – just pretend you are going flat out and save energy for the second round. Boxing, limited tuition, up against a golden glove in my first round (beat him). Having to box against a mate in the second term wasn’t pleasant. 
  • All the sports were great, boxing was fun until I fought a junior golden gloves champ. He disturbed a few of my teeth so I decided that boxing was not for me, took up running and that was much more successful. Nothing like a good cross-country, the PTIs seemed to excel in finding or creating the most difficult courses for us. When I went back to local footy in Hurstbridge, we did run around the streets – but not quite the same as a good Navy cross-country.



  1. Did you enjoy the seamanship and ABCD


  • Yes I did, still can’t tie a knot.
  • For sure, we were in the Navy.
  • Very much.
  • Waste of time on me.
  • A new experience, good training.
  • They were of interest to me, for sure.
  • Not particularly. 
  • Yes, it was new stuff to me
  • Yes, thoroughly enjoyed both subjects.
  • Just part of the schoolwork.
  • Sure did.
  • Yes, all in all, I did.
  • Enjoyed the Seamanship course.
  • With Stan D, yes.
  • The seamanship was interesting, but I looked on ABCD as a necessary evil. 
  • Yes, very much so.
  • Very much.
  • Liked NBCD. Seamanship was too basic I thought.
  • It was a necessary schooling to prepare us for the Fleet.
  • Yes, was very interesting.
  • Yes I did, it was my bread and butter. 
  • Yes, it was something I would not have encountered in normal life.
  • I found this stuff pretty boring and had difficulty generating interest.
  • ABCD was an essential training phase as shown later on in my service.
  • Most assuredly. 
  • Yes, today I still use the skills I learnt.
  • Seamanship was OK, but I’ve forgotten what ABCD was. Used knots when sailing yachts later in life.
  • I liked Seamanship as I still use a lot of it. ABCD was something we had to know.
  • Loved boat work, and trips on the HMAS Diamantina and workboat to Rottnest Island.
  • Yes, I loved the different skills I learnt, and even being gassed in the gas mask chamber I found an experience.
  • Seamanship was good, didn’t like sitting on a DC plug that the POMTP made us sit on for playing up in class.
  • Taught me how to tie a reef knot and a bowline – never used that skill after I left Leeuwin.
  • I really looked forward to Seamanship as, in my mind at the time, it was what we were there for.
  • For some unknown reason I enjoyed Seamanship and rowing the whalers. I understood the importance of ABCD but did not particularly enjoy it.
  • Yes, and this did continue on for a few more years after Leeuwin. ABCD/NBCD was always a bit of a drag.
  • These were subjects not covered in regular schools and I found them fascinating. Probably started my interest in nuclear physics and astronomy.
  • Yes, as the Seamanship stood me in good stead in later life. ABCD was interesting, as I had never seen or heard anything like it before.
  • That was great. Seamanship was where I got taught to tie a jury knot, which I can still tie today, along with the bowline behind my back.
  • I found Seamanship particularly to my liking and the skills I learned are still relevant to me today. ABCD was interesting and a good skill to have at sea.
  • Yes, I did enjoy Seamanship and ABCD (still have my little ABCD Manual). Some Seamanship came in very handy when I was on Advance in Darwin.
  • Yes, learnt a few things out of that which I still use, i.e. knots, rope handling and general fire fighting. And learnt a few truths about the Monte Bello Island nuclear shots!
  • Fore runner to OH & S I would say, learning knots was great and the bowline is still my favourite. This training was of great value to me when I became the chief fire warden in our high rise building in Melbourne. My Navy training has shaped my life and my actions in the different work places I have been in.
  • I enjoyed both of these subjects. The instructors were seamen without an axe to grind (go Zeke). My mid-year report to my parents didn’t reflect this – it said my academics were better. Lessons learnt here and on the forecastle of Vampire stood me well in later years – as a birdie I was able to take charge of berthing parties when I was Duty CPO at Cerberus and Garden Island.
  • Seamanship was good; it helped me build on my knowledge. I already knew a lot of the terminology, rope and knot work, boat construction, etc. It was the real meat and potatoes part of being in the Navy. I found ABCD really interesting; it was all pretty new stuff for me. It really got me thinking about the prospects for survival at sea in a real punch up.
  • What kid didn’t like playing with fires, etc? I remember the time when the Chief left us in the hut to go over to the Divisional Office and one of us (can’t remember who) slipped out to go to the boys’ room. I waited inside the doorway to get him with a fire extinguisher when he returned from the toilet but to my horror the Chief beat him back to the hut and I let off the extinguisher at the Chief. Can’t remember the punishment though. 



  1. Did you mind wearing Pusser’s clothes that didn’t necessarily fit?


  • Not really.
  • No, as we tended to grow into them.
  • Had no choice – that or being naked.
  • Didn’t have an issue with ill-fitting clothes.
  • Boots that were too small – caused problems for the rest of my life.
  • Mine were pretty good
  • I must have been an odd size – mine fitted ok.
  • Had to wear something, but didn’t necessarily enjoy.
  • I guess I was lucky they had sizes that fitted my frame.
  • They fitted where they touched.
  • Some of it felt a bit odd initially.
  • Learned to live with it.
  • We were growing boys. What did we expect? 
  • No choice. 
  • Didn’t have much choice.
  • Nothing was going to fit well on my skinny frame.
  • Didn’t mind.
  • Mine fitted OK.
  • At that time, it didn’t matter – you wore a uniform.
  • Any clothes were good.
  • Had no major problems with clothes that didn’t fit.
  • Totally irrelevant to me. 
  • No, we were all in the same boat. 
  • No, they eventually fitted and then I went tiddly.
  • Not really.
  • Yes, hate clothes that don’t fit well.
  • Pusser’s clothing, for me, fitted rather well so I cannot complain.
  • Didn’t worry me.
  • Mine fitted.
  • No, I didn’t mind.
  • Not the shoes. Have had problems with feet ever since.
  • No, didn’t seem to notice, although the boots were either too big or too small.
  • They didn’t make me look any better.
  • Yes, anything was good and was quite used to uniforms.
  • I was long and skinny at the time and, surprisingly, the clothes seemed to fit.
  • Didn’t bother me, I knew how to tiddly it to make it acceptable.
  • You knew you were going to look like a dork until you left Leeuwin.
  • As a kid from a farm, having new, fairly well fitting kit was a pleasure.  
  • Only wore Pusser’s issue for the first 18 months, then found Red Anchor.
  • Never had that problem. When in the Fleet, always bought tiddly uniform.
  • Not particularly, have had feet trouble ever since. A cursory glance at my feet, then a guess at what would fit, then take them away.
  • I must have been lucky, being tall and skinny – things fitted. I thought the uniform looked good, especially with belt and gaiters.
  • I don’t remember it being a problem. I can’t say I remember anything not fitting.
  • Loved the uniforms – school uniform, navy uniform. Unfortunately, none of them fit nowadays (they must have all shrunk).
  • It took me a long while to grow into mine, but there were a lot of others in the same boat so it wasn’t really a problem.
  • Yes, it helped change the routine, but standing guard on the clothesline was a burden.
  • In those days, clothing was not a big priority for me and I found that my rig fitted me reasonably well.
  • No, not really – I had two problems that always cropped up – small head and couldn’t get caps to fit.
  • No – only that wearing them ashore in Fremantle was uncomfortable in more ways than one.
  • When I joined I was 5’2 and 8.5 stone. When I left Leeuwin I was 5’11 and 11 stone, so mine never fitted. 
  • Did not necessarily fit that well, just maintaining the various items on issue and learning the different types of dress and when to wear each of them. Relaxing in No. 8’s was my choice.
  • Not at all, I always managed and strived to appear well turned out. During my career as a Coxswain I worked under a martinet (a WOCOX) who could quote word-by-word, comma-by-comma from ABR41 – dress manual..
  • Well, no, but we really had no choice did we? I had all my uniforms altered by an auntie on my first leave. I, like most of us, visited Glendenning & Stacey to get the tiddly gear when we eventually got to Sydney in 1964.
  • Didn’t take me long to find Glendenning and Stacy – no problem after that. I remember getting issued with all our kit and it went into those big kitbags. One of our numbers was of short stature and couldn’t lift his onto his shoulder, so they gave him a wheelbarrow to get it back to our donga.
  • My boots never did fit me correctly and I think they contributed to foot problems later in life. (I went to school in bare feet until I started high school and rarely wore shoes outside of school.) The uniforms were hardly designed for comfort, but the summer uniforms weren’t too bad.
  • Still remember the victualling sailor saying, when we got our kit, ‘If it fits, bring it back and we will replace it’. An advantage was that my uncle gave me a tid uniform, complete with shot silk, faded denim colour, with individually sewn strips and extra long faded tapes. Oh, yes, and the dragons under each cuff. This was hidden under the floorboard of my locker.
  • Initially, I did not mind the fit of Pusser’s clothing. But having seen what could be done with a needle and thread, my uniform soon became transformed into a tailored look. I also learnt how to tie a tally. I ordered a tid suit when I left Leeuwin but later found out it was the wrong colour and I was not allowed to wear it at sea.
  • Because of my large size, most uniforms were either too small or too big. I put up with them, but did buy tiddly blue bells and top from Glendenning and Stacey. Plus, had one made by the tailors up top – $30, but for me $32 (extra cloth, they said). Of course Wacky Tack made me a pair of casual boots, fur-lined, in 1964. They have only recently been thrown out. But, generally – quite proud to wear the uniform.
  • Can’t remember that it bothered me at Leeuwin, but I do know that after joining the Fleet, I became a good customer of Red Anchor and Glendenning and Stacey. Was stepping ashore at Cerberus one time and fronted up to the OOD, asked permission to proceed ashore and he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘After you change your flap front trousers for regulation issue’. No sense of humour.



  1. Did you like doing your own dhobying and ironing?  Spit polishing your boots?


  • Yes, helps at home now.
  • Yes – life forming.
  • Yes, gave me a sense of responsibility.
  • Part of the routine, so got used to it. Boots were a pain.
  • Didn’t mind.
  • All part of it.
  • Was an acquired art. I still do it.
  • It was a big learning curve – still like my shoes polished (I drive the kids mad).
  • No problem for me. That’s what you do when you’re in the Navy.
  • Yes, was not a problem at all – still enjoy doing it.
  • I got on with it.
  • I knew how to wash, iron, polish my shoes, etc. before joining.
  • Still do it but have given up on the spit polished boots.
  • And whitening gaiters and webbing – what a thrill for all!
  • Just something required for us to do. Still do my own ironing.
  • Still do my dhobying.
  • I didn’t love it, but I did it.
  • It was OK once I got used to it.
  • Set me up for later life – ladies like men who can iron.
  • Same as before I joined.
  • Not my favourite past time.
  • Not a major problem. Another skill learnt, still apply that today.
  • Didn’t bother me – had to do it before I joined.
  • Did not get over-excited, but had to be done. 
  • Did not mind at all, always a bit fussy on dressing properly.
  • Did anyone?
  • My mother taught me proud, and I soon learnt how to spit polish boots.
  • No, but didn’t mind ironing.
  • Found most of this exercise useful – not sure about spit polishing boots.
  • Bit of a shock, but got used to dhobying clothes. Boots OK, as spent time in Cadets.
  • What a shock to the system, but I think we all assisted one another, and the pressure from our instructors was also a reason.
  • Not at the time. But have since impressed the opposite sex that I can do all those, and cook.
  • Using the copper boilers was a pain, but when I became an LJR I got to use the washing machines.
  • Spit polishing our shoes and boots was a Saturday morning job after you had cleaned up your donga. Very relaxing!
  • Yes, once I got used to doing it, it actually gave me a sense of achievement when it all worked out.
  • I had no problems with doing my chores. Spit polishing my boots was also good, as it was something else I learnt.
  • Washing and ironing was something I took pride in, and spit polishing was easy when you knew how.
  • Dhobying and polished boots, hated ironing, still do own washing and polish shoes.
  • Not really. At the time, I was terrified of kit musters. I still do my own washing and ironing.
  • Not particularly (we had a housemaid at home), but do all those tasks now (except the spit polishing).
  • Had to be done – mum was not there to do it for me. Punishment was worse than the polishing.
  • Great if you could find a washing machine. Boilers were usually good enough if you did not mind the waiting-time.
  • Keeping tabs on drying clothing and the problem of light fingered JRs and the replacement Q process.
  • Didn’t mind the dhobying and ironing, but found spit polishing boots extremely frustrating – could never get the hang of it.
  • Hated polishing boots, scarred me for life. Would rather buy new shoes than polish.
  • I think that washing and ironing were fine as it made me proud to wear the uniform, plus the girls liked it when you said you could sew as well.
  • Didn’t bother me – it was just routine and you had to do it or get jumped on by the instructors.
  • Never an issue for me as I did all this as a Naval Cadet prior to joining. Anyway, no one else would do it for you!
  • I considered it was all part of the experience and training required when entering any armed force.
  • Hated dhobying my clothes, but ironing was okay and spit polishing was a challenge – I didn’t mind in order to get the shine.
  • These activities were part of the transition process from kid to sailor and the better (and quicker) you became at it, the easier your life became.
  • I think you would struggle to fine anyone who enjoyed having to spend time dhobying, laundry and doing the ironing! With spit polishing, it was a challenge to achieve the perfect finish.
  • It was something expected of us and was accepted as such. Throughout life I have continued to practice these habits, much to the amusement of my fellow non-military workers.
  • Not really. Things that Ma used to look after at home took a bit of getting used to. Of course I was already familiar with spit polishing boots with my Air Cadets experience, so that was something I expected.
  • I did not like it, but had to be done. Thankfully, never lost any clothing off the line. Worked hard on my boots but they were never spectacular. My son, a Lt Col, has magnificent spit polished shoes, works hard at it.
  • The biggest problem was finding a cork to stick into the old Lightburn washing machines. It was a bit of a shock when I got to the Fleet and had to do my dhobying in a rubbish bin with a prized dhoby stick.
  • Cleaning and maintenance of kit was an essential part of life back then, and if you did it right you kept out of trouble. Dhobying, ironing, polishing boots, making bunks and keeping a neat and tidy locker were all part of staying below the radar. And they are skills I still use today.
  • This was firmly drilled into us from day one at Leeuwin. Like it not, the Navy always insisted this was required, although I found on many occasions that some did not measure up. I noticed this particularly with Cerberus recruits. When I joined my first ship, Parramatta, in 1964 we were joined by a bunch of adult recruits fresh out of Cerberus – what a scruffy bunch!
  • I suppose dhobying was a bit of a pain but ironing was okay. I can remember ironing a lot of creases in lots of pairs of bell-bottoms. I also became pretty good at tying tally bands, and using beeswax on the bows to make them look tiddly. The spit polishing was okay. On one leave, the train stopped in Adelaide and the parents of one of my mates [can’t remember who] met him at the station. The youngest member of that family (a little male brat) scuffed one of my highly spit polished shoes that I had been working on during the train journey. Mongrel!
  • Loved doing my own washing and ironing, and I have a tendency to judge people by their shoes. Clean shoes formed part of my selection criteria when interviewing people for a job. I still get all the shoes in the house together and give them a bit of spit and polish. Ironing is now my therapy and there is nothing better than a big pile of ironing and several episodes of ‘Border Security’ on a Sunday night – and it also enhances my relationship with the wife. I almost forgot that the best washing machine I ever had was the plastic bin with the pogo stick – never broke down and was also good exercise.
  • Doing the dhobying was a pain, couldn’t get near the copper unless you sucked up to someone. Yep, when duty laundry party we got to use the washing machines. Well, that is, if the kellick left the door unlocked. I remember one laundry duty when were locked out. My oppo decided to go up through the manhole and unlock the door from inside. He walked on the ceiling and fell through. Told the Docky coppers that came to investigate that the ceiling exploded with the heat (asbestos?). Having to buy my own iron through the canteen, hit the back pocket. The towel got a flogging when we ironed our cloths on the study table. I think we polished our boots without thinking. It was a good social time, sitting on the grass at the back of the donger, spitting and polishing and having a good yak.



  1. Did Leeuwin practices alter your personality and help you mature?


  • It certainly did – just matured a bit too slowly.
  • Certainly did. Helped make my life easy, later in life.
  • Most certainly.
  • Yes, I matured.
  • Very much so.
  • Very much so.
  • Yes, helped me grow mentally.
  • I don’t thinks so (I subsequently found I have autism).
  • Yes – made me more self-reliant.
  • Yes, very quickly.
  • I am sure they did.
  • Definitely, especially when joining the Fleet after JRTE.
  • I became more confident and grew up very quickly.
  • Made me grow up and not concentrate on my turbulent past.
  • They sure did.
  • Helped to mature us.
  • Yes, grew up fast.
  • Would say yes to mature.
  • I think so. It was new stuff and different.
  • I do not think so, but I am sure it helped me mature.
  • Yes, respect for others, always on time.
  • Anyone who didn’t mature at Leeuwin, never would.
  • Leeuwin taught us discipline and mateship. I had a lot of good times with those around me.
  • Hell, yes, pretty happy all the time. Maturity – now there’s a thing – I keep promising to grow up and I’m getting close now.
  • Yes, Leeuwin definitely changed my personality, for the better I think, and helped me mature.
  • This was noticeable when I returned home on leave and found it difficult to mix with old school friends.
  • My personality didn’t change much from being at Leeuwin, and I believe that maturity came on the Vampire.
  • I believe it took away our experience of being a teenager. I think we all left Leeuwin as adults in kids’ bodies.
  • Definitely, meeting friends when on leave back in Cairns indicated how much I had matured in comparison.
  • Personality – no. Mature, most definitely. After all, we were only kids – still growing up and learning who we were.
  • Especially having to box, and as I was told my first fight was to box a South Australian Golden Gloves champ.
  • It enabled us to mature in an ordered and disciplined environment, giving us a good grounding to join our place in the Fleet.
  • When I was on my first long leave I noticed that a lot of my civilian friends seemed a bit different and possibly immature.
  • Not sure about personality, but one certainly achieved great self-discipline and maturity.
  • Absolutely! I found that later in working life, I would be commended on my mature approach.
  • One would have to be brain dead if one’s personality and maturity were not affected and developed. The maturity thing is still a work-in-progress.
  • It was so evident when I went on my first long leave. I had matured well beyond those that I had been to school with the previous year.
  • Gave me more confidence and I am sure most parents said, when we went home on leave, ‘It’s a bloody miracle’.
  • Absolutely, it moulded me to be more mature and confident in what I did and now do. Attending seminars by Robert Kyosaki have also been a benefit.
  • Definitely – perhaps a little too fast, as you missed the adolescent teen years that your friends had back home.
  • Absolutely, we had to learn to live together to survive the so-called hardships.
  • Not sure. The following year out in the Fleet and the world certainly did, though.
  • I think so, although I was always charming, wonderful and all grown up from the age of three!
  • Yes, they did the best I could have hoped for. Maturity – I guess that took a while, as we were very regimented in that first three years.
  • To a degree. I worked in a sawmill for about five months before Leeuwin – hard physical work that toughened me up and taught me to get out of bed and be on time.
  • I believe so. I left with a much wider view of the world; was more mature, physically very fit and had no major problems living with a bunch of like-minded young blokes.
  • I don’t think my personality was altered, but maturing process was definitely accelerated by being at Leeuwin. The sink-or-swim process was a strong motivator!
  • Yes it did. Whether it made me mature or not – I could not answer, as the discipline made bullies. For those that were not accepted, I believe many of their personalities were subdued and not allowed to develop.
  • I guess it taught me all about authority and responsibility, and the one thing I did learn is that you had to know how to ‘play the game’ and, if you got caught out, you had to grin and bear it.
  • I remember that the Junior Sailors had a mess party and we had to give them our chairs for the night. They said to report any damage to the chairs once we got them back and the one that I received had a big cut in the seat, so I duly reported the damage and promptly got run in for damaging the chair, from memory I got 5 days chooks. Lesson learned, never volunteer anything!
  • Yes, for sure. I recall when I got back home after graduating from Leeuwin, how my attitude to my old mates and family seemed to have changed. Old mates, parents and siblings somehow seemed to be just that little bit less disciplined, coordinated, organised and considerate of others than I expected. Their civvy way of life no longer seemed to fit with my new view of how things should be. I was keen to get to my first sea draft for further training, and to have the opportunity for more shore leave and freedom in Sydney.



  1. Did you leave Leeuwin in a better frame of mind than when you joined?


  • Yes, I only wish that more teenagers had the opportunity today.
  • Would have to say yes.
  • I believe I was in a fairly good frame of mind in the first place. 
  • I would have to say yes to this. Much more confident and mature.
  • Certainly had a different outlook on life – and for the better.
  • Icertainly did.
  • I believe so.
  • Yes, LCDR Bill S was a good mentor.
  • I was glad/ready to leave.
  • Yes, I am sure I did.
  • My horizons were broadened and I looked forward to many new ones.
  • Don’t know. 
  • Certainly – felt I had a great future.
  • It opened up a whole new world out there.
  • Yes – older, wiser.
  • Yes, but a little more unsure of the future.
  • Much better. I felt I could make a difference.
  • Yes, I’d say so. I had more purpose, more of a direction to follow.
  • Yes, definitely. I felt a sense of achievement.
  • Not particularly, it just re-enforced my upbringing.
  • Of course. 
  • Relief that I could finally get my hands on my full pay, and felt much freer.
  • Yes – more mature.
  • I hope I did.
  • I was quite happy to leave and was looking forward to joining my first ship.
  • Huh huh.
  • Quite a bit.
  • Yes, at least I was going to see the world at Pusser’s expense, and do what I wanted to do (trade wise).
  • I was a school kid with a job when I joined Leeuwin. I left fit, full of self-confidence and with some great mates.
  • That is a question that is hard to quantify. I do believe that I was well prepared for a start in my Navy career, with a mindset to do it.
  • Absolutely – was able to assimilate with Navy routines and work with confidence. 
  • Leeuwin, for me, was something that I think was the most challenging and rewarding time of my Naval career.
  • I was very shy when I joined, but after 12 months at Leeuwin I was very confident.
  • I came from a farming background that was very lonely. Both my sisters were away at school, boarding.
  • I think that, when I joined, I really knew what I had gotten into – and as I became a good little sailor, my outlook changed as the Navy wanted it to.
  • Prepared me for the big wide world – thought the guys that I went to school with were still kids.
  • A very complicated question to answer. Having wanted to join the Navy from about the age of 8, it was just another stepping stone to my desired end game.
  • Not sure about frame of mind, but certainly was much more worldly-wise and confident that I could handle anything placed before me. I was ready to become involved in the real Navy.
  • Definitely, but with a lot more to learn once you reached your state of maturity and Naval career with its ongoing ups and downs. That’s service life – you just get used to it!
  • Certainly, left me with a sense of purpose and life long friendships that I don’t think would have happened if I hadn’t joined the Navy. Best decision I ever made.
  • Leeuwin was good for me, and something similar this day and age would certainly benefit all, including society. I think so, because the training was over and we were now going to sea to do what we joined up to do.
  • I was in a rut at school, struggling with my future career prospects. I wouldn’t say I was in a better frame of mind when I left Leeuwin, but I was in a more confident frame of mind and looking forward to what lay ahead.
  • On joining Leeuwin, there was a lot of natural uncertainty – and new experiences and meeting new people all lay ahead. By the time I left, I had a lot more confidence about Pusser’s in general, team work, discipline, a better appreciation for the value of training and education and I was physically a lot fitter. I knew I was still in Pusser’s and had to toe the line, but suddenly I felt free.
  • Don’t know what to say here. I suppose it would have been exciting to be finally joining the ‘real’ Navy. I suppose the only time I felt dejected was when we sailed on Melbourne for the States and I put in a request to cease shaving. One day out of Hawaii, we had to muster in the Master at Arms flat and I will never forget his words when he got to me, ‘I don’t think so, sailor’.
  • I left Leeuwin in a good frame of mind, but on joining HMAS Sydney in 1964, I saw a dockyard worker killed after he fell into the dry dock. Bruce D was on a bosun’s chair, painting the port forward gun sponson, and I heard a scream. My thoughts were that my oppo had fallen into the dry dock, but on looking down saw the dockyard worker lying on the dockyard floor. This caused me a lot of problems over the next 18 months or so.



  1. Would you like your time again in Leeuwin?


  • Couple of changes, but yes.
  • Yes, wouldn’t mind being 15 again!
  • Yes, if I were 50 years younger and know what I know now!
  • If I was 50 years younger, maybe.
  • Not now – not wet behind the ears now.
  • As an instructor.
  • Only as a 15 year old. 
  • Too old now. 
  • At that age, I would not hesitate to do it again.
  • Yes, but I would have to be sixteen.
  • Only if I could be 16 again.
  • no. My grandkids, yes.
  • Too bloody old now, Ron!
  • Yes, if I knew what I know now.
  • Knowing what I know now – yes, maybe, I think.
  • Maybe – 9 months instead of 12 would be better.
  • Yes, but didn’t enjoy every day of my time there. 
  • No way. The old bones could not handle it anymore.
  • If I were sixteen again, I would do the same thing.
  • Yes, wouldn’t it be great – especially with current knowledge?
  • Knowing what I know now – yes. 
  • Yes, when we did it. But not in this day and age.
  • I would have to think seriously about that.
  • Why not! 
  • A good experience, I believe, for all who graduated.
  • At my age now – no. At 16 – yes.
  • Yep, in a heartbeat.
  • Yes, and I would fill in Tits P and Stroppy R who were real bastards.
  • Yes, it was an experience all young men should go through.
  • Only if I could be 16 again.
  • For sure! I wouldn’t fool around anywhere near as much.
  • Not at my age now, but would do the same thing again if I was 15½.
  • I would do it again, but I think I would be a writer and have all night in the fart sack rather than 1/3 of the day down the hole.
  • Only if LS UW Stan D was there. I would be able to square up. I think I still owe him one.
  • Probably not, I would probably wait until I was 17 and join as a so-called adult entry.
  • In this day and age I can’t imagine what sort of woozy, politically correct, cotton wool wrapped, holiday camp the Navy would make of it.
  • Yes, if only for the great experience it was and how it shaped my life for the better. I would probably make all the same silly mistakes.
  • No, not really. I enjoyed my time then and reminiscing over the good times. But I am a pa now, and I like to spin warries to my grand kids.
  • If I knew what I know now, I would go back (like most) and do it all over again.
  • No, once was enough as, in the end, the Navy had paled and I saw no place for me.
  • No, I had my time at Leeuwin. What I would like is for other youngsters to have the same experience we had.
  • I would do it again without a blink. I enjoyed my time at Leeuwin, great memories, mostly good, very few negatives (if any).
  • I still have dreams about it, although I am usually my current age serving with 15 year olds. I never regretted joining.
  • No, I move on and rarely, if ever, get nostalgic. But I’m glad I did it once, even though I didn’t like it all the time. After all, if I hadn’t gone to Leeuwin I might be dead (see the movie Sliding Doors).
  • I would like to make amends for being so dumb and not getting up at the dances and trying to win the hearts of the young ladies. Wish I had met B sooner than I did.
  • They should be running places like Leeuwin for all youth (compulsory) for both genders. That would instill some discipline and the lost art of common sense.
  • With some of the things that later emerged, I would not like to have been on the receiving end of that treatment. I would not like to do time there again if that was present.
  • Knowing what I know now, I think I would do it all again. I have no regrets about Leeuwin, notwithstanding some of the management practices that we would consider, by today’s standards, to be quite poor.
  • I accept the Navy is not a life for everyone and even some, as it turned out, did not enjoy all of what Leeuwin I am not sure the modern Navy is something that would appeal to me. However, again in the same time frame, in a heart beat. And not just to be 56 odd years younger, although that would be nice. 
  • Don’t we all want to be young again and know what we know now? But to answer the question, yes, I could and probably would do it again. Mind you, back then I didn’t have much of a choice growing up in a small country SA town. My dad said I had to either join the police force or the Navy, and at that age I chose to see a bit more of the world. I now know that I made the right choice.



  1. Do you think Leeuwin served its purpose in readying you for the Fleet?


  • Definitely it was great preparation for what was to come. 
  • Did a great job.
  • A lot to learn in such a short time. Training and readiness seemed appropriate.
  • Yes, in it’s own way.
  • It helped, but at sea life was very different.
  • Not really – we were still boys when we went to the Fleet.
  • It certainly helped. Really enjoyed my time there.
  • Yes, along with the time spent at sea as an Ordinary Seaman.
  • Yes, it certainly did. I achieved everything I wanted from my Navy time.
  • Yes, would have been a shock to go to sea otherwise.
  • Most definitely.
  • Yes, along with the Ords (Venomous) training on Sydney.
  • On the whole, yes.
  • Much so.
  • For sure.
  • It was a very different Navy on the ships.
  • Yes, for being a Signalman on a ship, but no way for being in a dead-end shore establishment. 
  • In some ways (how to get on etc.), but as for seamanship it left a bit to be desired.
  • It gave the base grounding but the Ord (Various) process was the most valuable in Fleet readiness.
  • Most definitely, although I didn’t expect to be involved in a major collision at sea within a month of joining my first ship.
  • It prepared us for a career in the RAN, because we spent 12 months being brain washed.
  • Most certainly, maybe they should introduce national service again; get a few of those on the dole.
  • Certainly prepared us as Ords to enter the Fleet – we all had a lot more work to do.
  • Yes, to a degree, although the Fleet was entirely different. But the fundamentals were taught.
  • There is absolutely no doubt that this was one of the best initiatives that the RAN employed. Adrian Cummings has a lot to answer for.
  • Yes, apart from calling everyone ‘sir’. Part of ship – day 1 on Vamps (HMAS Vampire), ‘I am not an officer; I work for a living. You can call me Max or Petty Officer if you want’.
  • Yes, it did, but not for the events that occurred on the 10th February 1964 that will always play on my mind, but will not spoil my wonderful time in the Navy, which I will always cherish.
  • The Fleet was a great, diverse service/workforce with skills, leadership and management training that prepared me for a most successful post-service career, and happy life.
  • Definitely, but with a lot more to learn once you reached your state of maturity and Naval career with its ongoing ups and downs. That’s service life – you just get used to it.
  • Being on the Topman’s Course I had an extra 6 months at Leeuwin which probably also helped. But I am sure that I was prepared as much as I could be to go to sea.
  • I had a great time in the Navy, saw a lot of the world, was lucky to be posted to some great ships: Snipe, Waratah, Perth, Derwent, Duchess, but unfortunately did not get a lot of shore time – and once I was married and had kids it was a bit of a drag.
  • In some ways it did prepare us for the real world, but things are different once you are designated to a specific ship. I did travel the world around the Pacific basin, on both the West and Eastern sides. Nice also being paid an overseas allowance to help.
  • I am earnestly of the opinion that Leeuwin not only achieved it’s objective but significantly exceeded expectation. I served twenty years, and over that period of time I generally formed the opinion that a Leeuwin trained sailor was a better-equipped sailor in mind, attention to detail, and turn out.
  • Generally yes, the main problem was that a lot of ships were not ready for young JRs and considered us to be one step up from a garden gnome. As a JR I first went to Duchess, which was not very pleasant, then posted as a JR to Vampire, which was a totally different and more enjoyable ship.
  • Sometimes I wonder at Fleet wisdom. Recently read Dolly’s account of our deployment to the USA as commissioning crew for HMAS Perth. We had just finished our Engineering course and ended up doing everything but what we had been trained for. It put us behind the eight ball in respect of promotion.
  • I think it did serve its purpose, and I believe it was sad when Leeuwin paid off. JRs used to cop a bit of flack but I really believe that, for many years, they were the backbone of the Navy, and one only has to look back at how long a majority of JRs spent in the Navy and the number of senior positions they served in.   
  • Maybe you could be the judge of that – 2 weeks at West Head learning how to be a shell handler, then the Vampire, our first sea voyage was to bury some bodies from the Voyager, then to the Far East, didn’t get that far, spent most of the 9 month trip involved in the Borneo confrontation, sitting in the magazine fusing 4.5″ shells at 17 didn’t really comprehend the possible outcome, seeing dead bodies, and then back for another 4 months.
  • Having spent the last of my postings in Defence Recruiting, Canberra, and knowingthe original philosophy and reasoning behind the Junior Recruit programme, it certainly provided what it set out to do. Was it economical – who knows? Did Leeuwin prepare us for sea – I really believe it did, especially during the period that Intake 6 went directly to sea from Leeuwin, prior to rate qualifying, as what we were taught was in use immediately.
  • Yes, in most aspects – particularly of a personal nature. I was a confident young man ready to face the future. Still had to learn beer drinking, and still haven’t completed the long course! There certainly must have been something there, as I ended up retiring as a Commander Aeronautical Engineer after 42 year of service, which was followed by a further 5 years Active Reserve at 3 days per week. You remember the Sea King BOI, Ron! Finally, I would like to add that Ken R had a significant influence on me personally during my time at Leeuwin and I thank him sincerely for that.
  • I thought so, but sleeping in a hammock was new and watch-keeping on an open bridge in foul weather was new to me. The older sailors were generally very good to us but there was the odd smart one. I will never forget Eric R, as he was 2 of the left in A turret on Duchess and I was 3 of the left. Very nice bloke, and a Voyager survivor, with a BEM from then. Unfortunately, he passed away before I could ever catch up. But really, Leeuwin, in retrospect, was good and we knew most of what to expect when joining the Fleet.
  • Yes, we had a very good understanding of seamanship and were able to slot into our allocated part-of-ship with minimal hassle. To be able to post onto a ship and, by looking at the ABC markings, know where you were and find your destination below decks. I joined the Melbourne on the day before she sailed for ‘up top’ after a crash draft from Vampire and it was the skills that I learnt at Leeuwin that allowed me to find the Ships Office, a bunk and my kit locker, as everyone was too busy getting ready to sail to help an OD. Yes, even the bedding store had to be accessed through a closed hatch.
  • Yes, I think it did. I joined an aircraft carrier and I think I made a positive contribution to the operations of the ship, even though much of the work was menial. I can’t imagine leaving school as a 16 year old and joining a ship without going through that one-year transition from schoolboy to sailor. On the other hand, it didn’t prepare us all that well for the experience of going ashore, bars, bargirls, drinking, raffles at the Rockers, drag queens at The Jewel Box, swoopers at Johnnies, prostitutes, police, Darlinghurst Gaol, courts, unprotected sex and using a watering can to drain purple water into the eye of one’s penis for two weeks until the pox doctor (sorry, ship’s doctor) would finally relent and provide an antibiotic injection.
  • Well, I think it did in many respects, but where it failed was in lack of follow-up and general failure to warn us about some of the less savoury aspects of life in the Fleet. Of course, upon graduation I was only 16y, 10m, notwithstanding I was mature and experienced beyond my years, but still quite immature in many respects. Life in Pusser’s as a junior sailor after Leeuwin still had many tough lessons to hand out. In a way, Leeuwin was a collective mentor that stopped abruptly on graduation. On joining the Fleet, I quite suddenly found myself without a life coach or mentor and having to survive in a completely new world, still without family or old friends to turn to. It was a bit of a shock, notwithstanding onboard discipline and routine. Of course, I made new friends with contemporaries, but it was hard being the mess deck junior, chief shit kicker, occasional captain of the heads and general low-life. Lack of mentoring or having a buddy system for continued training, growth or development to build on the Leeuwin experience was a real weakness and it led to me going off the rails at times. I think I should also mention here the shock and horror we received with the news of the Voyager sinking while I was still at Leeuwin, and the loss of life, including some JRs. We were also aware of the Indonesian Confrontation and the role of the FESR. I certainly had a nervous expectation that, upon joining the Fleet, I too may soon be in harm’s way.



  1. Are you involved in any Service Organisation now?


  • 5 ESO + 16 years as an Advocate and still doing it.
  • Local RSL.
  • Only the RSL.
  • RSL and our group.
  • Was a RSL member, but no longer so.
  • GC Dist. Dep Pres. Local RSL Board.
  • RSL life member.
  • On the sub committee at local RSL.
  • Only RSL.
  • Not really. 
  • Was involved in Naval Assoc. RSL.
  • Local RSL, ex Treasurer of local legacy.
  • Not at the moment, as we are still travelling.
  • Yes, the local RSL.     
  • Only local sub branch.
  • RSL, Vietnam Veterans Association, Clearance Divers Association.
  • Only Leeuwin 63 and RANCBA (Comms).
  • Local RSL
  • RSL
  • No, just reunions and commemorations.
  • Not Service, but QFRS.
  • Just finished a stint as Treasurer of the local RSL.
  • No, sadly.
  • Yes, I am the Secretary of local RSL Sub-Branch.
  • Yes, RSL and RANCBA.
  • Recently been accepted to join an RSL Sub Branch.
  • No, although I am a non-active member of the Vietnam Vets Association.
  • Only as a member of local RSL.
  • Yes, I am a compensation advocate at my local RSL, assisting serving and ex serving members battle DVA. 
  • I am a member of the local RSL, and I organise the ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies.
  • I am a member of the local RSL, and I organise the ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies.
  • Was a member of the Navy League and the Naval Association for about 10 years, but not now.
  • No, I am not and do not want to be – which, I feel, is where Leeuwin did affect my personality.
  • No, as I live overseas, but have a small group of Aussies here, even anex Clearance Diver. We are a group that is looking after each other.
  • HMAS Perth Association and Naval Association of Australia. I am also a member of the RSL.
  • I have been on the executive of a RSL Sub branch for 37 years and into my second year as treasurer.
  • Yes, volunteer sea rescue
  • Local RSL, ex Treasurer of local Legacy
  • Not at the moment, as we are still travelling.
  • Yes, the local RSL.     
  • Only local sub branch.
  • RSL, Vietnam Veterans Association, Clearance Divers Association.
  • Only Leeuwin 63 and RANCBA (Comms).
  • Local RSL
  • No, just reunions and commemorations.
  • Not Service, but QFRS.
  • Just finished a stint as Treasurer of the local RSL.
  • No, sadly.
  • Yes, I am the Secretary of local RSL Sub-Branch.
  • Yes, RSL and RANCBA.
  • Recently been accepted to join an RSL Sub Branch.
  • No, although I am a non-active member of the Vietnam Vets Association.
  • Only as a member of local RSL.
  • Yes, I am a compensation advocate at my local RSL, assisting serving and ex serving members battle DVA. 
  • I am a member of the local RSL, and I organise the ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies.
  • I am a member of the local RSL, and I organise the ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies.
  • Was a member of the Navy League and the Naval Association for about 10 years, but not now.
  • No, I am not and do not want to be – which, I feel, is where Leeuwin did affect my personality.
  • No, as I live overseas, but have a small group of Aussies here, even an ex Clearance Diver. We are a group that is looking after each other.
  • HMAS Perth Association and Naval Association of Australia. I am also a member of the RSL.
  • I have been on the executive of a RSL Sub branch for 37 years and into my second year as treasurer.
  • Yes, Volunteer Sea Rescue. Who would have thought – a stoker as a radio operator!  
  • Not a Service Organisation. My passion is growing orchids. I am Secretary and Treasurer of an Orchid Club, which takes up all of my spare time.
  • I have been involved in recent years with an RSL Sub-Branch. I was VP and also am still doing the local newsletter for the Sub-Branch. I am also a member on the TPI Association.
  • If you mean Military Service – no. If you mean Community Service – I have just retired from a state RFS after almost 20 years. Will probably become involved with another state RFS. 
  • When I was retrenched from my job of 22 years, I took on pensions and welfare with the local RSL and HMAS Sydney Assoc. I did that for 13 years until my own health deteriorated and that of my partner.
  • I have been a member of the RSL for many years and have served as committee member, Secretary and Vice President of the local branch. I am now a member of another RSL sub-branch, having recently relocated.
  • Retired in 2016 after 30 years service in the Australian Defence Force Cadets (ADFC) – 1986-2016 serving in the Australian Army Cadets (AAC previously ACC), retired as Lieutenant Colonel, as the Senior Historian for the Corps (AAC). Member of the RSL, TPI Association, NSW Vietnam Veterans Association (inaugural Senior Vice President).
  • I am still heavily involved at sea through sailing. I did get a Masters ticket and operated a dive boat for a while, but mostly through private sailing of my own four yachts over the last 47 years. I have also been involved serving for a number of years on committees at the local Yacht Squadron, mainly with promotion of junior sailing and maintenance of Squadron assets.
  • I am a financial member of the RSL sub-branch (but usually only go to an RSL when at Huskisson or on Anzac days) and the Tingira Boys (I sometimes march with them on Anzac day but have yet to go to an event organised by them). I’m not involved in the running of anything. I served behind the bar of an RSL as a second job when still serving, but was fired for not being sufficiently polite to patrons.
  • Yes, I am a member of the Vietnam Veterans Association. After I left the Navy I had no contact except with a few old mates, finally joined the RSL so I could play darts. Mate asked, ‘Are you entitled to anything?’ and I said, ‘I don’t really know’. Made contact with DVA and that’s when things changed (ASB, medals started arriving in the mail). Would I have ever known about all these things? So glad I made the effort to check it out.
  • I joined the RSL soon after getting out, but it took me 15 years to join the Naval Association. In hindsight I am sorry that I didn’t join sooner. I ended up as President of the local branch after a couple of years and spent several years in that position before transferring to another branch because of a change of suburbs. Was President there for one year, then transferred to yet another sub-section, until I had a request to go back to my first branch because they couldn’t get anyone to stand for President – so here I am, back where I started many years ago. I am also a member of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee and the Canon Garland Memorial Society. I subsequently decided to take up drum lessons, and now I am the drummer for a town brass band.




























































  1. Other comments?


  • Thank you, Ron, for your generous time and great effort in keeping us all in contact through your efforts.
  • Thanks, Ron, for the opportunity to think about Leeuwin Leeuwin wasn’t all that bad for me.  
  • Would have done more than 12 years, but after 2 trips up top on Melbourne, 2 trips to Vietnam on Sydney, 5 FESR on Vampire, Duchess, Parramatta, 6 escorts to Vietnam on Vampire and Duchess, 12 years was enough.
  • I only got to do 9 years, of which 8 years were fantastic. The final year on Sydney was a nightmare. I left the service and that background helped me through civilian life except for one point. The people I worked with did not have the same work ethic, so things were strained.
  • The greatest thing to happen after I got out was when I accidentally heard about a Leeuwin reunion on the Gold Coast in 2003. I made the effort and got there and, as they say, the rest is history. To you, Ron, I say thank you for making all this happen and bringing me back to the Navy family and all those true friends that I always had.
  • I would like to say again I had a great time at Leeuwin, and one of my most favoured moments was getting back after our first six months leave to find I had been selected as one of the first Leading JRs. To join Leeuwin as a 15½ year-old boy was a privilege, not only did we become good sailors – we became good citizens. Had a great life, met many good people (sailors). And the camaraderie is still there 50 years down the track.
  • Here is an interesting point, when I discharged in mid 1970 the Australian public did not want to know much about ex-servicemen and I, like many others, disassociated with service organizations. It was only through the efforts of Ron tracking me down, and the president of our local VVA becoming a neighbour, that my interest in the Service was rekindled. I then found out that I was entitled to more medals than the GSM I was awarded on Derwent and I now proudly wear them.
  • I left the Navy (free discharge) after 8 years and had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I hated discipline outside of my actual work activities (i.e. where it encroached on my private life) and disliked officers. I had little contact with sailors and ex-sailors for several years. Later, as a branch manager for a computing company, I had Navy as one of my clients – but I didn’t disclose that I was once in the RAN. I eventually got over it and moved on. I heard about the JR reunion (2003) in Queensland, but I wasn’t going to go until my father (ex-Merchant Navy) talked me into it. And so, thanks to my dad and Ron, here I am.



Appendix 3: Glossary of Terms


This is an attempt to define some of the terms used in this report. The list is unlikely to be exhaustive and, indeed, may not be entirely accurate.


ABCD / NBCS – Atomic or Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Defence


Bastardisation – Umbrella term for systemic abuse


Biffo – physical conflict


BR68 – Manual of Seamanship Vol 2


Civvy Street – a civvy is a civilian; a civilian is said to be in civvy street


Comms – Communications


Chooks – punishment, usually extra work or (at Leeuwin) parade ground exercises, sometimes involving duck-walking and holding a rifle over one’s head


Crusher – Naval Patrolman


Dhobying – washing oneself or one’s clothes. From a Hindi word


Dhoby Stick – Stick with a colander type head plunged into a bucket of clothes and water several times in order to wash the clothes


Docky Coppers – Dockyard policemen


Donga, Donger – Dormitory


Dogs – Dog watches, two two-hour watches (1400-1600, 1600-1800)


ET1 – Educational Test 1


Fart sack – bunk or hammock


Greenie – Electrician


HET – Higher Educational Test


Jewell Box (The) – ‘all male review’ nightclub in Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, in the mid 1960s. Sailors could BYO alcohol with no cover charge


Johnnies – Royal Naval House, Grosvenor Street Sydney. Formerly an amenities and accommodation building for sailors, now a heritage listed commercial building


Kangaroo Court – mock court martial by one’s peers to judge and punish a sailor for some real or perceived offense, such as not washing one’s clothes


Lol – Lots of laughs


Mobi – Naval Apprentice (Some, tongue in cheek, say it stands for: Most Objectionable Bastards Imaginable)


MUP – Men Under Punishment


Nav – Navigation


Nugge – having boot polish applied to one’s genitals, usually with a shoe brush. A form of bastardisation.



OOD – Officer of the Day


OPD – Other Protestant Denomination?


Oppo – mate or friend


Ords – Ordinary Seamen


Ords (Various) – collective/generic term for Ordinary Seaman, and/or Ordinary Communicator, and/or Ordinary Electrician, etc)


Ords (Venemous) – derogatory but amusing alternative to Ords (Various)


OXP – Overnight Expedition – JRs dropped off at point A in the bush with leftover WW2 ration packs, a crude map and a cheap department store compass, and ordered to find their way to point B under about 40 hours, without being spotted by sentries


POs – Petty Officers


Prodos – protestants


PTIs – Physical Training Instructors


Pusser’s – the Navy


QMG – Quarter Master Gunner


REM – Radio Electrical Mechanic


Rockers (the) – Rock and Roll Hotel, now the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel


RO – Radio Operator


RO(S) – Radio Operator (Special)


Schoolies – Instructors at Leeuwin


Scran – food


Seaman’s Mission – at different times known as the Mission to Seamen, The Flying Angel Club and the Mission to Seafarers. Located in Fremantle


SDB – Seaward Defence Boat


SGCE – Services General Certificate of Education


Sheilas – females


Short-sheeting – as a prank, shortening the sheet of another’s bunk so that, upon climbing into bed, he discovers he cannot stretch his legs


Skulkers – malingerers, those who shirk their work


Sparker – Radio Operator


Sponsors – local families who hosted JRs from Leeuwin on weekends


Squarie – girlfriend


Swoopers – people one would hope to avoid at Johnnies


Tiddly, Tid – non-issue Naval clothing, purchased from a store


Warries – war stories, or stories on any subject (told as though true but may not be).