On the 22nd January 2016 the Royal New Zealand Navy invited naval veterans to attend a Veterans Day as part of the 75th Birthday Celebrations under the auspicious of Operation Neptune. This was the first event of the year and fitting that veterans were such a big part of it.
The day started with Registration followed by a Powhiri at Te Taua Moana Marae. Veterans were then invited to view the Change of Command Ceremony for the change of Deputy Chief of Navy (Outgoing Commodore Dean MacDougall and incoming Commodore Dave Gibbs) and the Maritime Component Commander (outgoing Commodore John Campbell and incoming Commodore James Gilmour). Interesting, Commodore James Gilmour has not forgotten his roots, as he mentioned in his speech that he joined the Navy as a Communicator. Lunch followed in the Vince McGlone Galley and then the base was open, demonstrations of flag hoisting, the bridge simulator, and ships and frigates had open gangways. The day concluded at 1430 with thanks being given on behalf of the veterans by Lieutenant Commander ‘Bones’ Braddock and a response of a resounding Haka by members of the RNZN.
Some communicators who attended included – Bevan Lawes, Charlie Matenga, Frank Lewis, Jan Luttrell, Velvet McKirdy, Dave McKirdy, Brian Henman, Steve Mowbray, Dale Hobbs, John Titmus, Phil Newland, Jim Blackburn, Lindsay Glassey. Kips Kingdon, Cliff Hodgeman, Mike Catlow.
Images of the Veterans Day can be found by clicking HERE
For TV3 News Item click HERE
John Titmus and Frank Lewis – Home at last!! Cell block Philomel
Move over this is my pit – Steve Mowbray
Yeoman! Where are we?
Awfully High up Here! A Sparker on the Uppers!
I have asked those Communicators who attended to give their view of the veterans day which I will attach to this post.
Brian Henman Reports – My day started at 6-30 when I left to travel to Devonport. I had with me my grandson aged 9 who was particularly interested in going onboard the ships. I have to say the day was a long one when taking into account the Marae visit and the Change of Command 8-30 till 11am, long time to be spent listening and watching but not participating. Our time on the ships most enjoyable especially Canterbury, this is one large vessel and Joe really enjoyed his time on their, especially when one of the sentries let him hold a pistol, also climbing up into the turret on Te Mana..The young sailors more than willing to go the extra yard and very helpful. At the Dining Room, had just finished my meal when the admiral came and sat down beside me, recognised me from my name tag (i don’t remember him) and we had a very good talk, what about I won’t say, there are two photos that were taken (on Ari Hinchco’s facebook page) that show us having a very good laugh and an intense talk.All in all a very good day but man was it hot and humid, and also the meeting of once again people i haven’t seen in a very long long time, which is becoming the norm now when attending these events and funerals.
Frank Lewis Reports – My day began at 2am, leaving Kerikeri for Auckland just so I would miss the Auckland traffic nightmare. Arrived at Ngataringa Bay about 6am, had breakfast and waited for the day to start.
Over the past few years I have listened to the many comments of ex matlots on the RNZN today. These varied from quite derogatory to some very good comments. I myself have not been impressed with some ways in which the navy has changed, so this was a chance to see for myself how different the navy is today and see the changes and why the changes from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s have occurred.
We started the day with the powhiri at the marae. I have never had any connection with a marae and their protocol. I must say I was very impressed with the explanation of the protocol and procedures of the marae. We were told that this was a marae for all sailors past and present and we were always welcome. I think the powhiri made us very welcome. I was impressed by the CO of Philomel who made a short speech welcoming us with some humour thrown in about women in the navy today. I then found out she was Bevan Lawes daughter. A bit different from when I met her in Irirangi when she was only 3.
Next it was off to the Change of Command Ceremony. We were quickly taken by mini bus to the parade ground. The parade commenced with a somewhat casual forming of the parade. This was different from my day when you formed up for divisions – you ran. The Ceremony went through the normal procedures – somewhat different from what I ever remember – but well done. Speeches were short, commands changed and it was all over. One thing I could not get used to was CNS and all the feathers – just not navy to me. On the whole all who paraded did a great job and I felt quite proud of being a part of the organisation – although the high pitched guard commander took me back a bit at the start. I can still hear that loud voice of Joe Murray from my day.
Next off again in the mini buses to start the look around. Through the tunnel which had not changed, white walls streaked with water stains and moss. I noticed the CB office in the tunnel was no more.
Being ex Communicators our first stop was the communications display. I put forward John Titmus’s name for the flag challenge but he declined. We mingled with the modern day communicator, asked questions and were given the answers. I was interested in how ships communicate ship to shore and vice versa these days. It was explained that satellites were used and messages were sent as emails. I was informed that HF was still used as back up and in fact HF was being investigated further as time of satellite use was restricted. I wondered if CW will ever return.
It was good to see a couple of morse keys on display. Next was a display of photos of the old communicators and there I was in two of them, one with all the instructors and one with one of my classes at the Communications Training School, Northhead. Kips Kingdon and I reminisced over the photos as he was in charge in those days.
It was here that TV3 approached us to ask if they could film us while looking and at discussing the photos. This was done and was shown on TV3 news that night.
I was impressed by the young communicators. They were keen to tell us what they did these days compared with in our day and really apart from no CW they still did the same – got the signals from and to the ships and vice versa – just like we did, albeit in a different way. They were still communicators just like I was. They were also keen to know just as much about Communications in our day and many questions were asked. They were very interested in Irirangi as they had heard so much about it.
Next up to the Bridge Simulator – this was a great experience – rockin and rollin but you didn’t move. A wonderful invention for the navigation side of things.
Food was next and so it was off to scran. This was an eye opener – the food was excellent and the service was excellent. The menu, ham off the bone, beef, chicken and all the roasted vegetable, cold salads and of course duff. I was impressed with the galley and how pleasant the chefs were. No pot gutted Chief Cook standing behind the galley bellowing out orders and making sure you only had one egg. The Chefs of today’s navy were a credit to the service. Well done to all in the galley and dining hall. I was impressed at having my plate removed by a Lieutenant – that was a first.
The idea of everyone from CNS down to the youngest trainee all dining together impressed me as well.
Off to visit the ships was next on our list, however we made a call to the quarter deck of Philomel – visited the old cell block (they have new cells somewhere now) and then asked if we could go up to the signal tower. Yes we could – “come with me I will take you up” so it was off up those steep stairs we had gone up so many times years ago to the signal tower. The big chair had gone but it still looked the same – it was here that the officer escorting us to the tower told us he was to be the new CO of Philomel. We told him our stories of the times we did our watches up the tower and he told us how different it was today. No one in the signal tower these days waiting for the merchantmen dipping his ensign or the ML trying to sneak in without piping Philomel. That had all gone. Colours and sunset were still controlled from the signal tower. Photos were taken with the CO elect of Philomel and then it was off to Canterbury.
One of the questions I wanted to ask was about the state of the ships – rust everywhere, paint in poor state and cables even covered in barnacles on Canterbury. I talked to a couple of crew of Canterbury and they explained that they did no maintenance – it was all contracted out and was only done by the contractors. They also were not happy with how the ships looked compared with our day. If they could, that is one thing they would change. The sickbay/hospital on board impressed me. Operating theatre, recovery ward and intensive care ward. The PO Medic explained how it was run by the army on the ship. I inquired about RNZNH and she told us that it was no longer a hospital as we used to know it.
Eventually our day ended. Time had passed so quickly that we did not get to see a lot the other displays but in the end I was tiring but very satisfied with my day. My opinion of the Royal New Zealand Navy and of its sailors today has greatly changed. They are as dedicated to their service and country as we were, in a slightly different way to us, but the end product was the same. I was impressed with the way they looked after us for the day, nothing was a bother, no question unanswered, they were courteous and proud of how we had gone before them and they intended to do the same for the future sailors. Everyone I spoke to was also very interested in listening to our stories and how the navy was in our day. OSH plays a big role in how todays navy runs, something we never ever thought about. Yes there have been changes, no No 8’s, 10’s or 10a’s and no plastic sandals but the person wearing the uniform has not changed – he and these days she, are just like we were – sailors and proud of it.
Thank you Royal New Zealand Navy for a wonderful day. Myself and other veterans will never forget what you did for us on this special day. As John Titmus said as to the driver as we left – will see you at the 100th. Hell we will be 93 by then John – you never know.
Russel Hockley Reports – Yeah Frank I was there and enjoyed the day, great variety of choice, from welcome to departure, even had a photo taken with the young signalmen. Great to see Lindsay, Jim and Cliff Hodgman, I will probably see you on the sailors bike ride North in March.
I have had a few days to reflect on the Veterans Day hosted by the RNZN last Friday and make some observations on the success of the day. Firstly you would have to congratulate the planning for this event ably led by Andy Watts (an association member) and his team, everything seemed to work like clockwork but we all know behind the scenes a huge effort is involved.to make it a success. Right from the time I arrived at Ngataringa and latched on to my communicator buddy Frank Lewis I had a feeling of being home again where I served through the 60’s 70’s and 80’s. The turnout was amazing however I felt communicators were a little under represented but I fully understand we are a global community and it is not always as simple as it sounds to just turn up in Auckland for a day. The welcome onto the Navy Marae was quite special and some of the moments were amazing and I will not forget, On to the Changing of Command Ceremony and being a ex bunting always keen to keep an eye on the ceremonial aspects of these events. It was good for me to see the RNZN on parade again and as I did during the Battle of River Plate celebrations enjoyed the fanfare, A bit of disappointed perhaps was I was waiting for a “March past” I think would have added some value, especially to all those RNZN Band delivered nautical music. Then through the tunnel and before we knew where we were scran was up in the new all ranks cafeteria, tried to find the tot queue without success so decided I would have mismusters much later in the day. Enjoyed a very meal and marveled at how things had changed for the better in the food was presented and their was plenty although avoided the “duff” as my doctor would not have been happy. Over to what used to be rugby field and first came across a nice shiny naval helicopter and its crew and what a pleasurable 30 mins that was talking about the modern rotary wing fleet with those who fly them, the RNZN had no helicopters when I joined. Then a venture back into my previous job and wandered around the training flagdeck and took a close look at the some of the memorabilia and photographs on display, at this stage some of us got captured by TV3 featured on the evening news, through the bridge simulator and then discovered time is moving on so lets go and see some of the fleet. Agreed that we could not go over all of them so we decided Canterbury would be the best option, this was a great experience, I very keen to see what services would be provided by the Canterbury so support disaster relief, go the full look and another highlight was being able to relax in the Captains Chair on the bridge, if only for a moment. We then walked past the change of command ceremony for HMNZS Manawanui – Well done Muzz, had a brief chat to Chief of Navy and then back to Ngataringa and home. God willing Frank Lewis and I will back for the 100th. Thanks to the sailors of the RNZN
Mike Catlow reports – I registered to attend this celebration day because of the 75th RNZN anniversary and because it also happens to be my 75th Birthday year as well. I flew up to Auckland from the new Paraparaumu airport for the weekend to stay with my mate Tom Dowling (who became a PTI) who also attended the Veterans Day. Tom and I joined the Navy together as Seamen Boys. We met on the launch going over to the Naval Base to sign up before going to Motuihe Island and we have been friends since.
We enjoyed the Marae Greeting having the morning tea and catching up with those we knew and thought we knew! It was a really hot day so the transport from Ngataringa to the base was welcome, we used both the air conditioned vans and the ‘golf carts’ to get about during the day, the friendly drivers always had a supply of water bottles which were welcome. We saw the Change of Command and then taken through the tunnel to view all the demonstrations Gym,Flag hoist,Bridge simulator and more. The Navy had good programmes printed together with the times of the demonstrations throughout the day so you could choose what events to see in your own time schedule. The lunch put on in the new ding area was really great and all ranks dined there. Everything ran smoothly to cater for the 400 or so extra diners so it was all well organised.
We talked at length with serving personnel both men and women about conditions and roles in the service and they turned out to be really good and pleasant people both in their ambitions and roles they had chosen to serve. The women especially were quite focused on what they wanted to achieve in their careers. They could also not do enough for us to make us feel welcome and they were interested to hear what life was like in our day and were a wee bit horrified by some of the old conditions.
We mostly spent time going over the OPV Otago, we had a rating to take us all over the ship and explained all about their recent Antarctic trip and how the ship had coped. We couldn’t help but notice the amount of rust and no brass but there are no more seamen available to do those tasks of maintenance and that it was just saved up for a maintenance going over when it was due which was a surprise. All personnel now go through a training programme where they learn all parts of previous seamen only chores so that everyone could be available when needed to perform tasks that were needed. It kind of makes sense in today’s world where less and less manpower is required and more is taken over by technology. The OPV’s are quite a nice solid vessel and needs only 50 crew so I guess in time this type of vessel will become the norm. Seeing we have one of the largest Economic Zones in the world to look after this makes sense.
Our conclusion was that times were certainly changed and still changing. We found the present serving personnel a really pleasant and focused group so we feel the Navy is in good hands. It was a great day out and brilliantly organised, so many thanks indeed to everyone concerned in organising the event.
Mike Catlow and Tom Dowling (ex PTI)