The reminiscences of Petty Officer Radio Mechanic Stan
Stan joined HMS Nabthorpe at Ludham and remained with the unit
throughout its commission, returning home to the U.K. aboard the
These remarks and recollections are not intended to be of
historical value, rather they are some recollections after a 55 year
period and the less than perfect recall of an ageing mind..
My first draft on completing my
training and qualifying as Leading Radio Mechanic at HMS Ariel was
to RNAS Inskip in Lancashire and I'm afraid that my stay there was
not of long duration. I was affronted by a remark made by the Air
Radio Officer and had the temerity to open my mouth in protest. The
next thing I knew was that I got a draft to RNAS Ludham. HMS
Flycatcher. The proper recipient of that draft should have been
Leading Radio Mechanic Eric Leck but he had been taken sick with
appendicitis and the Air Radio Officer Lt. J.C.Brandt, I'm sure, saw
this as a golden opportunity to rid himself of this turbulent
Leading Radio Mechanic.
It was early November 1944 and at that
time East Anglia, and in particular Norfolk, was rather like
Siberia. You knew where it was but you certainly didn't want to go
there. It was a particularly cold winter and in spite of Ludham
having been a RAF station, it seemed that the facilities were
significantly less than satisfactory. Anyway we did our joining
routine and waited while others destined for MONAB 3 arrived. The CO
was Cdr E.W. (Ted) Kenton and the 1st. Lieutenant was Lt. Cdr.
Parkinson. For us Radio types the important guy was the Air Radio
Officer Lt. Robert Wales.
Once we were assembled, and to me it
all seemed a bit haphazard, we started on the task of getting all
the stores and equipment that we were to take to a destination as
yet unknown. This exercise entailed going with a convoy of 3 Ton
trucks to the railway sidings at Potter Heigham where we unloaded
gear from the train and on to the trucks. This went on for days as
train after train filled with stores arrived in the sidings.
One of the most amusing yet hazardous
activities at this time involved erecting the Dorland Hangar. The
concept was excellent and the erection went well until it came to
installing the canvas roof and walls. This huge expanse of canvas
acted just like a sail in the winds coming off the North Sea and to
be atop the thing trying to get the canvas in place was an unnerving
experience. However we managed it without mishap although there were
times when one felt about to be thrown off the top by the billowing
canvas. Everything was checked off and repacked for transit; by then
we knew, to Australia. For me this was just a great bonus as I knew
that I had relatives Down Under and this would be the opportunity of
a lifetime to make contact.
Preparations being completed we
embarked on a train for a seemingly endless night journey to
Liverpool where, at Gladstone Dock, we boarded the Athlone Castle.
departed on, I think, the 23rd of December and laid off Belfast on
the 24th. setting sail on Christmas Day. The transatlantic crossing
was uneventful, much to everyone’s surprise and our arrival in Colon
at the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal was a revelation. Lights at
night, no blackout was something that we had not seen for years, the
scent of the trees and the all pervasive sound of the Cicadas made
the place seem magic.
were allowed off the ship but only in the immediate dock area but in
one of the dock buildings there was a wonderful USO show; USO being
the American equivalent of ENSA. Who the artistes were I don't
remember but it was lively and professional and a real treat. The
transit of the Panama Canal was, for me, the highlight of the whole
journey. The locks, the Gatun Locks and the Gatun lake, through the
Gaillard Cut (Culebra), the Pedro Miguel Lock to the Miraflores Lake
and Locks were breathtaking. The passage through the Gaillard cut
with tropical birds flying from the heights on either side was
magic. Finally Balboa and the Pacific Ocean. I have wanted to
transit the canal again ever since then and I hope to actually do
it. It is the only piece of the world that I have seen but my wife
has not and I'd like to correct that omission.
Leaving Panama the Pacific Ocean was like a sheet of glass. I had
never seen a sea so flat. Not that I had seen anything but the North
Sea until then. All went uneventfully. We loafed on deck under
strict orders as to the length of time that we were allowed to
expose ourselves to the sun. Ten minutes on the first day, gradually
increasing until our hides were safely tanned.
one day there was an almighty bang and the ship hove to. Rumours
were rife as to what had happened and further rumours spread that
there were Japanese submarines in the vicinity and here we were
sitting motionless on a calm sea, a sitting duck. It transpired that
a drive chain in part of one of the ships engines had broken and had
allegedly thrashed its was through the drive casing and so it was
necessary to remain hove to while repairs were carried out. I think
that it took about 24 hours before we were under way again.
We spent hours just standing on deck watching the Flying Fish as
they broke the surface near the bow of the ship and the iridescence
of the sun shining on their scales was just beautiful. We were
certainly not thinking about what lay ahead. In January 1945 we
arrived in Sydney and that first thrill of passing through Sydney
Heads into that magnificent harbour and the first sight of the
harbour bridge has never been equalled. We headed in to
Woolloomooloo where we were docked and we prepared for
We were herded into trucks and we headed out of Sydney to Warwick
Farm racecourse where we spent a short while under canvas. Australia
Day came while we were at Warwick Farm and we tasted our first bit
of Aussie hospitality when a family picked myself and a friend up
and took us to Koala Park at Pennant Hills for the day.
From Warwick Farm we soon transferred to Schofields, which at
that time was far from complete. The CCC "Civilian Construction
Corps" was still very much in evidence and remained so for some
while building living accommodation. The NAAFI was the envy of the
CCC as we kept UK hours and they could only visit the local and
enjoy the uncivilized Aussie hours including the six o'clock swill.
However they did run a good "Two Up" school after work.
soon settled into a routine, the first squadrons landed and work
began in earnest. Our transportable Radio Workshops were situated at
a remote part of the site and early on, torrential rains made the
terrain into a quagmire. Much time was spent in digging drainage
ditches to channel the water away from the workshops. The early
morning duty was to ensure that the YG and YJ beacons were switched
on and operational. The YG was a Morse radio beacon and the YJ a
Radar beacon for navigation purposes. There were, of course, quiet
periods but when squadrons landed on then it was concentrated
effort. At this time the control tower was a mobile affair in a
truck, as the permanent control tower had not been built.
believe that we weren't intended to handle all types of aircraft
originally but in the event anything that landed was coped with
including Seafires, Barracudas, Fireflies, Hellcats, Avengers and
Corsairs. There was also one Stinson Reliant communications
aircraft. At one time there were even a couple of Commonwealth
Wackett Boomerangs, an Australian built small fighter aircraft.
There were great differences between British and American aircraft.
Flush riveting on the American planes was immediately obvious and on
the whole the accessibility of equipment was superior on the America
machines. I can only speak from the point of view of radio
All American aircraft used Radial engines, Wright Double Cyclone
and Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp. I'm sure that engine, airframe and
armourer trades also noticed great differences in their fields. We
even had an open day when the local populace were invited to come
aboard. That made for good relations with the locals. Schofields was
located adjacent to the Sydney to Richmond railway line and
virtually took up the ground between Quakers Hill and Schofields
stations. On the other side of the territory was Eastern Creek a
tributary of the Hawkesbury River.
of the facilities were to us a bit primitive especially the heads
which consisted of a long hut in which were installed two rows of
toilets, about ten a side facing each other with absolutely no
privacy. Flushing consisted of two channels, one below each row of
toilets, through which ran a continuous stream of water. It was the
conversation centre of the site.
Runs ashore consisted of taking the train from Quakers Hill to
Sydney as there was nothing in the vicinity, except a small pub
which I think was called the ROYAL in Riverstone, the station past
remember that the publican had been the lightweight boxing champion
of Australia. Our trips to Sydney were made possible by the issuing
of a fortnightly season ticket which would take one over the whole
range of the New South Wales Railways "Sydney and surrounding areas"
system. This cost four shillings for a two-week ticket. It was very
good value indeed. Of course, no one came back except on the last
train out of Central Station.
Our presence brought out a couple of local entrepreneurs. One was
a local milkman who would come onboard every day with his cart to
sell us milk and fruit. He was always a welcome sight and I drank
more milk during that period than at any other time of my life.
other was a guy who would be at the entrance to Quakers Hill station
when the train arrived from Sydney and he sold hot dogs. He seemed
to do a roaring trade thought why anyone would want to eat hot-dogs
late at night I can't imagine. I suppose we were always hungry. Not
a vendor but a welcome sight on the place was the Australian Church
Army representative who was allowed to operate on the station even
though we had our own C of E Padre, The Rev. Lamb. I remember the
Church Army man's surname only, it was Hoepper and he was known as
"Hep". He was always ready to listen to any of our concerns or
troubles and I'm sure that many MONAB 3'ers will recall his cheerful
were by now in a settled routine, and the facilities improved;
permanent workshops and the control tower were built and thus it
continued until VE Day. This was, of course a cause for great
celebration for us but not so much for the local population. However
we had a day free and then back to the routine.
was always busy and interesting and the time came when MONAB 3 was
to pack up and move on. We were told that the first stop was to be
for some Jungle training at the Australian Army jungle school.
However came the fateful day when the dropping of the Atom bomb was
announced on the radio with all the speculation as to what this
would mean, then the second bomb and the end of the war in the
Then there was real celebration in Australia. Of course we were
freed to go to Sydney to join in the hi-jinks and the celebrations
were really great, from Kings Cross to Martin Place.
Here I recall a very sad event. When we returned late at night
one of our group, Leading Radio Mechanic Findlay Gee was distinctly
under the weather and during the night was taken worse. He was got
to the sick bay but in spite of the attention of all concerned he
died of heart failure during the night. His funeral was a very
sombre affair and it was the first and last time that I have acted
as a pallbearer.
not very long before we were instructed to pack up and prepare for
our return to UK. There was an option to remain in Australia and
transfer to the RAN and one of our number, John Dunford, who had
married a girl from Riverstone opted to remain.
handed over Schofields to, I think MSR 2 who had come down from
Queensland and we embarked on the RMS Andes at Woolloomooloo, where
we had first set foot on Australian soil.
were on board, many Australians who had been prisoners of the
Japanese and who were returning to Perth, which was our first port
of call and a jolly good run ashore. Bombay was next and once again
a good run ashore. Just to prove that the world is a small place I
met, in Crawford market an old English lady who had lived in India
for years and who came from the same small Cheshire village that was
my mothers birthplace.
After a Suez canal transit it was home
to Southampton from where we were taken to HMS Daedalus III, which
was located in Havant ,and with a draft to HMS Ariel my MONAB saga
ended. It is a period long past and however my recall diminishes it
will forever remain impressed on my memory.
Some years later on a visit to family
members who I had been able to meet in 1945 I returned to Schofields
which was then HMAS Nirimba and while the airfield had been taken
over for civilian use the site looked much as it did on the day we
left and I have to say that memories flooded back at the entrance
Having put these reminiscences together
I have now taken the time to look at those of Messrs Purcall, Sutton
and Dickinson and I take pleasure in discovering that there are
consistencies between their recollections and mine in various
respects. It gives me satisfaction to learn that my memory is not as
faulty as I had thought.
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