The reminiscences of Petty Officer Radio Mechanic Gordon
Theaker, formerly with MONAB I at Nowra.
Gordon served with the radio section of M.R. 1 at Nowra, he was a
member of the local RN dance band, and possibly the last member of
MONAB I to leave Nowra after it paid off.
I joined the Navy in June 1943 at HMS
Royal Arthur and on the 9th July went down to Devonport to undertake
a Radio Mechanic's course. After various draftings I arrived at HMS
Nightjar near Warrington, servicing A.S.R. equipment on the
September 1944 saw me transferred to
RAF Ludham (HMS Flycatcher) to join MONAB I. Our main occupation was
trying to assemble portable hangers in 7 hours, which we were unable
to do in 7 days! We were concerned also with servicing radar in
Avengers and Fireflies, but in October we became HMS Nabbington. I
recall that sometime in November 1944 we transferred to Liverpool to
board the Empress of Canada (26,000 tons) and sailed for Australia
via the Panama Canal .
The voyage, unescorted, took 31 days
calling at Colon where we were allowed ashore. The Americans had set
up a great number of stalls loaded with free food and soft drinks.
Unfortunately, nearly 4,000 troops were allowed ashore and in the
race to get to the food and drink the stalls were demolished and
chaos reigned. Obviously we created a bad impression and we
understood that the Americans were never so generous in the future.
We arrived in Sydney sometime before
Christmas but my watch was not allowed ashore. Beguiled by the
lights of the city and after blacked out Britain I broke ship and
went drinking and ice-skating. After a fall on the ice rink I woke
up in hospital next to a Chinaman. I was suffering from concussion
and stayed in hospital for 3 weeks, subsequently rejoining MONAB I
under canvas on RandwicK racecourse. Strangely, I was not penalised
for my technical desertion. After a month we transferred to R.A.A.F
Nowra where we continued servicing aircraft.
There may have been some construction
work going on when we arrived at R.A.A.F Nowra but we were not
involved in any sort of that work.We were immediately housed in long
wooden buildings that were split into small cabins to accommodate
two men. Furniture consisted of, I think, two beds and a table.
Shore leave was allowed every other day
when we were taken by lorry into Nowra. It was essential to get
there before 6 p.m. as at this time the hotels stopped selling
alcohol. I had a girl friend in Nowra, by the name of Norma
Dorrington, and her parents were kind enough to invite me to dinner
on many occasions. This is where I first enjoyed the delights of
During this period I joined a Naval
dance band playing alto saxophone. The Navy kindly provided us with
a driver and a 3 ton Bedford lorry to enable us to tour the area
playing to civilians and troops. We were allowed to take ashore
tinned fruit etc. but not cigarettes or tobacco. Luckily a tin of "pussers"
tobacco was the same size as a tin of pineapple and so by
transferring the label from the fruit to the tobacco everyone was
happy. The bell of my saxophone also came in useful for taking small
Following the bombing of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki we became largely redundant. In November 1945 we came under
the name of HMS Nabswick and the unit dispersed until I was the only
one left. Following the break-up of MONAB 1 I was left to my own
devices. This was quite inexplicable. I was paid and fed but had no
duties. During this time I was in some demand because I had
knowledge of a gap in the perimeter fence enabling men to go ashore
irrespective of their watch, bypassing the main gate.
I also devised a clothes boiler, which
was in popular use. It consisted of a large bucket of water in which
was immersed a heating element wrapped around a square of asbestos.
The whole contraption was connected to the camp's electricity
supply. Most of the time this worked successfully but there were
times when the camp was without power, luckily the fault was never
traced to my cabin.
In March 1946 I joined 812 squadron,
aboard HMS Vengeance, spending some time ditching American aircraft
north of Australia. Eventually we sailed for Ceylon ( Sri Lanka )
landing at Trincomalee and setting up a radio section at Katakarunda.
In the belief that we were exhausted we were sent to a rest camp at
Kandy for a few weeks. We moved down to Colombo to pick up Vengeance
and returned to Portsmouth via the Suez Canal . I was discharged in
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