Part of HMAS Sydney’s Living History Comes on Board
A part of HMAS Sydney (IV)’s living history paid a surprise visit to the ship during her port visit to Hobart.
95 year old Fred House, the only surviving member of HMAS Sydney (II)’s commissioning crew, came onboard for a look around the ship on Sunday, February 10.
Mr House said his visit onboard had been terrific.
“All the stuff on the bridge, it amazed me,” Mr House said.
”The times have certainly changed – there’s no steering wheel now,” he said.
“They explained how the missile works – it goes much further than anything in my day. The farthest one we had went about 25km.”
A former Able Seaman Gun Layer, Mr House joined Sydney (II) in 1935 with the commissioning crew at Wallsend-on-Tyne, England.
Mr House was injured during a practice firing of the 4 inch guns in 1940 and was posted off the ship.
On November 19, 1941, Sydney (II) was lost with all hands following an engagement with the German raider, HSK Kormoran, off the West Australian Coast.
The ship remained lost until March 16, 2008, when its wreckage was discovered 112 nautical miles off Steep Point, WA.
He said his visit to Sydney (IV) had brought back a lot of memories from his first days on Sydney (II) in 1935.
“Our Commissioning Captain, CAPT Fitzgerald, announced over the air that we could have an open ship – we could go anywhere on the ship to learn where everything was,” Mr House said.
“’We are a new ship and you are a new crew’ – they are the exact words he used and he said we’ve got to learn where our stations were,” he said.
“Two or three times a fortnight we exercised action stations and it was through that the crew became so efficient.
“This went on right through until CAPT John Collins took over as CO. We were still doing that exercise,” he said.
Mr House has played a role in a Commission appointed to inquire into and report on the loss of Sydney (II) and her crew.
“Last year Commissioner Cole and a Lieutenant came from Canberra to get my story of Sydney (II), because he was trying to find out all he could about the sinking of the Sydney,” said Mr House.
“Since then I’ve had three other visits,” he said.
“There was a lot that happened when I was on the Sydney (II) that had been forgotten.”
Mr House was grateful for the hospitality and his hour long tour of the latest ship to proudly carry the Sydney name.
“They couldn’t take me into the wireless room or the secure rooms below the bridge but they showed me everything else,” Mr House said.
“Everywhere I went opened my eyes to all the modern way of doing things now,” he said.
“The things that are on it are unbelievable to me, it’s just amazing.”
Naval Today Staff, February 18, 2013; Image: Australian Navy