Department of Navy 1963-64

I was allocated to the Department of the Navy (Russell Hill) as a Clerical Assistant Grade One.

It was a menial job in a sub registry of Naval Technical Services NTS wherein I recorded the transfer of files from one Branch to another and went on searches for missing files that some naval architect or engineer wanted to work on.

I also took lunch orders so that these boffins would not have to queue up at the canteen.

Life was now a hoot! No splinters, no abuse and lots of nice perfumed female company.

My pay was nine pounds a week and after paying board I still had sufficient to go to the pictures, to amass a wardrobe and go to regular Friday evening dances where I would meet up with teenagers who also worked in Navy and those North's rugby crowd who were more interested in broads rather than booze.

At work, we had to wear coat and tie and get there and leave on time. Each employee had a punch card. The whole of the public service in Canberra had to punch in a dedicated card before 8:30. At 8:31 the imprint would be red (your late!).

Personnel Section would check the cards and raise notes to those who were late.

At 16:45 queues around the Bundy Clock would form in a long snake like line. At 16:51 the process would start and the entire Department would be empty by 17:00 hours.

The work was not taxing. It seemed that work was second to the social goings on.

Many staffers followed the local rugby competition and It would be common for me to natter and chat without deference to the fact that we were being paid to work.

It was that wonderful time in my life that I began to have dalliances.

My first "love" was Lydia S. Her parents were Latvian refugees.

She had flaxen blond hair in a ponytail. She was tall and very pretty in spite of being "heavy".

I used to borrow dad's blue VW wagon to go courting.

we were in the backseat when in the early hours of a Saturday morning November 21, 1963, we heard the news that the American President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

It made us stop and sit up.

In February 1964 a destroyer, the HMAS Voyager collided with the aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne.

Some 82 lives were lost and it sent a pall right through the heart of the department.

For months the atmosphere was morbid. The Department was 30:70 service/civilian staffed.
Hence, most of the enlisted personnel knew sailors serving on the Voyager.

Handling files on either the electrical, mechanical or design features of both ships had for me become more personal.

(The picture - above- shows the HMAS Melbourne being escorted by two Daring Class destroyers - the Voyager and Vendetta.