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In memory of Australian Submariners on

Eternal Patrol - Lest We Forget

In memory of

Australian Submariners on Eternal Patrol

AB Sonar Harry E Churchill

Harry E Churchill died on the 16th June 2012 in Sydney, NSW.

Harry had served as an AB Sonar Detector in HMAS/m K9 from 23 June 1943 to 31 March 1944.

Harry joined the SAA in June of 1987.

The following story was written by Harry and sent to Dr. Michael White QC to be used in his book “Australian Submarines A History”.

“Having served with the RN in UK and the Eastern Mediterranean I returned to Sydney in 1943 and was delighted to find that K9 an elderly Dutch submarine was being refitted for Asdic training out of Sydney.

“I had met up with some ‘T’ Class submariners during refit in Port Said Dockyard, where we had some strenuous games of water-polo with the crews and having formed a high regard for the submariners, I was pleased to have the opportunity to join that branch of the service.

“I joined K9 on 23 June 1943 and found that we were a motley crew with various backgrounds and very few with any experience, the blend proved to be a good one for the purpose and there developed a spirit of camaraderie.

“The captain and 1st Lieut was ex-Merchant Navy, two Midshipmen (one RN and the other RAN). The senior sailors with the exception of the Chief ERA RN the TGM (Torpedo Gunners Mate) RAN, were either RAFR (ex pre-war “O” boats) or RAN without previous submarine experience. The junior sailors consisted of seamen-torpedomen RN, Signalmen, Telegraphists, Asdic ratings and Stokers RAN without previous experience in submarines.

“I’m told that there were 35 officers and men on board, but at this late stage we can only come up with 32 names."

“We carried four 18” Dutch torpedoes which we prepared at the Torpedo Factory but as there were no practice heads, we did no firings.

“Gus Fisher thinks that K9 was contemporary with early British ‘H’ boats although he is sure that H50 in which he trained was far more modern.

“K9 had hand-worked vents and kingstons and hydroplanes were hand operated by two big wheels and rod steering, with luck we could dive to about 150 feet (45.7) metres.   “I distinctly remember a dive we attempted in Jervis Bay, with Gus Fisher on the forward hydroplanes and Jerry Rosbrook on the after wheel – it seems that Jerry wouldn’t give Gus a bubble and in his attempt to take her down Gus succeeded in diving at about 45% angle and correcting as we touched bottom and shot up again sharply to the surface; fortunately it was a sandy bottom and suffered no damage. It all happened so quickly, with everything moveable sliding first downhill and then back in the opposite direction.

“There was another occasion when we had difficulty in getting down until Gus Fisher reminded the 1st Lieut to close the vents – it seems that all we were doing was blowing bubbles!  “The battery ventilation system was a ducted one to individual cells, which led to the formation of hydrogen pockets and there was the danger that a spark would set it off. That is exactly what finally happened – fortunately we were surfaced, making our way down Sydney Harbour towards the Heads, when there was an explosion in the battery room. This wrecked the cells, which being of Dutch design, were irreplaceable and so we sadly paid off K9 on 31 March 1944.

“During K9 commission, she ranged from Broken Bay to Jervis Bay for exercises and made about 90 dives for Asdic training, mostly restricted to depth and course. It proved that more than one boat was required and eventually she was replaced temporarily by three ‘V’ boats.”

Compiled by Peter Smith, SAA Historian.


Robert Edward Hibberd know to his friends in the Squadron as Budgie, died in England at 2355 on 28 September 2009, he had lost the battle with his brain tumour.

After doing the obligatory service in General Service which saw Budgie serve in the war off the Vietnam coast, Budgie volunteered for submarines in 1972.

He travelled to the UK and after completing his initial at HMS Dolphin returned to Australia to join HMAS Oxley in the latter half of 1972 on completion of his Part Three he joined HMAS Ovens from 1973 to late 1974.

Budgie returned to Oxley for a short stint in 1975, before transferring to HMAS Onslow later that year. His draft kept him on the boat until 1978 when he was drafted inboard. Budgie returned to Onslow in 1980 and stayed with the boat until 1982.

Robert next draft was to HMAS Orion for a short stint later in 1982. In 1983 he joined HMAS Otway and served in her until 1986.

Robert left the service as a Chief Petty Officer ETC4SM. He joined the Association in July 2003.

Peter Smith SAA Historian


Former President and Life Member of the Submarines Association Australia,  Captain Barry Nobes RAN (Rtd) died on Saturday evening, 20 October 2012.

Barry Nobes entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1951. After graduating and training in HM Ships Devonshire and Triumph he served as a Midshipman in Newfoundland in the East Indies Station (East Africa, Persian Gulf, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Far East including Korea and the Malay Emergency where he took part in Jungle patrols with the Ghurkhas and Fiji Regiment.

As a Sub-Lieutenant he spent time in destroyers in the Mediterranean. Graduating from RNC Greenwich in 1956 he underwent submarine training (in the tender care of a certain Chief Coxswain Selby) in 1957. His first submarine was HMS Excalibur, an experimental HTP boat capable of underwater speeds of 28 knots using a High Test hydrogen-peroxide propulsive. He served in HM Submarines Astute, Tapir, Walrus and Olympus in Scotland, Canada, Malta and Australia.

As “Spare Crew Jim” in the Third Squadron in 1964 he was Commanding Officer of HMS Minstrel. Later he joined the Joint Anti-Submarine School at Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

In 1966 Barry undertook the Submarine Commanding Officers’ Course and at the successful completion of the “Perisher” was offered a commission in the Royal Australian Navy which he accepted. He transferred as a Lieutenant Commander and served as Commanding officer of HM Submarines Artful and then Alliance before joining HMAS Ovens which was being built at Greenock, Scotland in 1968.

After completion, workup and passage to Sydney via Jamaica, Peru, Chile and Tahiti, he eventually left Ovens to become Executive Officer of the ‘River’ class destroyer HMAS Swan. During his tenure the ship was involved in escort duties in Vietnam waters.

Promoted to Commander in 1972, he was XO of the accommodation establishment HMAS Kuttabul before attending the Joint Services Staff College in Canberra. On Graduation he became Assistant Director of Naval Plans in Navy Office and, in 1975 as an Acting Captain, Director of Submarine Policy. Three years later having been confirmed in the rank of Captain, he was appointed to command the Australian Submarine Squadron and HMAS Platypus.

In 1982 he was posted to take over command of the fleet oiler HMAS Supply and participated in exercises and cruises from New Zealand to Western Australia to the Far East. Eighteen months later he re-joined Navy Office, this time as Director of Naval Intelligence and Security.

During 1986 Barry undertook French language training at RAAF Point Cook and was selected as Australian Defence Attaché to Australia’s Paris Embassy. However, this posting was cancelled when Australia withdrew representation in Paris as a result of the Rainbow Warrior affair. He was posted back to Navy Office and subsequently to the Joint Intelligence Organisation.

Barry resigned from active Naval service in 1989.

Barry joined the Submarine Association in October 1985. He was voted in as National President at the AGM held on 12 June 1994. At the 1998 AGM the membership voted to bestow Barry Life Member status. At the 2004 AGM Barry announced to the membership that he was not standing for re-election and in a long and interesting report thanked everyone for their support in his tenure as National President.

Barry is survived by his wife June and three married daughters and grandchildren.

Compiled by Peter Smith

SAA Historian.

Life Member James (Jim) Albert Redwood died from the effects of a subdural hematoma on Tuesday, 13 October 2009.  Jim's funeral has been arranged for Wednesday 21 October 2009 at 12 noon at Wagga Wagga Crematorium.  The address is: Brunskill Road, Lake Albert

Jim was one of the first sailors from the RAN to volunteer for submarines and went to England in 1963 to undertake the original courses at the submarine school based at HMS Dolphin. On completion Jim was drafted to HMS/m Tiptoe in January 1964 to complete his Part Three Training, he left this boat in April of the same year.

His next submarine was HMS Truncheon which he joined in the latter part of April and continued to serve in this boat until June 1965.

Jim's next position was as a SETT instructor at the Tank at HMS Dolphin, this position he took up after leaving Truncheon and served there until May 1966.

Later in May, Jim now a Chief Petty Officer Coxswain left Dolphin and travelled up to Greenock in Scotland to join as the Commissioning Coxswain of HMAS Oxley and brought the submarine on its delivery voyage to the newly formed squadron at HMAS Platypus, Jim held the position of Coxswain until April 1969.

In April 1969 Jim returned to England and was the SETT instructor at HMS Dolphin until March 1972, he then returned to HMAS Platypus where he took up the position of Escape Coxswain on the base until March 1974.

With promotion to Warrant Officer in March, Jim took up the position of Regulating Coxswain of HMAS Platypus the position he upheld until February 1978

Jim was one of several submariners whose service was recognized with the presentation of the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal.

Jim left the Navy as a Warrant Officer Coxswain and moved to Western Australia were he took up a position with the Western Australian Fire Brigade

Jim joined the Association in July 1990, he with several other submariners in the West were integrators for forming a Branch of the SAA in that state (circa August 1990). Jim was voted into the executive position of Secretary Treasurer, which he held until December 1991 when he stood down from the Branch executive and resigned from the fire brigade and moved to Albany where he and his wife Anne, and submariner Dutchy (Ernie) Holland purchased a supermarket and ran it, a case of "once a grocer always a grocer".

Jim and Anne decided to move back to the east coast and settle in Holbrook, NSW. With the purchase of the fin and casing from the decommissioned HMAS Otway, Jim and Anne were very much involved in forming the memorial and museum in Holbrook.

As a former submarine coxswain, Jim used his medical knowledge and undertook the DVA advocate courses so as to help members in the southern part of NSW and northern Victoria with their DVA claims.

At the AGM held in Melbourne, sponsored by the Victorian Branch in June 2005, Jim was made a Life Member in recognition for his contribution to the SAA which included the formation of the WA Branch, the promotion of Association through his participation with the Otway relics and its adjoining museum and as a Pension and Welfare Officer.

Compiled by Peter Smith, SAA Historian


Raymond Victor Sylvester died in the Brisbane Waters Hospital at Woy Woy on Monday 21 September 2009.

After serving in General Service, which saw Ray as an Ordinary Seaman go to Vietnam, Ray volunteered for submarines leaving Australia in February 1968. On completion of his initial submarine training at HMS Dolphin, Ray joined HMS Opossum to complete his Part Three training.

Ray was one of the commissioning crew of HMAS Onslow and returned to Sydney on her delivery voyage out to Australia.  As spare crew Ray served in HMAS Ovens and Otway and he also served as PORSSM in HMAS Oxley during her first refit at Cockatoo Island. 

On gaining his rank as Chief Petty Officer RSSM, Ray was in charge of the Communications Section for Submarines at HMAS Cerberus.

Ray decided to retire from his Naval Service in 1984, however, before he retired he had been offered a Warrant Officer’s commission however he declined as the billet was to be at HMAS CERBERUS.

Ray moved to the Central Coast of NSW, he joined the Association in May 2008.  

Peter Smith SAA Historian


LCDR Don Williams passed away in Mona Vale, New South Wales.

Don enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces, or Militia, in 1937 but when World War II broke out his thoughts turned to the sea. Don had always loved the ocean and had sailed in his youth, so in May 1940 he joined the Royal Australian Navy. After completing an anti-submarine course, Don was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant. He was then seconded to the Royal Navy, embarking for Britain on the same ship that had carried his father to World War I, the SS Themistocles. Don’s father served with the 13th Battalion and was wounded at Gallipoli.

Following his arrival in Britain, Don served on trawlers patrolling the east coast of England, escorting convoys and rescuing survivors from ships that had been sunk by enemy action or mines. When his trawler put into port for repairs, Don sought a transfer to a destroyer and served in HMS Whitshed until January 1942, when a call went out for volunteers to serve in submarines.

Don had been quite taken with a British submarine he saw in harbour so he volunteered to join the submariners. After completing an officer submariners’ course he was assigned to ferry a British-built submarine, Murat Rhys, to Gibraltar where it was handed over to the Turkish Navy. Don was then assigned to HMS P31, one of only five British submarines given number designations instead of names during World War II. P31 was based in Malta and Alexandria, Egypt, patrolling from the North African coast to the Gulf of Taranto, Italy.

Don recalled the aerial bombing of Malta was often so severe that the crew would have to submerge to 30 feet to conduct repairs while in port. The conditions inside the submarine were cramped, but there was always a great sense of camaraderie and belonging.

P31 continued to serve in the Mediterranean until she returned to England for a refit at the end of 1942. Following P31’s return to sea, Don developed pneumonia and, by the time the boat had reached Portsmouth, needed hospitalisation. Don remained in hospital for a month recovering, during which time P31 returned to the Mediterranean.

In February 1943, Don was assigned as second-in-command of the submarine HMS Untiring, which was under construction in the Vickers shipyards at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The boat’s first patrol was to Norway and North Cape, before heading to the Mediterranean. On 14 December 1943, Untiring fired two torpedoes at a German mine-laying ship in Monaco harbour while it was loading mines. They scored a direct hit and the resultant explosion broke virtually every window in Monte Carlo. In Don's words, "We were the man who broke the bank in Monte Carlo!"

In early 1944, Untiring was patrolling off the Hyeres Islands, off southern France, when it sighted an important looking vessel leaving Toulon harbour. Don remembered the ship had a large escort and was flying three anti-aircraft balloons to prevent aerial attacks. Untiring fired off four torpedoes, scoring a hit before diving in an attempt to avoid enemy detection. After half an hour, Untiring returned to periscope depth to find the enemy escorts waiting. A series of depth charges exploded as Untiring tried to return to the deep. Despite suffering extensive damage from more than 300 explosions, Untiring was able to make her escape below a thermal layer. For his "courage, skill and devotion to duty" on this patrol, Don was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Don continued to serve in Untiring until he attended an officer command course in May 1945. He was promoted to Lieutenant and appointed to command the submarine HMS Voracious. Voracious was on her way to join the British Pacific Fleet when peace was declared. Don commanded the submarine on a tour to Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart before leaving the boat in Australia and then being discharged in March 1946.

Don married Phyllis Westbrooke in 1939 and after the war they bought a property at Wildes Meadow, growing cabbages and potatoes, before they were allocated a soldier settler block at Gundaroo, near Canberra. After 16 years at Gundaroo, Don and Phyllis moved to Papua New Guinea and bought their own island in the Solomon Sea. They grew copra and coffee on the island plantation until 1981, when they returned to Australia. Phyllis passed away in 1994.



Obituary of Colin Leslie Lewis by Peter Smith.
It is with great sadness that I report the death of member Colin Leslie Lewis in Queensland at 1630 on Monday, 14 June 2021. Colin best known to his peers as Jerry, saw the light and volunteered for submarines back in 1965.
Prior to his submarine life, in ships, Jerry served as a stoker and saw service in the Far East where he earned the Australian Active Service Medal with Malay Clasp sometime between 1962 and 1964 when the Australian Government sent warships at various times to assist SEATO nations in its confrontation with the Malaysian insurgents.
In either late 1965 or very early 1966, Jerry, like his early submarine buddies took note of the advertising (it wasn’t hard with Navy News reports) and volunteered. Back then it was most likely by ship, Jerry made it to the United Kingdom and ended up at the Royal Navy’s submarine Alma Mata, HMS Dolphin to begin his Part One and Tower Submarine Escape procedures before doing his Part Two as an MTP. On completion of his courses Jerry was drafted to HMS/m Otus in 1966 to do his Part Three.
Later in 1966 after completing his course and becoming a bona fide submariner, Jerry was drafted to Greenock, Scotland to join Australia’s new Oberon class submarine HMAS Oxley and was part of her commissioning crew on 21 March 1967. Jerry returned to Sydney on the boat as an ABMTPSM and saw the Commissioning of HMAS Platypus. In 1968 he left the boat and had pierhead jumps back to the boat in 1969, 70 and again 1975 and 76.
Back in 1971, Jerry was now a Petty Officer and I met him as the Out Side Wrecker in HMAS Onslow, like me we both served in Onslow until 1973.
In 1976, Jerry was back at sea in HMAS Otway where he stayed until 1977.
In 1979, Jerry joined the newest member of the submarine fleet HMAS Otama and stayed in the boat until 1980. I have no information on the rest of Jerry’s Naval service, assuming he demobbed that year, I note that with his wicked sense of humour from where I assume his nickname came from, that Jerry had earned the Long Service Medal without being caught and had left the service as a Chief Petty Officer MTPSM. While living in Concord, Sydney Jerry joined the Submarines Association Australia in May 1991.

Jerry and partner Robyn on Radiance of the Seas. Circa 2014

Jerry with Peter Chegwidden and Peter Smith taking the piss out of a passenger who complained to staff at the nearby dining table about dress codes on Radiance of the Seas. Circa 2014 (Formal or informal)

Jerry and Robyn with Russian Submarine Admiral at Subcon lunch 2014 in Fremantle, showing Russian submarine Vodka crock that Robyn bid on and won.

Peter Smith SAA Historian

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Last modified: 28 September 2018