David Mattiske - Captain Collins

Running time
4 min 32 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


In the early hours of the morning, we're heading into where we're gonna do the bombardment at Cape Gloucester at New Britain. And by this time, I know the manoeuvres a little bit. I'd never been to sea before, but I'm quickly picking up the idea.

And out on the starboard stern, aft, I see the bow wave of a ship that should not have been there. What do I do? I'm a greenhorn. I think about this for a second and say "Well, I better do something." I yell out, "Starboard lookout, officer of the watch!" He's up on the bridge, a little dais a bit further up the compass platform. He comes to the rail and looks. "Yes, lookout." I said, "Bearing so-and-so, unidentified object." "Thank you." Nothing happens for a while. You could hear them talking. Messages going back. "It's all right, lookout, thank you". It's one of our destroyers. Shouldn't have been there.

Now when we get back from the Cape Gloucester bombardment, back to Buna, off Buna, I get told to report to the gunnery office. "From now on you'll be manning the port Evershed bearing indicator on the compass platform." Why? You don't get told, you just get told what to do. The port Evershed bearing indicator is also known as the captain's sights. It's a huge thing with a huge set of binoculars on it. Bearings and follow radar, follow guns, follow, do everything, eh? And beside it is a high-chair which is known as the captain's chair, and this place is known as the captain's sights. So, you get to know the captain.

Here I'm just a few months after I came. Big job! Very proud. But I also did it very meticulously and conscientiously. Here comes a funny story about four months later. I'm pretty used to what goes on now, I'm pretty smart. We're cruising off about Lae returning from something, lovely morning like this morning, sunny, calm. Mountains in New Guinea with cloud cover there, calm sea. Straight ahead, something in the water. "Port lookout, officer of the watch." "Yes." I said, "Bearing directly ahead, unidentified object." He picked up his glasses. "Yeah, okay. Carry on." This particular officer of the watch was known as Chuckles to us. Not a nice bloke at all. We do as he said, we go this way, this way, that way, that way, that way.

We come back again. There is this object again. "Port lookout, officer of the watch." "Yes?" "Bearing so-and-so, same object as reported before, now more visible, probably a tree trunk." "It's all right, lookout," he said. "I heard you the first time!" Collins is doing his morning constitutional up and down on the port wing of the bridge, eh? He bounds up onto the compass platform a couple steps. "Officer of the watch, when a lookout reports to you in the correct seamanlike manner, he shall be replied in the correct seamanlike manner." "Oh, yes, sir." "Thank you. Thank you, lookout." He goes back. From then on, I kept clear of Chuckles. I thought, never get in this bloke's way again, he'll crucify me! But that's the sort of captain Collins was. Everything had to be done correctly.

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