Gary Oakley - Refusing to go to sea

Running time
2 min 52 sec
Date made
Place made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I was domestic leading hand on Ovens, my last submarine, and I was on a boat for three years, and you're supposed to be about 18 months, not even 18 months, the longest 12 months, because they mentally stuff you and I got to a point, we were in Hawaii for RIMPAC, we were going to RIMPAC and I just went to the WEO, I went and I said, "I can't do this anymore. I've been on his boat for three years. What's going on? I've watched three captains come and go and three WEOs come and go, why am I still here?"

And then I just went down on the wharf and went, "I'm not getting on this stinking submarine ", and I remember the captain, he's got the phone in his hand and he says, "Gary, talk to your wife " and I go, "No, I'm not talking to her ", this my second wife and she goes, "If he’s not getting on the submarine, he’s not getting on the submarine. "

So, they sent me home with about another three guys and flew us home, which is a story in itself. And then I had to front the captain, Captain SM of the depot because basically I’d mutinied and refused to go to sea. And he just said to me, "I'm going to give you two weeks compassionate leave, go home and come back and then we'll talk about what we're going to do with you ". "Okay ". I went home, came back off caps. And he goes, "The Weapons Electrical Officer will apologize to you ". I went, "Okay ".

The base WEO who I'd known previously in surfaces, he goes, "Yeah, I'm sorry, I stopped your promotion to keep you on the submarine. " I went, "What? " And he went, "Yeah, because you're really good at managing young men. Your boat had the least amount of guys, submariners run away all the time.

The weekly running, some of them will disappear for the week, come back, because that’s the way they get it out of their systems. And then they come back and then they get fined or whatever. And life starts again. And he said, "Your mess was the best mess because you had very few guys who ran away, you looked after your people really well, your greenies were all happy, and you're really good at training people ". And I went, "So you penalized me for doing a good job ". And he went, "Yeah, we stopped your promotion. And we kept you on a submarine ". And I said, "You mentally broke me. And you did not promote me ". And he said, "No ".

I walked out of there promoted to a petty officer and basically, "What job do you want? " And I said, "I want an inboard job because I used to work in the powerhouse. So, I said, "I don’t want to work in the powerhouse and I want to go to sea ". In the end, they said, "Hey, would you like to go to West Australia because we're just building up Fleet Base West? ", new submarine base, we had the new Collins class boats coming in.

And I went, "Nah, I got a daughter, this big. I don't want to go over there". I said, "I want to go to a place where I don’t lose my submarine pay and I’m as a far away from the frigging water as I can get ". So, they sent me to Canberra, to the submarine billet in Canberra. And that's how I came to Canberra.

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