Gary Oakley - Transfer to submarines

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


I met this guy, and we were both 15 at the time and we were both going to join the Navy. He said, "What are you going to do? " And I said, "I don’t know, I was thinking about submarines ". And he goes, "Yeah, I am too ". So we thought we might meet up.

He became a stoker and I became a greenie. We were both at Cerberus at the same time. And then his course was shorter than mine. So he went into the fleet, I stayed. We bumped into each other as ordinaries we bumped to each other when we're both rated. And we've been mates ever since. We went through Leeuwin together.

When we both got out, and we were both in the fleet, I was an electrician and he was a Stoker, we went, let's join submarines. So I put my hand up to join submarines. got selected, he got selected. I was on the Perth in HMAS Perth. And Perth was going to do the first Indian Ocean tour that a warship had done since the Second World War.

We were gonna go to Mauritius and we went to Africa and Ethiopia and Iran and everywhere. And I went, "Whoa ". And I ripped up my submarine thing, because I wanted to do the trip. So he went to submarines and I didn't. But the Navy has a long of memory.

So when I came when we did the Indian Ocean tour on Perth, we came back and Sydney and then into Sydney and they said, "We're going to do a half-life refit and a half-life refit in the United States. So I went, "Oh, this is good ". So, I stayed on the Perth went to Long Beach, California for 14 months, did a half-life refit.

When I came back, they said, "Well, now we're gonna have to draft you off the ship ". So they drafted me to HMAS Platypus, the submarine base because they must have gone, "Oh, he’d volunteered for submarines once before ". And that's when I hooked up with me mate again, Ken. He'd been in submarines for five years, three years, or whatever it was at that time.

And I got so used to working with sub mariners because they do things differently. They're not so rank orientated. It was about you. I never saw anybody salute a bloody officer the whole time when I was at Platypus except on pay day. It was like, it was a really close-knit bunch of people and they did things differently, but they demanded a really high standard of excellence.

But when you looked at it you go, "What a bunch of pirates ", you know, and then when my time finished at Platypus I was then drafted me to HMAS Stuart, the Stuie Maru and she was just about buggered and she's looking for major refit. I mean, we went to RIMPAC and never made it to bloody Fiji because the thing broke down and we're dead in the water for two days till they flew apart to us to make us work.

We broke down on one occasion and we could only go backwards and the Admiral said, "You're not coming into Sydney Harbour backwards ", so they had to tow us in and so I was on the Stuart, they said, "Right, we got to send her in for a refit as quick as we can now ", we went to Dogtown to Williamstown in Victoria and I was the refit crew on it.

And so there's about eight or nine of us and we just at midday went to the pub, you know, we were just hanging around. And we lived at Lonsdale, HMAS Lonsdale, Lonsdale was a Second World War group of buildings and they were condemned. So you couldn’t live in the end buildings all of us lived in the rooms in the middle because they reckon the place was gonna fall down.

And I was at Lonsdale for a while and then they said, "We're drafting you out of Lonsdale and you’re going to Stalwart, HMAS Stalwart, building 2 – 1 – 5, bloody this horrible ship and I went there and I was mess deck leading hand and it was a ship where they put all the misfits and all the bloody useless people and those people that didn't want got to sea.

It was horrible. And well, I got sent there to be the mess deck leading hand, by then I was a leading seaman so my job was to go there and look after a bunch of people and to run a section. So, because it was a refit ship as well, so it had a whole party of refit people and their job was to refit ships alongside so it was part of fleet maintenance, so I was a part of the fleet maintenance group.

And I had a mess of blokes to look after. And, you know, because I lived on shore, I would come in and go, you know, "You're not out of your bunks in time ", so I'd get on their case and they'd leave crap around and stuff and at lunchtime, I'd make them bloody scrub the floors. I said "Look, if you lot can’t look after yourself, I’m gonna hound you till you do ".

And it reached a head one day where I went, "Alright, I want you all to stand by your bunks, your lockers. And I went, "How come there's two lockers here that have got locker keys, locks on them and there's no one standing in front of them? " And they went, "On, there's no one, they’re just spare lockers ". And I went, "open the lockers ". And they went, "Oh, we don't have the key’. So I went, "Go get the bolt cutters ". Pop up and they're all full of booze.

And I said to these young blokes, they'd been off whingeing about me to their divisional officer, actually, this lieutenant, and I said, "Own up. Who owns the grog? " nobody owns up to it. "All right, everybody, grab it and go into the bathroom and tip it down the sink ". I said to them later, "If you'd owned up I would have told you, you got 24 hours to get it off the ship ".

But I mean, there was a lot of booze, and I went , "Uh, tip it down the sink " and then about a two days later, I get called to this lieutenant’s office and he had a go at me and he goes, "Ah, there's so many complaints about you. You're a nasty person. And I went, "No, I'm not. " I said, "All I'm doing is my job ". I said, "Those little bloody grubby bastards need to have their arses kicked " and he went, "Nah ", you know, "it's people like you, we don't need in the Navy, because you're going to drive these people out ". And I went, "Good. Get rid of them ".

And we had a bit of an argument, and I went, "__ I'm leaving ". And went, "Oh I shouldn't have said that " so I bolted down to the ship's office and said, "Could I put my submarine thing in? " And they went, "Yeah, yeah ". So within two days I was gone back to Platypus and when I ended up at Plat everybody at Plat said, "Where did you go? " And I went, "What do you mean? " They said, "I thought you were a submariner ". "No, no I had to go back to skimmer land ". And they went, "Oh, okay ". So, then I went to do my submarine training in the UK and then the rest of my Navy career was in submarines.

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