Marine artist Ian Hansen in East Timor

Name: Ian Hansen
Date: 2000
Unit: Civilian artist
Location: East Timor

Marine artist Ian Hansen has a deep love of the sea and ships. He began painting them in water colours when he was eight and graduated to oils at the age of 11. He joined the Royal Australian Navy at 15 and served for 12 years, including service on HMAS Sydney in 1967-68 during the Vietnam War.

At the same time he continued to develop his skills, continually painting the ships and scenes he observed on his travels.

When he left the Navy, Ian became a successful full time painter and has since had exhibitions in the US, UK and Australia. His work hangs in Government House in Sydney, Qantas House, the Sydney Stock Exchange, AMP Building, the National Maritime Museum and in many private collections around the world.

Ian travelled to East Timor in February 2000 at the invitation of the RAN to record naval activities as the INTERFET troops handed over to the UN contingent.

The following are extracts from his diary in which he also did sketches.

14 February 2000

A trouble free flight to Darwin via Alice Springs which looked very water logged. At Darwin Dawn was waiting with a paddy wagon (very appropriate). A quick run to RAAF base only to find John and I were meant to fly out on the 0700 flight which might have been a tad difficult as at 0700 I was still breakfasting in Sydney. We are now going first thing in the morning, staying the night at HMAS Coonawarra in the wardroom no less, moving up in the world (apart from the paddy wagon).

15 February 2000-04-20

Darwin to Komoro via USAF Hercules with 50 armed service personnel. Met by W/O John Perryman and Lt Aaron Cox. Cleared customs then over to a huge M126 chopper with French crew. A quick ride over to Oecussi to witness the Australian forces handing over control to the UN Jordanians. As expected it was very hot.

The best vantage point was next to a Jordanian machine gun bunker. They didn't seem very impressed when I started to sketch the scene. They gave the impression the Indonesians were about to attack and I was in their field of fire! I ended up next to the vicious razor wire near the bunker. The press who were there totally ignored them!!

Met the captain of HMAS Melbourne, Andy Gough, whose 'helo' landed in a nearby soccer field for a quick flight to Melbourne standing offshore. It's Melbourne's 8th birthday so after a quick bite to eat in the ward room and a brief from XO we joined the off duty crew in junior sailors mess for birthday cake.

RAS with HMNZS Endeavour after tour of the ship with Chaplain. Beaut dinner in wardroom then watched OOW mans in a very warm barmy night. I'm bunking down in the sailor's mess in very condensed conditions. Defence watches means everything is dark and quiet. Surprisingly I slept well.

16 February 2000

Up at 0500. I'm writing this on the STB bridge wing waiting for a nice dawn. Anchored off Dili at 0700 ex Moresby is anchored nearby. Joined HMAS Labuan at Suai Very little happening on board today as tomorrow is the big activity event. Went for swim off ramp, the crew getting towed around on a surfboard by ship's sea boat. Capt Andrew Dobb, XO Mark Butler played 'risk' (a board game) in the ward room in the evening. Our quarters are in a container on tank deck. Thankfully air conditioned. I'm told sharks, crocs & sea wasps are rife here!!

17 February 2000

Early morning start. Went ashore with armed sentry. Recorded some ideal reference.

Steamed east to Betano where bits of HMAS Voyager are still visible. Offloaded displaced Timorese at 1400. The joy of watching these East Timorese being reunited with their families was really heart warming. Cheering and tears, the Aussies being thanked over & over. We are winched up to HMAS Melbourne's helo whilst under way. Heavy rain started as we are winched up. Arrived back on board HMAS Melbourne at 1530. Watched 50 Cal firing at night target flares. Tracers bright orange/red.

18 February 2000

At 0830 we go by sea boat to join HMNZS Endeavour who are at anchor off Suai. Our now "old" friends on Labuan are alongside with Army fuel tankers on the tank deck getting refuelled. Melbourne is also anchored close ahead of us. Off loaded tankers then anchored just off shore while tankers empty at Suai. Went for swim. Rejoined HMNZS Endeavour. Beaut sunset and lightning display later in the evening. Pale full moon on a very calm sea. HMAS Melbourne doing OOW mans off to STB.

19 February 2000

Rasaps with Melbourne gave us some good photos. Anchored at Dili at 1630 after getting Moresby to move away from our anchorage. Magic full moon in the evening. Mirror sea and lots of lights up in the mountains above Dili.

The wardroom has a garden gnome which was stolen from another NZ ship who had stolen it from a NZ resident and every time they visited a foreign port, the gnome would be photographed ashore and the photo sent back to the resident with a brief "having a good time" message.

The empty stone buildings along the beach front were Indonesian and the Timorese refuse to live in them even though they are far better than their own houses.

20 February 2000

When we arrived ashore there was no one to pick us up. The soldiers advised us to go to the Harbour Master's office. It's empty. None of the soldiers know any of the naval personnel ashore. After about half an hour the radio in the HM's office comes to life. HQ are calling Melbourne re the whereabouts of 2 missing naval artists. I was able to break into the traffic and let them know where we were. W/O Perryman picked us up in 5 mins.

21 February 2000

Rang Brian Robertson from Endeavour's bridge. We took a lift ashore in an LCM8 then over to NCC Interfet to meet Brian. We then had a quick tour through Dili. Lots of devastation. The drive up to the mountains was great, right up John's alley. A quick lunch with Brian in MASH style environment then LCM back to Endeavour. At 1430 met Maj Gen Peter Cosgrove & Commodore Brian Robertson on board Endeavour. At 1600 saw HMAS Jervis Bay come in, very impressive. Played volley ball on deck with crew.

22 February 2000

Rang my Princess at 0330 to wish her happy birthday. The Kiwis are great practical jokers, continually taking the piss out of everyone. Melbourne had lost 48 kg of cheese somewhere in the system. After many repeated signals wanting to know the whereabouts of the cheese the Kiwis got me to do a cartoon of some very fat contented rats in the tiller flat with the remains of the cheese with a bunch of signals. The Aussies reply was that when they saw my sketch of Endeavour there wasn't enough rust on the side of the ship. That got a massive bite out of Kel the XO. There is a song "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right and I'm stuck in the middle with you." They play it over the speakers when they are doing a RAS with a ship on each side. Went for a swim over the side, jumped off the forecastle, the water incredibly clear. A shark sighting from Melbourne made us clear the water. At 1330 we joined HMAS Labuan at 1900 we go into the dock ramp and load gear for Oecussi. Magic night as we steam west.

23 February 2000

The difference between the INTERFET forces and the UN was eye opening. The Aussie top brass were living in partially destroyed buildings, sleeping on stretchers on concrete floors with a small fan and mossie nets. Personal items stacked on the floor. Eating outside on duckboards with an Army tarpaulin for roof, wood benches and tables. The UN had a luxury floating hotel brought by heavy lift ship from Germany, air conditioned en suite bathrooms, all driving around in sparkling new 4WD air conditioned vehicles. The East Timorese seem to be on the end of a very long chain of events.

Beaut calm night with soldiers on board sleeping on stretchers on tank deck. Up early 0530 to watch the dawn. The country here extremely rugged. Discharged cargo then easy steam back to Dili, unloading and moored to buoy at 2115.

We transfer to HMAS Jervis Bay which is quite luxurious. Witnessed Maj/Gen Cosgrove & Cmdr Robertson & AC Wood come on board then a fleet review with lots of aircraft. Very impressive!! 40 knots with an odd flicking motion at sea. Close your eyes and you feel like you are flying. Maj/Gen Cosgrove sat still while I did a quick sketch of him. Unfortunately in the fading light I did not get a good likeness. Sat next to him in the bridge when we closed on Darwin and entered the harbour. Dawn was there to meet us with the paddy wagon again. Pouring with rain as we disembark."

The material for this article was supplied by Ian Hansen of New South Wales

Last updated: 4 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Marine artist Ian Hansen in East Timor, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 17 September 2021,
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