The Funny Side of Ikara
Late one bleak Friday afternoon, a big blue Navy semi-trailer turned up on the parade ground at the TAS School at HMAS Watson. On the back was a large crate marked "Ikara - for instructional purpose" - well the shit hit the fan - no one knew it was coming and the TAS School did not have a secure room suitably marked to keep it in. TASCO (Torpedo Anti Submarine School Commanding Officer) and TASO (TAS Officer - second in command) were in a big flap!
After a flurry of phone calls most of which were not even answered as after 1500 on a Friday afternoon the Navy had mostly gone for the weekend! - it was decided to unload the crate of Ikara into the torpedo workshop. Now at the south end of the workshop there were two "rooms" - the first housed a Mk30 electric homing torpedo as carried in HMAS Melbourne - the "walls" were open timber framed covered by link wire with a double door made the same and normally locked. There was a sign on the doors "Restricted".
In behind this "room" was a second fully enclosed room which housed a Mk20 electric homing torpedo and a Mk8 wire guided diesel torpedo as carried in the Oberons. The door was marked "Confidential". The crate was unloaded using our overhead gantry and manhandled into this second room and the door locked - thinking the panic was over we all relaxed until TASO told me the room and the missile had to be guarded until someone decided what was to become of it.
I was immediately appointed "Petty Officer of the Guard" and told to select 2 leading seamen and 4 able seamen to make up the guard. We collectively decided that I would be "watch on stop on" and a Leading Seaman and 2ABs would be 8 hours on 8 hours off, until further notice. The first group went to the gangway and were issued with: .38 pistols for me and the L/S, .303 rifles with bayonets for the ABs and we all got NP (Naval Police) wrist bands. Mind you there was no ammunition for any of the firearms!!
On return to the workshop I found a camp stretcher had been set up between the practice mines for me as I was "watch on stop on". I was relieved by the duty PO for meals and this was such a pain in the arse signing firearms registers and sighting the missile and signing another register, signing entry and exit logs and keyboard logs etc that in the end I just asked my L/S to bring me a sanger after meals. On the Monday a couple of Chippies (Carpenters) turned up from Garden Island - they changed the signs on the doors - the inner door which housed the missile was changed from "Confidential" to "Confidential Authorised Entry Only" and the outer door was changed from "Restricted" to "Confidential". I was then told by TASO to "stand down the guard"! Talk about Abbott and Costello!!!
The Training Manual
Shortly after the weekend guard TASO told me to prepare a draft manual for the sailors in the ship's' magazine handling the missiles. Now there was little that they had to do as the missiles, without wings, were held in an overhead conveyor, a computer randomly selected one and positioned it at the stage where the wings were clipped on. Once the sailors clipped the wings on they moved to a safe place and stood on two safety levers which allowed the missile to proceed into the launcher.
In the 1960s if one fired or used a weapon, one was expected to know every thing about it including how it worked, how to strip it down, put it back together and understand the capabilities of it. With this in mind I went "duty ashore" to RANEL (Royal Australian Navy Experimental Laboratory) for a few days. A girl showed me into a room that looked like a train wreck and pointed to a couple of filing cabinets. The cabinets were not locked and never were - they contained all sorts of drawings, performance charts and information and I was soon engulfed in the process - so much so that I produced a manual of about 18 - 20 pages full of "information and diagrams" - only the last two pages referred to clipping on the wings and standing clear.
I took my treasure to Garden Island and had stencils cut so we could run off a couple of proof copies which I took back to Watson's Bay - I had signed out a rag top land rover and as it was late on Friday afternoon I decided to call in to the Watson's Bay Hotel for a couple of beers with my game fishing mates - Ken "Curley" Lewis (Master At Arms) and Jack Farrell (Bob Dyer's boatman). I left the folder in the land rover. By the time I arrived up at the gate to Watson the place was virtually shut down for the weekend so I signed the land rover back in and took the folder to my cabin, which was never locked, and dropped it on my desk.
Monday morning saw me proudly present my work to TASO and depart to the instructor's tea room for a brew. Shortly after in burst TASO - he was fuming - we always knew when this officer was upset because his face went black, swelled up and all the blood vessels on his neck looked like they were about to burst - I concluded that I may have done something wrong! TASO (Des M - anyone remember him?) was waving my draft manuals around and shouting something about "all this bloody shit is bloody top bloody secret" - another panic - across the passage was the "Confidential Books Room" which had a walk in safe so over we went - the draft manuals were placed in a big brown envelope and then TASO, me and the civvie staffer signed the flap before the staffer affixed a wax seal. It then went into a brief case with locks and was placed in the safe!
I was sent to Number Fours (Naval Police HQ) then into the Garden Island printing office with a PO REG and a couple of Dockyard Police to gather together all the stencils we had cut and any loose pages we could find. On return to Watson I copped a payout from TASCO - mostly about unauthorised secret material etc. etc. and Russian Spies!
I never saw any of that stuff again and some one else wrote some note about clipping on the wings and stepping on the safety pedals. Moral of the story - "never send a man to do a boys job!!"