HMAS Sydney benefits from an ‘age’ of experience

Published on LCDR Jeremy Richardson (author), LSIS Dove Smithett (photographer)

Topic(s): Exercise BERSAMA SHIELD, HMAS Sydney (IV)

The 'Magnificent Seven' on 02 Deck of HMAS Sydney during Exercise BERSAMA SHIELD 2014. L-R: Chief Petty Officer Combat Systems Supervisor Scott Christie, Leading Seaman Communication Information Systems Roger Dalby, Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Kerry Ross, Warrant Officer Clearance Diver Matthew Hurley, Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Tony Burchill, Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Ron Palmer, and Chief Petty Officer Coxswain Dave Biddle. (photo: LSIS Dove Smithett)
The 'Magnificent Seven' on 02 Deck of HMAS Sydney during Exercise BERSAMA SHIELD 2014. L-R: Chief Petty Officer Combat Systems Supervisor Scott Christie, Leading Seaman Communication Information Systems Roger Dalby, Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Kerry Ross, Warrant Officer Clearance Diver Matthew Hurley, Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Tony Burchill, Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Ron Palmer, and Chief Petty Officer Coxswain Dave Biddle.

Alongside the proverbial politics and religion, a person’s age is never a suitable topic for polite conversation. However, it is most curious that the length of a person’s service in the Australian Defence Force is a veritable badge of honour – particularly if someone can lay claim to being in the Navy for ‘longer than a dogwatch’ - and a topic frequently discussed in messes. Far from being the indication of a ‘lifer’ and a factor of derision, the time spent in Navy is, at its core, the culmination of a wide and precious set of remarkable skills.

It is therefore a mark of pride that one of the Royal Australian Navy’s ‘Magnificent Seven’, HMAS Sydney, hosts a veritable age of experience in her ranks with a magnificent seven of her own.

The personnel that make up Sydney’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ have been walking the earth for more than 370 years, in which time they have racked up more than 250 years of faithful service to the Royal Australian Navy and Australia.

Additionally, no individual has fewer than 30 years continuous service - much like the Grand Old Dame in which they serve.

Individually, each has their own experiences, stories and ‘warries’ of great ‘runs ashore’ and how it ‘used to be’. Collectively, the group are the product of a quarter of a century’s worth of training and personal outlays to ensure today’s most junior are the beneficiaries in the return of this investment.

Sydney’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ consists of:

Member Joined Navy Years at sea
Warrant Officer Clearance Diver Matt Hurley (Ship’s Warrant Officer) 1982 9
Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Kerry Ross 1970 17
Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain David Biddle 1979 14
Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Tony Burchill 1980 10
Chief Petty Officer Combat Systems Manager (A) Scott Christie 1983 15
Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Ronald Palmer 1982 9
Leading Seaman Communications & Information Systems Roger Dalby 1968 22
Total Years served: 254 96

 

Over the years, this group has seen countless naval reviews, changes to hierarchies and new classes of ships. They have each celebrated the 75th and 100th Navy anniversaries, as well as the recent International Fleet Review – and one wonders if they recall the 50th Jubilee as well!

Commanding Officer of HMAS Sydney, Commander Karl Brinckmann, said the wealth of experience onboard was a major plus for the rest of the crew.

“Having the wealth of experience in these professional sailors onboard Sydney would be equivalent to having seven Wallabies with over 100 caps in your starting line up. They have forgotten more in their time than others have learnt, and yet they continue to respect the contribution of every individual onboard Sydney,” Commander Brinckmann said.

But the sad fact is that with Sydney having recently celebrated her 31st birthday, these sailors are likely to outlive their current ship in service. But Sydney’s loss is still the Navy’s gain, with each to be posted into new positions where they will continue their good work. Far from being ‘old’, these energetic and experienced Sailors continue the work of their predecessors to lay a solid platform for the next generation to follow.