'Old Salt' clocks up 45 years of continuous service

Published on CPOCIS James Scorer (author), LSIS Dove Smithett (photographer), LSIS Peter Thompson (photographer)

Location(s): Sembawang, Singapore

Leading Seaman Communications and Information Systems Roger Dalby using a 10 inch signal lamp on the port bridge wing of HMAS Sydney. (photo: LSIS Peter Thompson)
Leading Seaman Communications and Information Systems Roger Dalby using a 10 inch signal lamp on the port bridge wing of HMAS Sydney.

It was the winter of 1968, the Beatles were about to release ‘Hey Jude’, Australia’s Rod Laver claimed the Wimbledon Men’s singles title, Sir John Gorton was the Australian Prime Minister and Leading Seaman Roger Dalby, CSM, joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Junior Recruit.

After completing his initial training, he joined HMAS Sydney (III) as an Ordinary Seaman and deployed to Vietnam in 1969, where he served for six months. On his return to Australia, he was selected for training as a communicator and commenced his training as a Radio Operator at Cerberus in 1970, and thus the Legend was born.

Since qualifying as a Radio Operator in 1971, Leading Seaman Dalby has served in HMA Ships Dutchess, Yarra (III), Assail, Stalwart (II), Attack, Brunei, Stuart (II), Torrens, Perth (II), Melbourne (III), Darwin (twice), Newcastle, Manoora and has now returned to his original ship’s name, Sydney, albeit with a slightly smaller hull. With the exception of training courses, he has not served ashore since 1987 and claims (conservatively) that he has rejected promotion to Petty Officer at least 10 times to ensure he is able to continue his at-sea service.

In his 45 years of continuous service in the Royal Australian Navy, the Communications and Information Systems sailor has deployed on operations to Vietnam, Timor Leste, Solomon Islands and the Persian Gulf. He is unable to quantify the number of times he has deployed to Asia and has participated in six RIMPACs (the world’s largest naval exercise) and countless other multinational exercises.

Leading Seaman Dalby names his career highlights as HMAS Perth’s visit to Greece in 1992, the award of his Conspicuous Service Medal in 2009 and participating in the International Fleet Review in 2013 onboard Sydney.

 “Its an absolute pleasure to serve with Leading Seaman Dalby. His vast depth of knowledge from his decades of naval service is simply impressive,” HMAS Sydney’s Signals Communications Officer, Lieutenant Rebecca Russell said.

One of his most famous deeds (in recent times) occurred when the Navy ‘cruelly’ tried to force him ashore by decommissioning the Destroyer HMAS Perth from under him. The story goes that he marched off Perth walked down Fleet Base East with his bags and walked up the first gangway he came to (HMAS Melbourne). Upon arriving onboard, he announced he was joining and that the Directorate of Sailors Career Management would catch up with the paperwork later. This story is partially true. Roger had pre-arranged the posting to Melbourne but the posting order hadn’t come through, and, as Melbourne’s Quarter Master wasn’t expecting him, the accepted version is that his arrival was unplanned.

Leading Seaman Dalby was awarded his 6th clasp (45 years) of the Defence Force Service Medal by Commander Border Protection Command, Rear Admiral Michael Noonan, onboard Sydney during a recent visit to Singapore. While very humble and a man of few words, Leading Seaman Dalby did say “it makes me feel very proud that Rear Admiral Noonan was able to present my 6th clasp DFSM in front of all of my crew mates.”

Commander Border Protection Command, Rear Admiral Michael Noonan, AM, RAN (left) presents Leading Seaman Communication Information Systems Roger Dalby, CSM with his sixth clasp for the Defence Long Service Medal on the flight deck of HMAS Sydney while the ship is alongside at Sembawang, Singapore.

Commander Border Protection Command, Rear Admiral Michael Noonan, AM, RAN (left) presents Leading Seaman Communication Information Systems Roger Dalby, CSM with his sixth clasp for the Defence Long Service Medal on the flight deck of HMAS Sydney while the ship is alongside at Sembawang, Singapore.


Of note, only 10 members of Sydney’s crew were born before Leading Seaman Dalby joined the Royal Australian Navy. It is indeed highly likely that he is the first person in the Navy to clock up 45 years continuous service while still serving at sea. HMAS Sydney congratulates Leading Seaman Roger Dalby for his impressive, enduring and faithful service to the nation of Australia.