The RSL’s generosity to HMAS Success

Published on CHAP Colin Tett (author), ABIS Jake Badior (photographer)

Sailors onboard HMAS Success currently deployed in the Middle East share a laugh while playing guitar in their down time, from left; Able Seaman Marine Technician Damien Mann, Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Luke Horsburgh and Leading Seaman Aircrewman Ben McNeil. (photo: Able Seaman Jake Badior)
Sailors onboard HMAS Success currently deployed in the Middle East share a laugh while playing guitar in their down time, from left; Able Seaman Marine Technician Damien Mann, Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Luke Horsburgh and Leading Seaman Aircrewman Ben McNeil.

The name ‘Returned and Services League’ or RSL as it is more commonly known, conjures images of the local club. However, behind this ‘shopfront’ is an organisation which directly supports the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who deploy today.

A recent beneficiary of the RSL’s generosity was the ship’s company of HMAS Success, who were recently deployed to the Middle East for six-and-a-half months under Operation MANITOU.

Prior to departing Fleet Base East in November 2014, Success was given the chance to enhance the quality of off-watch time during the deployment.

Game consoles and games were on hand for the technologically minded, and a fund was set up for cultural activities at the various ports visited, including Muscat and Salalah in Oman and Dubai in the UAE. 

The RSL also supported the ship by sending care packages at Christmas and for Anzac Day.

As if this was not enough, the RSL funded enough musical equipment to allow the formation of a ship’s band, along with staging equipment to have monthly concerts on the flight deck. Members of ship’s company, led by Success’ resident muso Leading Seaman Aircrewman Ben McNeil, learnt to play the instruments. 

A number of guitars, a bass, an electronic keyboard and drum set, along with amplifiers, microphones and a stage lighting system are now available for ships deploying to the Middle East region in the future.

Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Luke Horsburgh said that having the musical instruments on board was great as they provided a much needed break from the operational tempo of the deployment.

"Learning to play music with my shipmates was a fun and relaxing way to escape the daily grind at sea," he said.

"I'm not quite good enough to quit my job and become a rock star yet, but learning the guitar is definitely something I have loved doing and will hopefully continue to do in the future." 

Ship’s Warrant Officer Deb Butterworth said that maintaining as good a quality of life as possible was central to keeping up morale. 

"Success doesn’t have some of the entertainment and connectivity available on other platforms," she said. 

"However, knowing that the RSL was supporting us with cultural activities, and receiving the care packages reminded us that there were people thinking of us when we were a long way from home."

As a mark of thanks, Success flew a special RSL flag each time she conducted a replenishment at sea.