Backstage team smooths any ripples

Published on LSIS Helen Frank (author and photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02)

Prime Minister of Australia, The Honourable Tony Abbott, MP, is given a tour by Commander David Walter onboard NUSHIP Canberra before the commissioning ceremony, Fleet Base East, Sydney. (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Prime Minister of Australia, The Honourable Tony Abbott, MP, is given a tour by Commander David Walter onboard NUSHIP Canberra before the commissioning ceremony, Fleet Base East, Sydney.

Last Friday, while most of HMAS Canberra’s ship’s company dressed in their white ceremonial uniforms to take part in the commissioning ceremony, 24 members of the crew remained in their everyday working rig, ready to respond in the case of an emergency.

Even during the most significant of occasions, alongside or at sea, every Navy vessel has a team of personnel onboard assigned to be 'on watch'. This team, called Duty Watch, takes responsibility for a 24 hour period before handing over to the next watch.

Canberra’s Duty Watch for commissioning day was comprised of volunteers from the ship’s company with a few members such as Able Seaman Aviation Support Steven Carkeek undertaking their first duty onboard the ship.

“As I was the Quartermaster’s Assistant I was on watch at the gangway,” Able Seaman Carkeek said.

Leading Seaman Communications and Information Systems Stewart Thurlow raises the Australian White Ensign onboard HMAS Canberra during the commissioning ceremony, Fleet Base East, Sydney.

Leading Seaman Communications and Information Systems Stewart Thurlow raises the Australian White Ensign onboard HMAS Canberra during the commissioning ceremony, Fleet Base East, Sydney.



“I didn't mind having to work while the commissioning ceremony was happening because it was interesting duty.

“It was pretty cool to be on the the gangway when the Prime Minister arrived,” he said.

Not surprisingly, with more than 1,000 guests arriving for the ceremony in the main hangar, each member of Duty Watch was kept busy.

As the officer in charge of the Duty Watch team, Lieutenant Rebecca Wilson carried the responsibility of Officer of the Day.

“It was a special opportunity and privilege to be the first Officer of the Day of HMAS Canberra,” Lieutenant Wilson said.

“I had the responsibility of making the day run smoothly and ensure there are no hiccoughs.

“I knew there were a lot of very observant eyes onboard the ship so it was important to present a well-run ship on behalf of the Commanding Officer,” she said.

However, even as the men and women of Duty Watch stood watch throughout Navy's biggest warship, those in view of one of Canberra's many CCTV screens were able to witness the raising of the White Ensign for the first time, a moment that will always remain with each member of ship's company, including those who were working out of sight, backstage.