As the Royal Australian Navy prepares to decommission HMAS Sydney this week, some of her ship's company reflect on their service in the frigate.
Warrant Officer Marine Technician Ian James Kemp has many fond memories of his 40 years service with the Royal Australian Navy, with almost nine of those years serving on board HMAS Sydney.
“I discharged from the Navy in April 2014 and am now happily retired in Brisbane, spending time with my grand children,” said Warrant Officer Kemp.
“But I really enjoyed the variety of my work during the time I spent on Sydney, also the people I worked with; they made it all worthwhile.
“It is hard to believe the time has come for Sydney to decommission,” he said.
HMAS Sydney will be decommissioned after 32 years of service on Saturday, alongside at her home port of Garden Island, Fleet Base East, Sydney. Many of the ship’s former crew, like Warrant Officer Kemp, are being reminded of their service to the ship in the lead up to this occasion.
The ceremony marks the end of more than three decades of service for this vessel, which has provided the Australian Defence Force with significant support in the conduct of maritime operations spanning the globe.
Warrant Officer Kemp joined the Navy in April 1974, leaving his hometown of Bordertown in South Australia, for HMAS Cerberus where he completed his recruit training and also his ‘Phase 1’ training as a Marine Technician Hull sailor. After completing Phase 2 and Phase 3, he also became qualified as a Naval Shipwright, amongst other qualifications.
When asked whether he has any special stories to tell about his time on board HMAS Sydney, Warrant Officer Kemp says there are too many stories to tell.
“What I can say, is that one of my greatest highlights was when I was at the helm; when HMAS Sydney achieved her milestone of 500,000 nautical miles since her commissioning in 1983,” said Warrant Officer Kemp.
“This was a moment in time I will not easily forget,” he said.
During a goodwill visit by the ship to the Russian port of Vladivostok, the home port of the Russian Pacific Fleet, in 1995, Warrant Officer Kemp said the crew saw the lighter side.
“A member of the ship's company traded parts of his uniform with a member of the Russian Forces for a tank commander's helmet and proceeded to wear the helmet for the rest of the day,” Warrant Officer Kemp said.
“This reminded me of Odd Ball from the movie Kelly's Hero's.
“It brought us all a lot of laughs and banter,” he said.
Warrant Officer Kemp’s role on board HMAS Sydney was as the Chief Petty Officer Marine Technical Hull. He was in charge of hull maintenance and various other auxiliary systems. He recalls the numerous South East Asian deployments conducting exercises with other navies, including Rim of the Pacific, and many operational deployments.
Finally, his fondest and most significant moment as a member of Sydney’s crew, was the renaming of the area at the end of George Street on board HMAS Sydney, formerly known as ‘the breezeway’, to 'Kemp Place'. This was recognition of Warrant Officer Kemp’s long service on board.
“What an honour to have bestowed on me,” Warrant Officer Kemp said.
Sydney's ship's company will also exercise Freedom of Entry to the City of Sydney prior to decommissioning.