Editor's Note: Please note that this activity took place before COVID-19 social distancing restrictions were put in place. Defence is currently following whole-of-government guidance from the Department of Health in relation to COVID-19. For more information on Defence's response to COVID-19, visit https://news.defence.gov.au/national/defence-response-covid-19.
War veterans from Navy, Army and Air Force recently took a tour of HMAS Waterhen as it held its inaugural Veterans Day.
The veterans were from a group of 25 residents of the RSL Anzac Village at Narrabeen in Sydney and from the Naval Association, who were shown around the facilities used by Australian Mine Warfare Team 16 and Australian Clearance Diver Team One at Waterhen.
The group was welcomed on to the base by HMAS Waterhen’s Commanding Officer, Commander Richard Westoby, who said the day was intended to strengthen the bonds between Waterhen and veterans.
“Waterhen has had a long association with the RSL Anzac Village and all our staff have the opportunity to help the centre’s residents and take part in special occasions such as Remembrance Day and Anzac Day,” Commander Westoby said.
“However, this is the first time we’ve hosted the veterans as a group on the base and it’s something we plan to do as an annual event.”
Among the visitors was World War II veteran and former Royal Australian Navy Leading Seaman Radar Plotter Geoffrey Johnson, who served in HMA Ships Launceston (I) and Shropshire for just over three years between 1943 and 1945.
Johnson subsequently worked for the Commonwealth Bank for 44 years and he said he enjoyed being brought back to Navy and mixing with ex-Defence people.
“I found the tours of the base very interesting. When I trained at Cerberus and later in Sydney as a Naval Plotter it was a different world. Everything was fairly basic back in 1943,” Johnson said.
Fellow World War II veteran and former Army 7th Division Wireless Operator James Redwin agreed that it was good to be back mixing with people who had gone through similar experiences.
“I’m 98 but I’ll be turning 99 this year and I’ve enjoyed the day very much,” said Redwin, who was accompanied by wife Sheila, who is also 99-years young.
Commander Westoby said he hopes that Veterans Day can be held during March annually, with other associations invited to attend and all departments at Waterhen participating.