Trailblazing Warrant Officer remembered

Published on LEUT Tony White (author), Department of Defence (photographer)

Topic(s): Ceremony and Traditions, HMAS Watson, Culture

The first Warrant Officer of the Navy Paul Whittaker. (photo: )
The first Warrant Officer of the Navy Paul Whittaker.

The Royal Australian Navy’s first Warrant Officer of the Navy, has recently passed away after a brief battle with cancer. 
In January 1965, Paul Whittaker joined the Navy at the age of 15, through the Junior Recruit Training Establishment, HMAS Leeuwin, in Fremantle where he was awarded the Governor’s Prize for his endeavour.
In 1966 he was posted as an Ordinary Seaman to the fast troop carrier HMAS Sydney, where he served conducting several voyages to Vietnam during that war.
On completion of his training as a Seaman and Radar Plotter, postings followed to HMAS PlatypusNirimbaWatsonDerwent and the aircraft carrierMelbourne.
These were punctuated by promotions to Leading Seaman and Petty Officer, after which, he served as an instructor in what is now the Combat Systems Operator Faculty.
From that point there were several postings as a Chief Petty Officer to establishment, Watson and destroyer, HMAS Hobart.
Promotion to Warrant Officer came about during his last sea posting in 1986 and he was awarded a Flag Officer’s Commendation in 1989.
He held a number of senior career management positions before he was appointed Navy’s first Warrant Officer of the Navy, on 13 December 1993.
That newly created role was, and remains the most senior ranking sailor in the Navy, entitled to exercise command over all other sailors.
He retired in 2010 after 45 years’ service, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Reflecting on his experience of Paul, the current Warrant Officer of the Navy Gary Wight, said that he was honoured to have met him early in his career.
“Being our first Warrant Officer of the Navy, I vividly remember meeting him and the discussions I had with him in the café at HMAS Platypus,” he said.
“He was very generous with his time, empathetic and genuinely caring. I had no doubt that he was the right person for the job.
“I appreciated the advice and time he gave me that day.
“In recent days I have often reflected on Paul and his service to our nation and particularly his time as Warrant Officer of the Navy.
“I have spoken with many of his family, friends and those he served with during his decades of service as both a sailor and officer.
“It is very clear to me that he was a thoroughly decent person who put service before self in all aspects of his life.
“Our Navy has lost one of our very best and he will be sadly missed.
“Thank you for your service shipmate.”
Paul passed away in a palliative care unit in Gordonvale, Queensland at colours, precisely at 8am, on 7 June.
He is survived by his wife Marylynne (47 years married), his two children Troy and Sally and four grandchildren.