Sixty years since Navy bedrock was laid

This article has photo gallery Published on MIDN Jack Meadows (author), LSIS Steven Thomson (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Watson, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Watson, Naval Heritage and History

The Naval Memorial Chapel at HMAS Watson. (photo: LSIS Steven Thomson)
The Naval Memorial Chapel at HMAS Watson.

Over 60 years have passed since one of the Navy’s most iconic buildings was erected. On 30 April 1960, the foundation stone for the HMAS Watson Chapel was laid.

The foundation stone is dedicated to a boy named William whose father, a sailor in the Royal Australian Navy, had given his life in World War II mere months before William was born.

He was chosen to symbolise all who have made the ultimate sacrifice as members of the Royal Australian Navy and its associated services.

The chapel was dedicated on 4 March 1961 by Chaplain James Trainer, attended by approximately 2000 people.

The gathering included officers, sailors, family members and representatives of ex-navalmen’s associations, as well as the Minister of the Navy, Senator John Gorton, and then Chief of Navy Staff, Vice Admiral Sir Henry Burrell.

The Naval Memorial Chapel at HMAS Watson.

The Naval Memorial Chapel at HMAS Watson.

Chaplain Andrew Watters, who currently manages the chapel and runs religious services at Watson, said the structure is an important aide-mémoire of our naval history.

“The chapel holds a special place in the Navy, as it is dedicated to the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives in service of their country,” Chaplain Watters said.

“It’s a lovely building, which looks out to the sea, past the heads and back to the harbour and Fleet Base East. It gives a sense of departing while remembering those who have died at sea.”

Chaplain Watters said the building contains entirely Christian furniture and follows a naval-nautical theme.

“The interior makes naval connections through three brass plaques quoting Nelson’s prayer at the Battle of Trafalgar; a prayer from Eisenhower on the eve of D-Day; and a quote from Francis Drake,” Chaplain Watters said.

These ornate pieces make a strong connection to the Navy’s past. The chapel is made from Hawkesbury sandstone and the stained glass windows symbolise the Twelve Apostles.

The lectern is distinct, made of wood from Auckland, New Zealand, depicting a native alpine kea parrot.

The holy table contains 33 stones gifted from historic cathedrals across the world, six of which are from St Mungo’s Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland, dating back to King James IV.

Midshipman Thomas Wells, a resident at HMAS Watson, said he adores the beauty of the Memorial Chapel, and enjoyed living nearby on base.

“The base Chaplain runs memorial services in the Chapel, and it’s a beautiful place for Navy members to get married,” the Midshipman said.

“The chapel is a peaceful place to take in the views and think about the sacrifices of past naval personnel.”

HMAS Watson is located at Sydney’s South Head and serves and one of the Royal Australian Navy’s main training establishments as the home of maritime warfare.