Watson’s wonderful place of worship

This article has photo gallery Published on CPL Max Bree (author), ABIS Bonny Gassner (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Watson, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Watson, Chaplaincy

Chaplain Colin Tett, RAN, stands out the front of the HMAS Watson Chapel. (photo: ABIS Bonny Gassner)
Chaplain Colin Tett, RAN, stands out the front of the HMAS Watson Chapel.

Whitewashed walls and giant windows of HMAS Watsons Chapel shine like a beacon in the morning sun atop Sydney’s South Head.

For more than half a century, the Chapel has beamed over the Pacific Ocean welcoming many a Navy ship’s return after a sea voyage.

The Chapel was completed in 1961 as a memorial to Australian Navy sailors who died at sea.

“The last thing many of them would have seen as they left Australia was Sydney Heads,” said Watson’s resident Chaplain, Colin Tett.

“The Chapel is also the first landmark sailors will see coming back in. Ships usually come back in the morning and the sun will be reflecting off the church windows.”

Inside, an altar made of stones from seafaring nations such as the United States, United Kingdom and Canada sits in front of giant windows facing east towards the Southern Pacific Ocean, North Head and around to Manly.

“It’s probably the most spectacular place of worship in Australia,” Chaplain Tett said.

The Chapel holds artefacts including a bible brought with the First Fleet, and a stool used by a maid-in-waiting at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Normal church services, baptisms and funerals are run at the Chapel but weddings prove the most popular.

The Chapel can cater for up to three weddings a day at weekends, and bookings are sometimes difficult as many couples prefer to marry in front of the chapel’s giant windows during spring and autumn.

While weddings may incur a charge, baptisms and funerals are free but a donation is encouraged.

“Because it’s a naval memorial, Navy people have first preference when taking bookings, but other Defence personnel are very welcome,” Chaplain Tett said.

During two years serving in the area though, he’s never had a serious conflict of bookings.

“Watson is probably the most spectacular Defence base we have. You have the harbour on one side and the cliffs on the other,” Chaplain Tett said.

“You can see out over the south Pacific Ocean, across to Manly and straight over the harbour and the eastern suburbs towards the Harbour Bridge and city skyline.”

Chaplain Tett encouraged interested parties to get in contact to book weddings or other services at the Chapel.

“Don’t be frightened to ring and make an inquiry, we’ll do everything we can to support people,” he said.

“We enjoy a chat, and we like having people share what we have to offer.”

For Chapel bookings and inquiries, contact (02) 9337 0973 or hmas.watson.chapel@defence.gov.au.