Full circle: Heritage listed survey motor boat returns to Navy service

Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author), ABIS Kayla Hayes (photographer)

Location(s): Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre

The 1950's Survey Motor Boat, SMB Geranium (background) and guests during a ceremony held at the Navy Heritage Centre, Garden Island. SMB Geranium was gifted to the Royal Australian Navy's Heritage Collection by the Rose family. (photo: ABIS Kayla Hayes)
The 1950's Survey Motor Boat, SMB Geranium (background) and guests during a ceremony held at the Navy Heritage Centre, Garden Island. SMB Geranium was gifted to the Royal Australian Navy's Heritage Collection by the Rose family.

A 1950 heritage listed wooden survey motor boat (SMB) has been returned to Navy after a long absence.

In a small ceremony at the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre on Garden Island, SMB Geranium (formerly known as Samantha) was immediately donated to the Naval Heritage Collection.

A 34 foot full teak motor boat, Geranium was built as SMB1393 at Garden Island in 1949-50. She saw working life as an embarked survey craft from 1950 to 1972 before being sold into private ownership.

During her Navy service, the boat was attached to the River class frigate HMAS Barcoo (1951-56 and 1959-64) and the sloop HMAS Warrego (1956-59).

Director Navy Heritage Collection, Commander Alexander Hawes, said the gift was made all the more special with retired Navy Captain, and former Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne, John Stevenson there to witness the event.

Barcoo was the first of Captain Stevenson’s four sea commands.

“He took her as a 28 year-old Lieutenant Commander and remembers the davit (boat winch) modifications and embarkation of the new SMB 1393 vividly.

“We were honoured to have the Captain in attendance,” Commander Hawes said.

Geranium has been owned by Mr Geoff Rose and his Sydney based family for over 30 years, with his children having grown up spending much of their formative years caring for and enjoying the much-loved boat.

Mr Rose contacted Navy's Hydrographic Office in April this year with a proposal to present the heritage listed craft as a gift.

She was inspected in water, underway and on the hard stand by Naval Heritage Collection staff and Master Attendant’s shipwrights and accepted after evaluation of the boat’s condition.

Mr Rose’s three sons, Mike, Steve and David were able to take a break from their busy practices and bring their families along to mark the generous donation.

“This craft smacks of a dedicated boat owner with a three-boy workforce.

“It is clear that the boat has been well looked after,” Commander Hawes said.

Geranium is to resume her working life as a workboat for the Navy Heritage Collection, operating routinely between front-of-house at the Heritage Centre Garden Island and the repository at Spectacle Island.

The Navy Heritage Collection maintains three public museums that showcase some of the nation’s most significant pieces-the Navy Heritage Centre at Garden Island in Sydney, the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Nowra, New South Wales, and the Museum of HMAS Cerberus near Crib Point in Victoria.