An unexpected reunion was the result of some keen investigative work, after a decades-old military identification card was found inside a compartment of HMAS Darwin.
In late October, members of Darwin’s Weapons Electrical Engineering department were dismantling a five-drawer safe to lighten it for transport onto the wharf. An internal panel from the safe was removed and Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Joshua Dewar chanced upon the identification paperwork of Sergeant John Watson.
The task of uncovering the mystery of how an Army Sergeant's identity documents from the late 1970s ended up on a modern-day Navy warship was given to Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Darren Marshall.
"John Watson is a fairly common name, but we sought some assistance through the personnel area and found out that a retired Major John Watson's service correlated with the date we had on the ID," Chief Petty Officer Marshall said.
"Unfortunately there was no record of a current address or contact number.
"We checked his last known address and found a J. Watson in the White Pages, just a few kilometres from there in Victoria."
The J. Watson listed was called and a message was left on the answering service. Late that evening Chief Petty Officer Marshall received an international phone call from a Mrs Jill Watson.
She was in England preparing to return home and a few days afterwards they were discussing the find.
It turned out that Jill Watson was no relation to John Watson. She did though have a good friend, that lived on the same road as Major Watson, be it at the opposite end. More contact details were exchanged and the search lead Chief Petty Officer Marshall to Mrs Marika Dyson.
"I emailed a photo of the card to Mrs Dyson and she kindly hopped In the car and drove to the last known address," Chief Petty Officer Marshall said.
"To everyone’s surprise but his, Major John Watson was still living in the same house where he retired from military service over 20 years ago!"
Major Watson commenced his military career 1964 where he was attached to the 1st Armoured Regiment. One year later he transferred to the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police. During his career he completed two tours in Vietnam, and was promoted to Sergeant in 1967.
In 1982, John was commissioned and promoted to Captain and in 1985 he retired from active service and transferred to the Army Reserve. As a reservist he served another 10 years, was promoted to Major and retired to the inactive reserves in 1995.
Serendipitously, HMAS Darwin was conducting a port visit to Melbourne later that week, and on Friday 29th October Chaplain Richard Quadrio and Chief Petty Officer Marshall reunited Major Watson with his long-forgotten card. It was at this meeting that the full story was finally pieced together.
In 1976 John had posted to the Military Police Training Centre, and was promoted to Warrant Officer Class Two. Upon doing so he surrendered his Sergeant's identification card, and it was then that the mystery took flight, because the card was stowed in a safe that later was transferred from Army to Navy - and then installed onboard HMAS Darwin.
The safe and card have remained seagoing for almost 30 years, only to be discovered this year.