Chance reunion after 37 years

Published on LTCOL Phil Pyke (author), LSIS Peter Thompson (photographer)

Location(s): Port Klang

Topic(s): HMAS Adelaide (L01), HMAS Nirimba

Lieutenant Commander Al Byrne and Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Glen Farrawell of HMAS Adelaide were reunited with fellow graduates of former RAN Apprentice Training Establishment, HMAS Nirimba, when the ex-serving members of the Malaysian Armed Forces attended a reception aboard HMAS Adelaide. L-R: Ruzaimi, John de Suza, Lieutenant Commander Al Byrne, Riz, Aman, Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Glen Farrawell, Dahlan and Hamid. (photo: LSIS Peter Thompson)
Lieutenant Commander Al Byrne and Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Glen Farrawell of HMAS Adelaide were reunited with fellow graduates of former RAN Apprentice Training Establishment, HMAS Nirimba, when the ex-serving members of the Malaysian Armed Forces attended a reception aboard HMAS Adelaide. L-R: Ruzaimi, John de Suza, Lieutenant Commander Al Byrne, Riz, Aman, Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Glen Farrawell, Dahlan and Hamid.
During HMAS Adelaide’s recent visit to Port Klang in Malaysia, Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Glen Farrawell was asked a question which took him back nearly four decades.
 
He was supervising the connection of wharf services when the local manager asked him about his length of service in the Royal Australian Navy and whether he had trained as an apprentice at the former HMAS Nirimba.

Nirimba was a Royal Australian Navy training base located at the former Royal Australian Air Force Station at Schofields in Sydney.
 
“As it happened both myself and the local wharf services manager had trained at HMAS Nirimba during the late 1970s,” Chief Petty Officer Farrawell said.
 
“During this period, the Royal Australian Navy conducted apprentice training for other regional navies including Malaysia between 1969 and 1986.”
 
Chief Petty Officer Farrawell found a number of former Malaysian apprentices had been invited to attend Adelaide’s formal reception.
 
“It was a great night as old Nirimba stories were told and both Australian and Malaysian students were equally associated with fondly remembered incidents and international friendships were reaffirmed,” he said.
 
The biggest surprise was to find a Malaysian classmate who holidayed at Chief Petty Officer Farraday’s family farm over Christmas 1978.
 
“It was such a pleasure to find Tajul Anuar after all these years,” Chief Petty Officer Farrawell said.
 
“I was able to provide him and his family a personal tour of Adelaide the following day.”
 
The Malaysian Nirimba veterans congratulated Chief Petty Officer Farrawell on his longstanding military career.
 
“It was a definitely one of the many highlights of my career, to be able to randomly reunite with friends from another country after so many years without contact,” he said. “I will remember this for many years to come.”
 
Nirimba was finally decommissioned in February 1994, having trained some 13,000 young men and women from the Australian and other Commonwealth navies.
 
The site has since been redeveloped as the Nirimba education precinct and houses facilities for Western Sydney University, the Western Sydney Institute, Wyndham College and St John Paul II Catholic College.