The Big Mens Club HMAS Parramatta 1970


Above - Natty extreme right of pictue at the actual event


The Big Men's Run Ashore cat the San Paguita Club, Enlisted Mens Club, Subic Bay Naval Base, Philippines - HMAS PARAAMATTA 1970.


Type 12 Frigate HMAS PARRAMATTA DE-46


The name Nat Brooker sometimes conjures emotions that some people want to erase from their memory, however, no matter what one thought of Nat, he was a true character, an excellent seaman and a true blue Australian.


One can be regaled for 'living in the past' with stories, but this past cannot be erased, it was us! To those who were involved in some of the events and happenings, this was a major part of their lives. Some people who hear stories told in this medium don't believe that things like this could have happened, but they did and blokes 'got away with it'.


My Natty Brooker story goes back to the late sixties and early 70's aboard HMAS Parramatta, where we were both AB's. The brand new system of being fined for a misdemeanor was just being introduced (instead of 'mulct of pay') and also the new system of being asked "How do you plead, guilty or not guilty" I can recall being fronted to the 1st Lieutenants table and being advised that I was the first on board to be asked this question. Of course I was as guilty as hell, I would not have been before the table with my lid off if I wasn't!


The 'Jimmy' said, "How do you plead, guilty or not guilty'. I thought, 'This is a new for a penny in for a pound…"Not guilty Sir." The 'Jimmy' went very red in the face and spurted back "But you are guilty", All this before any evidence for the charge had been heard at all! Naturally I went down and got passed on to the 'Old Man' to be lashed up.


Lashing up was quite a show at that time and all and sundry were treated firmly but fairly by the Skipper, Commander Peter Rees R.A.N. We had a bloody good ships company on board and all rates seemed to 'clique' together very well. The 'fine' system just bought us a little closer.


The Starvo on board was a Petty Officer Bob English J.P. who had more moves than the proverbial can of worms. As we were mustering to go ashore in some exotic port up top he one day laughingly said, "there they go, the big runners, big run, big fine" Hence the name was spurned of the 'Big Men's Association".


To be eligible for membership of this elite bunch of reprobates you had to be fined in excess of $100 by the skipper. (Big dough in those days) Naturally, Natty Brooker, always lifting his lid, ended up as the President.


The Chairman was Bob Green (Ex LSUC and winner of the 1999 Melbourne Cup with his horse Rogan Josh), Secretary was Frank Trimble,, Treasurer, John (Connie) Francis, Secretary, the late Bill 'Dolly' Gray and there was also a properly construed committee including social directors and the whole works.


We met regularly and had some bloody marvellous functions. Because of the criteria for membership covered all branches from Stokers to Dib Dabs to Beagles and Cooks, it became 'the social set' on board for runs ashore. Newsletters were even produced onboard detailing events and happenings.


One very memorable run was in Olongapo and we never left the base! It was Nat's birthday and the 'do' was to be held at the Sampaguita Club. About 100 of us gathered and had an afternoon of entertainment equal to none. Even the Buffer, WW2 Veteran CPO 'Toombah' Morrison attended.


Above: Toombah In Full Flight at the Big Event!


The Yanks formed a huge circle around us to watch and listen to our carry on, which they considered better than that supplied by the club. Some 'acts' included, Mick Thompson (Ex Cook and Ex Head Dockie Copper) doing stand up comedy with his fantastic repertoire of jokes and then along with George Monahan thrilling the audience with their impressions of an emu dance.


Our Olympic Champion Boxer Joey Donovan sang some C & W with his guitar and many other similar acts followed from a somewhat talented crew.


As Treasurer I was ordering 100 stubbies of San Miguel a shout,which were wheeled in on a trolley. When the time came for singing happy birthday to Nat, the contents of everyone's stubby was tipped on the very pissed birthday boy as he squatted on the floor.


Shore patrol monitored everything after that and even the base fire engines were outside after our show to ensure that we could be hosed down if things got out of hand.


Pages and pages could be written about Nat and his time as an AB aboard Parramatta. In those days we did not have to be politically correct, we worked hard, ran ashore hard and copped our punishment when the boundaries were crossed. One is just amazed that Nat ended up as a P.O. Pity there was no velcro in those days, it would have made putting the rank back on his arm a lot easier!


I can recall one stage when Nat was before the skipper for a punishment for going ashore, down the headrope, whilst on chooks in Otaru, Japan. The skipper asked him what he was doing. He said, " I was just checking the head rope Sir, to see if was tight enough' The skipper said, "Able Seaman Brooker, have you been ashore legally at all during this trip?" to which Nat replied, " I don't think so Sir," The Skipper just smiled and dismissed the case thereby letting Nat ashore to let off some steam at the next port.


The Big Men's Association grew and grew as the fines continued, more ports were terrorised by the B.M.A.. Sadly now some of the members have passed on, some have been pensioned off, some have retired and some are still working.


The BMA is trying to get together at the commissioning of the new HMAS Parramatta (Anzac Class) in 2002 in Dogtown. No doubt many a tale will be exchanged and Nat will be there in all his glory., one just hopes he has not got his old role back as head barman at the Dogtown Fleet Club, I don't think the liver could stand it!


(EX Radar Plot) John Francis O.A.M., Sunshine Coast