HMAS LEEUWIN - JRTE - Rest & Recreation

 

Page 8........ JRTE - Rest & Recreation

 

Fishing at GI Exped

Picture above - Myself and Leigh Dobson with a couple of salmon.

 

Every six weeks, we would as an entire Division, go on what the navy called an OXP, or Overnight Expedition. This entailed gathering a fleet of workboats together and heading over to Garden Island. Where HMAS Stirling is now located and classified as Fleet Base West. These OXPs were similar to a boys camp, where we fished, swam and generally ran amok around what was then a deserted island. These OXPs weren't exactly the flavour of the month, for most would rather be ashore in Fremantle or Perth rather than being stuck on a small deserted island with a bunch of little quokkas.

 

HMAS Leeuwin Entertainment Guide

 

There was one medium sized Television for 600 located in the Amenities Block but that was it. If you weren't at least the Senior Intake forget it. Besides, members of Junior Intakes did rarely leave their blocks during the evenings for if you didn't have to it was a good way of avoiding any possible trouble. So we didn't watch Television. I remember watching television on one occasion when an Instructor brought his TV into the block in July 1969 and we watched Armstrong walk on the moon whilst crowded into the divisional office. Other than that we never had time to watch TV.

 

Ocassionally movies would be shown in the Drill Hall. It would have had to have been a very good movie if you were to attend as a Junior Intake. Bastardisation was rife at these events.

 

There were no pinball machines, clubs, cafes or amusement centres we were all far to busy for those.

 

Telephones? Yes there were two public boxes opposite the gangway, they were kept under close scrutiny by the Naval Police and with 600 JRs the lines were long and conversations were restricted to 3 mins. At this time in 1969 an operator connected call home to Melbourne from Fremantle would cost $1.80 per three minutes. Work that out on a $5.00 a week wage. Members of the public were not allowed to call in, unless of course a member of your family was dying or gravely ill but that was certainly the limit of phone calls.

 

In the days before CDs, Walkmans or Cassette Tape players we were allowed to possess a transistor radio and this would be our only contact with the outside world for newspapers were not sold on the depot and there were no TVs to speak of. Of course at our age 'Pop Music' was high on our list of entertainment, whilst some blokes could play guitars and other musical instruments.

 

Of a night in the blocks we would sit on our bunks in our cubicles, smoking and listening to the latest hits on our transistors whilst mending clothes, ironing, spit polishing etc. All the while singing, laughing and joking with our mates. Blokes would write letters home or a few would gather to help their mate write a particulary romantic letter to a prospective girlfriend. Others would be studying or helping mates battling with Academic subjects or knot tieing or splicing etc. There would be fights, squabbles and practical jokes. There would be all sorts of 'meetings' where strategy's would be formed for upcoming pranks or illegal activities..........

 

Upon returning from mid-year leave and being elevated to JR 1st Class, alcohol and the procurement and consumption thereof became a major part of our 'off time'.

 

Three of us, would on nearly every weekend, from now until Pass Out day, become experts in the clandestine procurement of illegal alcohol. We also, remained, the only team or individuals never to be caught out at this highly illegal activity during this period.

 

Both Chester Moore and Bob Allen were much taller than I and indeed looked somewhat older. I have never seen Chester again since leaving JRTE, I often think about him and Bob from Launceston, Tasmania, whom my mother adored, Bob was a Radio Operator training for submarines when he was tragically killed in the UK in 1972. We were great mates and had 'Going over the fence' weighed off to a Tee'. We established a very competent and talented team of 'cockatoos' or lookouts armed with a torch and knowledge of our own light code of signals. We had each brought back with us from mid-year leave appropriate civilian attire for night operations. We had managed to construct a concealed entrance in the very sturdy and high cyclone wire fence just metres from the back of our block. Beyond the barbed wire topped, floodlit fence lay a soccer field and sloping upward, open ground. Not the easiest terrain to cross inconspicuously. But we did, time after time, without mishap.

 

Bob Allen and Me drinking smuggled Port Wine

 

Left: Bob and I indulging in an illegal after dinner port. During our last six months, with only 3 JRs in our cubicle we had a spare locker to which, unknown to the Staff, we had the key. This was to become our secret 'grog' and civvie clothes stowage and was never once checked by the staff. Our cubicle was right at the end of the block next to the fire escpae so we would always get early warning of raids by staff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday or Saturday evenings, for all those onboad we would take orders. JRs could only purchase fortified wines and spirits. Beer was too bulky to carry in large quantities. We also had no means of refrigerstion or obtaining ice. Besides on our wage beer was a luxury and a 70 cent bottle of Port or Sherry was easier to conceal and did the required job quicker. The going rate was double whatever the retail price of the item was - (Fortune Favours The Brave) - The profits were used at once for we were niether loan sharks nor barons, our profits enabled us to ride to and from various pubs around Fremantle and the suburbs of Perth in Taxis, pay off the cockatoos and keep us in grogfor the week. We three also allowed ourselves the luxury of buying beer, needless to say we had to have our perks. The punishment for this if caught was quite naturally very, very severe.

 

Dressed in dark, tight civilian clothing and armed with two, unmarked, overnight bags a piece we would await the all clear signal from the cockatoos, when given the 'all clear' we would one at a time begin the stealthy crossing of the playing field and park. The same procedure was repeated upon our return.

 

Once clear of the park we would actually very boldly walk past the HMAS Leeuwin Wardroom on the road leading to civilisation. We would to hurry to a busy traffic location where cabs were plentiful and get off the street quickly. Cabs were far too expensive for JRs so noone would ever look for us in a cab. On foot we stood out like dogs balls on a cat and risked being spotted. Because the local population was very familiar with JRs and their rules, regulations and routines it was a difficult pursuit to carry out these forays regulary without being discovered.

 

One pub we patronised was the Park Hotel in Fremantle, near the Bowling Club, the dear old lady who ran it knew what was going on and loved us for the rascals she rightly believed we were. Although she did have her principles, because I looked so young she would not sell me anything other than beer. Despite the lack of difference in the ages of Chester, Bob and I she would only sell the fortified wines and spirits to them. There were other pubs and establishments but this one always stays in my mind.

 

This practice went on for nearly six months, how word never got out is beyond us for some of the antics carried out by intoxicated JRs, directly attributed to the alcohol we provided, were not to go unnoticed or unpunished. No one ever gave us up though. A case of not killing the goose and the golden egg I guess. For us three it was great fun and we thrived on the adrenalin buzz that it gave us. Many wanted desperately to get in on the act and accompany us on one of our forays, but we always declined the offers and stuck to our tried and true format.

 

Reminiscent of the German Stalags of WWII a previous intake to us even once tunnelled their way out in what was a fairly eloborate and sophisticated operation. We hadn't the time to dig a tunnel.

 

leeuwin 1969

HMAS LEEUWIN in 1969 - Photo provided by Bill Furey - Morrow Div. 26th Intake JRTE