HISTORY OF T.S.VOYAGER I956 - I998
After World War II the existing Navy League (UK) Branches in Australia
formed a loose coalition and sought assistance from the Royal
Australian Navy regarding support for their Australian Sea Cadet
Corps (ASCC). The Commonwealth Naval Board declined to negotiate
with a London-based organisation (formed in Australia from about
1900). Rear Admiral Showers RAN Ret'd worked hard and in 1950
the Navy League of Australia (NLA) formerly came into
being by the formation of an Australian Company, Limited by Guarantee.
This made them an autonomous Australian organisation, governed
by a Federal Council comprising member representatives, where
existing, in each State and Territory of the Commonwealth. The
new Navy League of Australia assumed control of the previously
existing Australian Sea Cadet Corps (ASCC) that had operated under
the NL(UK) groups in Australia. The new NLA State Divisions (and
Branches) corresponded to the States and Territories. The League
was now able to negotiate a joint partnership with the Royal Australian
Navy. This resulted in the formation of a Sea Cadet Council (SCC),
comprising representatives of Navy and Navy League representatives,
to oversee the national activities of the ASCC. Australia's Naval
Defence Act (Navy, Army and Air Force were separate Departments
of State and had their own rules and regulations) allowed only
limited, but valuable, assistance to the Navy League ASCC by the
Navy including provision of uniforms and assuming responsibility
for training and supply of some training equipment. The Navy League
was responsible for everything else including accommodation, drill
halls and administration.
Early on in the life of this Australian Navy League a new Australian
Sea Cadet Corps (ASCC) Training Ship (TS) Voyager was established
in I956. It was known as the Police Cadet unit as its officers
and Instructors, apart from being ex naval personnel, were members
of the Victoria Police force. The unit was the youngest of six
units in Victoria, at the time, until TS Latrobe was formed some
time later. The first Commanding Officer was Lieut. David McKinlay
(ex RN). The Executive Officer was Sub.Lieut.Ray Applebee. They
were supported by Instructors PO.Carpenter and PO.Trevor Jordan.
The age of the first cadets ranged from I4 to I6 years. Most were
local boys but several came from outlying areas east of Melbourne.
Parades were held mid week in the Albert Park boat shed which
was shared with TS Melbourne which held its parades on the Friday
night. In I957 a request for Instructors with naval experience
saw the introduction of three additional instructors who were
officially appointed as such in I958. They were:- PO. Erie Todd
(ex. M.N.) PO. Alan Willcocks (Ex.RANVR.) PO. Donald McNicol (Ex.RAN.)
As the complement of the ships company reached the specified quota
of 30 cadets it was decided and arranged to shify T.S.Voyager
to the disused premises of the old State school in Pascoe St.,
Williamstown. The unit then began to establish its identity and
become known as the Willimastown Police Cadet Unit, still being
the youngest unit in the Victorian section of the Australian Sea
Cadet Corps. Shortly after this the Christening if the Unit took
place with the march past in Divisions. With the Royal Australian
Naval Reserve band in attendance it quite an impressive display
considering the unit had only been in existence for such a short
period. The Ceremony was attended by the Chief Cominissioner of
Police Major General Selwyn Porter DSO. CBE. ED with Rear Admiral
Wilfred H. Harrington as the reviewing officer. Sub Lieut.Ray
Applebee led the march past with the Divisions led by the Instructors
and the Guard-Commander, PO. Trevor Jordan. In late 1958 the unit
began to flex its muscles and was again transferred, this time
to an existing site at the old Navy boat shed in Nelson Place
Williamstown. This proved to be an ideal set up for the cadets
as it had a naval atmosphere and being on the foreshore afforded
the cadets with immediate and ample sea training and boat handling.
Parades were changed from mid-week to a Friday night and subsequently
arrangements were made for the cadets to camp overnight and go
sailing on the Saturday. The cadets had a skiff and two sea worthy
whalers which were maintained in excellent condition. Ceremonial
duties were carried out on such occasions as Anzac Day and the
annual Navy Week Seafarers service at St.Pauls Cathedral. In conjunction
with TS Melbourne the cadets marched through the centre of Swanston
St. Melbourne. Also with cadets from other units, led by P.O.
Wiillcocks and PO. Jock Lacey who had recently joined the unit,
the cadets marched on to Government House to form a guard of honour
for Her Majesty the Queen Mother on her visit to Melbourne. The
cadets quickly settled in at their new depot and set about erecting
a quarter deck, ships office, a canteen and kitchen together with
an office for the CO. and a well constructed armoury. The armoury
was lined with metal and secured with a padlocked cyclone gate.
The rifle rack was obtained from the Shrine Guard office at Government
House, courtesy of the Police Department. The .303 rifles were
chained through the trigger guards after the bolts were removed
and placed in the ship's safe. The cadets had not long been in
their new headquarters when one Saturday they affected the rescue
of occupants from an overturned yacht. With CO. Lieut. McKinlay
as coswain in the whaler they returned and successfully towed
the yacht to Blunts slipway. A number of camps were held the first
being on private property at Rye beach. Tents were erected for
approx. 25 cadets. The large yard was converted to a makeshift
parade ground with a flag pole and mast erected at the western
end. The cadets formed parts of ship and divisions were held.
Most of the cooking was done by the cadets under the supervision
of the CO's wife Rose McKinlay and the owners of the property
who so generously accommodated the cadets. A highlight of this
camp was a voyage undertaken by 10 cadets in a whaler with the
CO. Lieut.McKinlay as coxswain. The whaler left Williamstown shortly
after day break with the cadets pulling on the oars across Port
Phillip Bay to Rye Beach arriving at approx. 2I00. Some concern
was felt by the shore party at Rye due to the late arrival however
fears were dispelled once P.O. Willcocks established contact by
use of the Aldis lamp and morse signals thus guiding the vessel
to a safe anchorage. This was quite a feat for the young lads
many of whom had sore hands the next morning. Not long after the
CO saw fit to resign and Ray Applebee was promoted to Sub.Lieut.
and became the new commanding officer. A parents committee was
formed and became very active raising money for such things as
a stove for the kitchen and linoleum for the floor. Notable members
of this committee were Mr. Bochenek, Mr Frank Zamit, Mr Smythe,
Mr Alex Jones and his wife, Joyce, Mr and Mrs Dave Harris and
Mrs Isobel Robinson. Together with other parents they performed
sterling service over a number of years. It was decided the unit
should have a power boat to accompany cadets for safety reasons
whilst sailing in the bay. Two boats were on offer and it was
decided to purchase a craft suitable to handle rough weather rather
than one built for speed. The CO.Sub Lieut Applebee, in company
with PO. Willcocks, travelled to Balnarring and arranged the purchase
of a small power boat approx. 18ft. which had been used for fishing
purposes. This was done with the aid of the parents committee
which had raised the sum of $800 being the purchase price. This
vessel is still in use and over the years has been well maintained.
At a later stage it was completely overhauled and a new diesel
engine fitted courtesy of the Williamstown dockyard personnel.
It was about this time the unit lost the services of one of its
cadet petty officers. PO.Peter Taube was destined to become an
appointed Instructor with the Unit. Apart from being a good drill
Instructor he possessed leadership qualities and was a very good
coxswain. He unfortunately met with a motor bike accident and
lost a leg. Even so he was employed at the Williamstown Naval
Dockyard for quite some time after. Early in I961 the Unit was
inspected by the Chief Commissioner of Police Major General Selwyn
Porter. He was taken out in the newly acquired power boat to view
the cadets under sail in the bay. The cadets had become very efficient
in handling their whalers under sail and on one occasion in heavy
weather attained a speed of I2 knots making it hard for the power
boat to keep up doing its maximum of 9 knots. Several cadets later
undertook an interchange trip to New Zealand one being cadet PO.
Les Turner who later joined the Victoria Police and subsequently
at a later stage became commanding officer of T.S.Voyager. On
the I3th. Nov.I96I Alan Willcocks was promoted to CPO. and shortly
after with cadet PO. Alan Grubb and 5 cadets sailed in the old
sloop HMAS Swan from Adelaide to Sydney. It was full of rust but
they said her engines were as good as the day they were installed
and could still reach her maximum speed of 16 knots. This was
a forerunner of many other trips afforded to the Cadets. 1962
saw many changes take place within the Unit. Due mainly to work
commitments Petty Officers Jordan, Carpenter and Todd resigned.
This depleted the instructional staff somewhat, however this was
quickly rectified with the official appointment of CPO Jock Lacey
(ex gunnery), appointed Sub.Lieut. later on. In addition the Unit
saw influx of honourary instructors emerging from the Naval Dockyard
Police, namely:- CPO Dave Campbell (later to become the Officer-in-Charge
of Dockyard Police at Garden Island). CPO Charles Fellows CPO
Alan Brown (ex yeoman of signals) CPO Frank Canfield - later appointed
Executive Officer of the Unit. The aforesaid personnel proved
to be a boon to the Unit especially CPO Campbell who was a past
master at handling whalers under sail and seamanship. All subsequent
guards were instructed by Sub.Lieut. Lacey. A further change then
took place with the resignation of Lieut. Applebee as CO due to
work commitments. CPO Alan Willcocks then became the new Commanding
Officer and was promoted to Sub-Lieut. on 1st Nov.1962, with CPO
Canfield as his Executive Officer. A further appointment was that
of Sub.Lieut. Joseph Dows (ex M.N.). He later became CO for a
short period as a Lieutenant and later on promotion to Lieut.-Commander
became the training officer for the Victoria Division for a number
of years. He was awarded the Order of Australia for his services
to youth having previously conducted the training school for youngsters
at Kew in the art of traffic control and featured on the radio
in the talk programmes when attached to the Police public relations
department. A new addition by way of a bofor gun was obtained
and mounted on the foreshore overlooking the bay and a new quarter
deck was constructed by the CO with the assistance of Mr Maurice
Grey an honorary assistant. One of the best camps undertaken was
at Snapper Island, Sydney home of TS Sydney. The CO and Ex Officer
together with a large number of cadets took part and found the
CO of TS Sydney, CMDR Forsythe, a hard task master. A church service
was then held at the newly constructed church at Watsons Bay overlooking
the Heads. Of an evening the officers and Instructors would cross
to Garden Island for hot showers. It is interesting to note that
the CO of TS Sydney was formerly, in his younger days, a lighthorseman
in the first world war as was the CO of TS Voyager who at the
beginning of World War II specialised in signals and was attached
to the 8th Light Horse Signals before joining the RANVR. A successful
camp was held in the You Yangs, Victoria. Later approximately
18 cadets were taken for a trip on the ferry across the bay from
Point Lonsdale to Sorrento. It was plain sailing, until the return
trip when a violent storm blew in from the south. Large waves
were encountered and problems arose due to the ferry not being
able to berth at the normal jetty for fear of striking her bottom.
The ferry then moved to another jetty where the water was deeper.
One second the ferry was 6 feet above the jetty and then 6 feet
below. Two instructors took the perilous leap ashore and with
the CO and the Ex Officer the cadets were lifted bodily and thrown
into the arms of the two instructors. All were disembarked without
incident and the ferry went off to seek a safe anchorage. It was
important for the cadets to get as much sea training as possible
so it came about that a number of cadets accompanied the CO and
XO to travel to Portland where they boarded the aircraft carrier
HMAS Sydney for a weeks cruise in Bass Strait. Unlike the trip
in HMAS Swan where sailing conditions were excellent except for
a large swell in the Tasman Sea, Bass Strait decided to misbehave.
The weather became extremely rough with many of the crew sea sick.
With water coming over the flight deck forward the Captain decided
to take shelter in the lee of King Island where she lay at anchor
and rolled continuously for 4 days before returning to Portland.
Conditions were so bad that damage control was piped for as parts
of machinery were breaking loose below deck. Time spent during
the day catching large coutta from the stern of the carrier, enough
to feed the whole ships crew. Whilst at anchor an embarrassing
incident took place during the Captains dinner in the wardroom.
It was during the passing of the port ceremony when Lieut. Willcocks
knocked over his glass and all and sundry were fascinated as the
spilt port kept motion with the roll of the ship, running to one
end of the table and returning via its original course. It was
about this time that CPO Canfield was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant.
On another occasion the cadets took to sea in a whaler and the
power boat and on intercepting HMAS Vampire in the bay stormed
aboard with the aid of scrambling nets. Later under the supervision
of the CO and PO. Instructors they were given the privilege by
the Captain to secure the vessel at her anchorage at North Wharf
in the Yarra River. Just prior to this excursion the CO. with
a small number of cadets were aboard HMAS Voyager during her working
up trials experiencing the ship travelling at high speed and evolutions
at 28 knots and also the firing of her forward guns. The CO got
to know LCDR Macgregor (X0), Lieut. Dowling (boats officer), Lieut.Ross
(RN.), Lieut. Hisbet (gunnery officer) and the coxswain CPO. Rogers
all of whom were to lose their lives when HMAS Melbourne and Voyager
collided at night off Jervis Bay. Cadets were privileged to participate
in a day cruise in the bay, on the recent addition to the Navy,
HMAS Swan, a much more powerful ship than the Swan of I939 vintage.
Cadets attended launching ceremonies at the Williamstown Dockyard
slip way. Camping overnight became a regular feature of cadet
life at the depot enabling improved sailing time on a Saturday
with cadet petty officers as coxswains, a task at which they had
become quite professional. On such an occasion one whaler whilst
in irons off Nelson pier was struck by the Bass Trader returning
to port. The whaler was slightly damaged however the prompt action
of Petty Officer W.Grodzki (later to become CO.) averted what
could have resulted in a disaster. Blame was leveled at the cadets
by the master of the Bass Trader through the Maritime Board. However
a report by the CO., who promptly carried out an inquiry and investigation,
resulted in the cadets being exonerated of any blame. It was evident
the Bass Trader was on the wrong side of the channel whilst entering
port, was exceeding the speed limit for such vessels entering
port and had failed to take any evasive action or render assistance.
A training course was run at Flinders for Cadet Commanding Officers
in Australia. This included power boat handling, gunnery at West
Head, drill and rifle and pistol practice on the range. A similar
training course was run for cadets who participated in the whaler
races. With the CO as coxswain using the current to the best advantage
TS Voyager scooped the pool winning a total of three races. Two
in succession without a breather. On 7th February 1968, PO Gordon
Hanley (MN) was duly appointed as an instructor. He was later
promoted to Sub.Lieut. and served the unit until 1993. He was
given a ceremonial farewell dinner at the Depot with ex CO LCDR
Alan Willcocks and Lieut. Les Turner and their wives in attendance.
Improvements were constantly being made to the Depot premises.
A proper bosun's store was created; a new kitchen built away from
the drill hall; the old kitchen was made into a canteen. The original
sail locker room used as a wardroom for a number of years was
made into a petty officers mess through the installation of a
large glass building as a new wardroom, courtesy of Lieut. Bows.
In addition a ceiling was installed in the drill hall. Over the
years all officers and Instructors at some time or another made
some input into improving the depot for the benefit of the cadets.
Many cadets on reaching the age limit went into the Navy, some
into the Police Force and others the fire brigade. Several are
still serving members in the Navy and have reached higher ranks
due to their previous experience as cadets. Where possible the
routine would be altered to allow the cadets some form of recreation.
This occurred one Saturday when the CO. decided to take a party
of some ten cadets on a fishing excursion in the bay. Setting
out in the Navy work boat with the Greys diesel purring her along
at a steady 5 knots and all armed to the teeth with bait and rods
it promised to be a successful venture. A course was set due south
and as the boat passed the location of the Gellibrand light it
was struck by a monstrous wave. One second the boat was cruising
serenely the next second it was virtually under water. Visibility
forward as well as port and starboard was nil - just water everywhere.
The CO. opened wide the throttle and the work boat surged ahead.
The wave cascaded onto the after canopy and dispersed. Cadet L.S.Bocheneck
who was sitting on the stern got drenched as the water cascaded
over him. He was fortunate he did not get washed overboard. It
was an unpromising beginning and as the day progressed it was
disappointing as no fish were caught.
TS Voyager, as part of the Navy League's ASCC, is now part of
an organisation that had expanded from less than 500 cadets in
3 states in 1948/49 to 1700 in 1958 and 2500 in 1963.
In the mid 1960s concerns by Navy arose about their support for
the organisation because of escalating costs. The Navy League
was also experiencing major problems in funding for buildings
required for new Units and this was compounded by the geographical
size of Australia and the vast distances over which administration
of the ASCC had to be managed even though each State Division
of the ASCC (Australian Sea Cadet Corps) virtually ran itself.
In 1966 a small sub-committee of the Sea Cadet Council (SCC) was
formed to advise on the future of the ASCC. There were only 3
members - the Director of Naval Reserves (DNR) who was chairman
of the Council, the Federal President & Federal Vice-President
of the Navy League. They travelled all over the country reviewing
the ASCC with the result that they recommended the separation
of the Navy League of Australia (NLA) and (ASCC) Sea Cadet organisations.
The sub-committee recommended that the (ASCC) Sea Cadet Corps
be made the responsibility of the Navy and brought into line with
the Army's school cadets and the Air Training Corps, a recommendation
accepted by the Naval Board and the Federal Council of the Navy
League. Thus on 1st January 1973 the League transferred its 2500+
cadet members to the Navy's Naval Reserve Cadets (NRC). The Navy
League's Australian Sea Cadet Corps (ASCC) was not disbanded entirely
for an under 14 year old junior cadet system still operates successfully
in Western Australia.
A clause in the Naval Defence Act enabled the Naval Board to finance
Naval Reserve Cadets - an underage section of the RANR which had
not existed for some time. Rather than amend the Naval Defence
Act, which was a lengthy process, it was decided to call Sea Cadets
- Naval Reserve Cadets - although they were not part of the Reserve
nor liable for service with the defence forces. A name change
that was regretted by many in the Navy League.
Early in I973 the sailing yacht the Winston Churchill arrived.
This craft which had featured in many ocean races was of solid
timber construction, mainly huon pine. The cadets relished the
opportunity of maintaining the craft, re-caulking the deck etc.
They were given the opportunity, on one occasion, of sailing her
across the bay to Brighton. With Lieut. Applebee the Div. Training
Officer in charge and the CO. at the helm she cruised along at
about 4 knots.
About this time Sub.Lieut. Canfield resigned as XO, and Petty
Officers Alan Grubb and Gordon Hanley were promoted to the rank
of sub. Lieutenant. Joseph Dows, the training officer, was promoted
to Lieutenant and became the new Executive Officer. Sub.Lieut.Les
Turner was the new training Officer.
Following on the important change in command structure from 1st
January 1973, when all 14-18 year old members of the Navy League's
ASCC transferred to the Navy's NRC, an important and historic
event took place at HMAS Lonsdale, Port Melbourne. TS Voyager
having recently won the Colours as the best Unit in Victoria was
granted the honour of receiving the new Naval Reserve Cadet ensign.
It was an impressive parade with the cadets formed up on the parade
ground with the Royal Australian Naval Reserve band in attendance.
The Guard Commander was Sub.Lieut. Turner, the Flag Officer -Lieut.
Dows and the reviewing officer Commodore Dacre Smythe A0 RAN who
had just relinquished his appointment as Commodore Superintendent
of Training (CST) at HMAS Cerberus to take up a new post as Naval
Officer-in-Charge, Victoria (NOIC-Vic). The parade officer was
LCDR Ray Applebee.
It is interesting to note that the title NOIC Vic. had been transferred
from CO of HMAS Lonsdale and that now the CO HMAS Cerberus no
longer was termed CST.
After Lieut. Dows received the ensign from Commodore Smythe the
Unit marched passed before many guests and V.I.Ps including the
Senior Officer of cadets CMDR Geoffrey Evans OBE and the CO. Lieut.
On the I2th. October I973 the CO. was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander,
however shortly after he was obliged to tender his resignation
due to work commitments and transport problems. He had previously
resigned from the police force and taken up the position of superintendent
of traffic and by laws with the City of Knox. The executive officer
Lt. J. Dows became the new Commanding Officer with Sub Lieut.L.Turner
his executive officer. Approx. 2 years later Lt. J.Dows resigned
as CO. and became the new Divisional Training Office for the NRC
Victoria Division and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, a
position he held for a number of years before eventually resigning.
The new commanding officer for the Unit became Sub.Lieut.L.Turner
who was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. During this change
Sub.Lieut. Alan Grubb with I2 cadets sailed aboard the HMS Belfast
from Melbourne to Sydney. The Belfast was a Southampton class
cruiser armed with 6 inch guns and a survivor of World War II
when her back was broken by a mine. She was able to make port
and repaired with reinforcement and is now a museum based in England.
This vessel was certainly a change from the destroyers and frigates
which the cadets had been used, to sailing in on previous occasions.
After this an important change took place with the resignation
of the CO.Lt. Turner, also due to work commitments with the police
force. The change was important in that TS Voyager lost its direct
connection with the police force as Lt.Turner was the last policeman
serving in the unit. It therefore no longer could be referred
to as the Police Cadet Unit. Lt. Turner was originally a cadet
and came up through the hawse pipe to become the commanding officer
after having spent something like 35 years with the cadet corps.
The new commanding officer Sub Lieut. Walter Grodzki, like Lt.Turner,
was also an original cadet. He later rose to the rank of Lieutenant
Commander and served the Unit with distinction.
It was during this era of change that female cadets joined the
unit. Quickly and effectively the necessary alterations were carried
out at the depot to provide for separate toilets and sleeping
accommodation. The highlight of Grodzki's service was in I994
when the Unit was granted the Freedom of the City of Williamstown.
Accompanied by other cadets from other Units an impressive parade
was held in front of the Town Hall with the customary march past.
Another addition to the instructional staff was the appointment
of CPO Noel Baker. He had been with the Unit since 1998 and was
later to play an important part in the future of the Unit.
On 11th february 1994, LCDR Grodski resigned from the NRC. Lieut.Noel
Baker was then appointed as the new Commanding Officer. His staff
now consists of 3 Officers, 2 sub officers & 50 cadets. Lieut.
Steven Shepherd Executive Officer Sub. Lieut. Ross Burns Training
Officer Chief Petty Officer Anita Baker Stores Officer Petty Officer
Lisa Foley Coxswain
Number of Cadets: Male 37, Female 13
Lieut. Baker was with TS Tamar for 5 years as a cadet before joining
the RAN where he specialised in clearance diving for 6 years.
TS Voyager is still a very vibrant unit with most cadets under
15 years of age. The Unit has a 22 seater Toyota coaster bus making
the unit very mobile and able to participate in many functions.
Very often the unit travels interstate by means of this bus. A
good percentage of the cadets enter the Navy both at ADFA officer
training as well as general entry at HMAS Cerberus. T.S.Voyager
has always been a very competitive unit. This can be seen by the
number of awards it has collected over the years from I956 to
AWARDS:- The Colours:- 1963-1965-1969-1973-1978-1982-1983-1992-1993.
Other Awards:- Most improved 1977 Best Guard:- 1979 - 1981
- 1985 - 1990 - 1991 and 1992
Number and type of craft at present in use:- 3 x Corsairs,
1 x Bosun, 1 x 27ft. whaler, 1 x 21 ft. motor boat (couta built)
1 x 15ft. Aluminum rescue boat with 35 hp. outboard motor.
The future of TS Voyager looks very promising and they are aiming
for the most coveted award- best unit in Australia - which still
Former Cadets who proved to be outstanding and excellent coxswains:
L.S. Bocheneck PO Peter Taube PO Rodney Smythe Sub Lieut. Alan
Grubb LCDR Walter Grodski Former NRC -
TS Voyager Commanding Officers: 1956 Lieut. Dave McKinlay
LCDR Ray Applebee CFM LCDR Alan Willcocks CFM LCDR Joseph Dows
AO CFM Lieut. Leslie Turner CFM LCDR Walter Grodski 1998 Lieut.
(History by LCDR Alan Willcocks CFM NRC 1998)
here to return to Naval Cadet Events file.