NATION

The Four Navies Of Fiji

Yesterday the Republic of Fiji Navy  celebrated 40 years of its existence. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was the chief guest attending the auspicious event. We continue to bring you every weekend
26 Jul 2015 13:16
The Four Navies Of Fiji
Members of the public at the Fiji Naval base in Walu Bay. Photo: Republic of Fiji Navy

Yesterday the Republic of Fiji Navy  celebrated 40 years of its existence. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was the chief guest attending the auspicious event. We continue to bring you every weekend a special look at the Fiji Navy through the eyes of its first Commander, Scotsman, Captain Stanley Brown. This is the continuation  of the History of the Navy in Fiji. With its operations centered towards the protection of Fiji’s maritime areas, the Fiji Navy remains an integral arm of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. In 1975 it employed close to 100 personnel. Today there are at least 350 Fijians in the Navy.

Continued from saturday, July 24, 2015.

…Each separate test ending in the dropping of a bomb involved a preparation phase lasting from Monday to Friday when the bomb was dropped.

Such a date was secret, but shortly after Ratu Penaia and I arrived on board the Warrior, the news was circulating all around the lower deck that this was a bomb week. It was assumed that we had spread the word that we had arrived to witness the test.

In fact the reason for the leak of information was more prosaic that it was a real “galley buzz” – a rumour started in the galley. The Commander (S) had that morning chaired a meeting of his staff to discuss the requirements for the week in terms of victualling and accommodation.

He told them the ship would be sailing that day and would be in the vicinity of Malden Island for the remainder of the week. On Thursday night there would be extra army personnel accommodated aboard and on Friday there would be many extras in the wardroom for lunch.

Having already experienced one test, the cooks, stewards and stores ratings knew that Tuesday would be a rehearsal day.

Thursday would be evacuation day when all the personnel on Malden Island would be brought aboard the carrier and the extra mouths to feed on Friday would be brought aboard the carrier, and the extra mouths would be those of the world’s press who would come aboard after witnessing the explosion from the carrier.

When this was realised, the finger of suspicion no longer was pointed our way.

First priority was a ceremonial welcome to Ratu Penaia from the 39 Fijian ratings on board, and a long discussion of the training our men were receiving.  Arriving off Malden Island, we were given a helicopter trip around the target area, Point Zero as it was called, a ride in a helicopter being a novel experience in 1957.

Arriving back at the carrier the first rating we saw on deck was a Fijian Sick Berth attendant whom, with his First-Aid kit, met every arriving flight on board.

We then passed through the Citadel, a part of the bridge superstructure where everyone arriving on board was checked for radiation and, if necessary, was put through a cleansing process.

The highlight of Tuesday morning was a ‘dummy run’ in which an RAF Vulcan Bomber flew over the target and dropped an ordinary high explosive bomb, set to detonate the same as the Hydrogen Bomb at 10,000 feet above Point Zero.

The evasion routine to move the place away from the blast site with maximum speed was carried out exactly as it would be on “the day.”

All went off as planned and in the afternoon the presentation of a tabua was made to the Commanding Officer of Warrior who was also the Commodore of Grapple Squadron.

Other ships which would have specific duties on the day, started to arrive and assume their duties.

HMS Narvick, a landing ship was the scientific headquarters and had on board all the senior scientists involved  with tests and a good deal of electronic equipment.

The frigates of the RNZN which had brought our ratings from Fiji to the Line Islands were on their patrol areas surrounding the drop zone to ensure that any shipping that had not been warned to stay out of the area by the current Notices to Mariners, was prevented from entering the danger zone.

The survey ship, HMS Cook, on her way to survey the waters of Fiji was detained when passing through the area by the Commodore and given surveillance duties.

Wednesday was given over to drawing protective clothing and radiation badges. The latter, to be worn outside the protective clothing, had a film which would change colour and indicate to an observer whether the wearer had been exposed to a dose of radiation.

The protective clothing consisted of a white coverall worn with anti-flash gear such as is worn by gunnery personnel consisting of a hood and elbow length glove.

We were shown a place on the starboard side of the flight deck where we should be placed for the actual tee. As visitors we should be the closest on board to the target even though we should be 35 miles away.

The next day all the army personnel who had been on Malden Island, mainly engineers who had been installing the target markers, were evacuated from the island and brought aboard the carrier.

Most of their equipment came with them, but an item of earthmoving equipment considered too heavy to lift was placed in a hole dug in the sand and covered with more sand.

To be continued:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

 

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