RAN 16th Minesweeper Plaque Dedication, Canberra
Members of the RAN 16th MSS gathered together in Canberra, ACT for the Dedication of the new plaque which celebrates the MSS and those who served in the Indonesia Conflict.
This took place at the Australian War Memorial in
Canberra on 31st March 2006
Canberra Plaque Unveiling Background of how the commemoration came into being.
At the reunion in 2004 at Yamba, a representative from the AWM, Brad Manera attended to glean information for the new Post 1945 display which is to be opened in October 07. Brad and I got talking and I commented that I had recently been in contact with the AWM and discovered the fact that there was no plaque at the AWM for the members of the 16th Minesweeping Squadron. Brad said, apply for permission and put one in for the 16th MSS.
So I did, I wrote to the AWM and asked for approval for a plaque for the 16th, then applied to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for a grant from the Federal Government for the plaque which we received some months later.
The plaque was then designed and sent to Arrow Bronze who are the plaque makers for the AWM and a quote was duly received, then a copy of the quote and wording etc for the plaque sent to AWM Canberra for final approval. The AWM edited the wording and informed us that the order of the names of the ships for the plaque could either be in alphabetical order or in order of launching dates. It was a little too complicated for us to research all that, so we went with the alphabetical order for the ships names.
The AWM was very pleased with the concept and the new wording etc was sent to arrow bronze for production. The cast plaque was then forwarded to the AWM to await the unveiling. I sent a copy of the jpg out for as many as possible to see, however not everyone was happy with the design or the idea of a plaque unveiling at the AWM which made us very sad given the work we had all put in on the project.An age spot on the original photo had been [accidentally] portrayed as a porthole so we explained that it was a representation of the 6 sweepers, not just the one. However the plaque was recast and the service plans went ahead.
Notices of the events were sent out, 100 or so by email and 80 by letters. Unfortunately not all the emails and letters reached the people concerned, to try to correct this notices were placed in the Veteran Affairs paper, Navy News, The White Ensign, Vietnam Veterans Journals, RSL papers as many web sites and general information sites as possible.
Several other people placed ads for the event in their local state papers etc. We also asked that if anyone knew someone involved with the Confrontation whom we didn’t have on the mailing list, to please copy the information and send it on to them. Information for the Plaque Unveiling was also placed on the Royal Navy Ton Class site in the UK
At the same time as all this preparation was taking place it was announced by the Federal Government that the Pinjat Jasa Malaysia Medals were to be awarded to the servicemen and women who participated in the Indonesian Confrontation. Try as we may to obtain these medals for presentation to the 16th MSS at the Unveiling Ceremony it was not to be.
The ships plaques (all 6 ships) are on display at HMAS Waterhen at Waverton, NSW in the Ward Room or Officers Mess. We applied for and received permission from the Naval Historical Society who are the actual owners of the plaques, to be able to display them at the AWM for the Plaque Unveiling. They were a great surprise for the crews and their families to see and be photographed with.
The flag from Bob Down, who has donated it to the AWM, The position of Captain Inshore Flotilla for the Indonesian Confrontation ceased when the Confrontation ended.
There was a Meet and Greet at the Olims Hotel Canberra on the night of Thursday 30th at 6pm. The service at the AWM at 1000 on Friday 31st March 06 was to be held in the Western Courtyard of the AWM, but due to inclement weather this was changed to inside the building. All this was arranged with Martin Hansen from the AWM. Great detail and much preparation went into this event.
The letter from the Prime Minister was the crowning glory and was read by Carol Cartwright at the beginning of the service. The service was indeed very moving and brought many tears to the eyes of those in attendance. For many of the crewmen, it brought closure for their long and hard struggle for recognition for their participation in the Indonesian Confrontation.
The service was followed by a morning tea of coffee/tea and Anzac Biscuits, which we thought quite suitable for the occasion.
There was then a personally guided tour available for those who wished to participate of special attractions at the AWM. Many participated in these tours.
The evening of the 31st there was a Dinner at the Hotel, where many of us stayed. This dinner went very well and was very delicious. The guys chatted and indulged in a few ales to pass the night away. Many stories were enjoyed in the Olims Hotel Beer Garden over the few days we were there.
Tom Parker who lives in San Diego in the USA flew over to be with the 16th for the event, Gerry Reid, David Humphry flew in from New Zealand and Jim Warren and his wife, whom currently lives in Australia joined them. Jim was on the NZ Sweepers at the time of the Confrontation. We also had guests there from the North of Queensland, as well as South East Queensland, N.S.W. Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania & the ACT
(Australian Capital Territory). Many attended with their families.
The reason this event was held was to pay recognition to the 16th Minesweeper Squadron who served through the difficult and dangerous Confrontation during 1964 – 1966. Their return to Australia had been overshadowed by the escalation of the War in Vietnam.
At the reunion [in 2004] many spoke about how they felt they had been overlooked by their country due to the War in Vietnam. I must admit that I could feel the hurt come through when listening to these comments, so took it upon myself to do something about it hence the Plaque unveiling at the AWM.
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