Byron Bay 91-year-old, Arthur Malin, looks back on his 15 years of adventure with the Royal Australian Navy.
Byron Bay 91-year-old, Arthur Malin, looks back on his 15 years of adventure with the Royal Australian Navy. Yvonne Gardiner

Navy man nearly goes down in history with ill-fated Voyager

FORMER deep sea fisherman and Byron Bay local Arthur Malin joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1948, four years later than he'd planned.

"During the war, when I was 17, I wanted to join the navy but I was working with my father, fishing. I told him, when I was 21, I'd join and I did.

"I think like most young people, I wanted to see a bit of the world and that seemed like a good way to do it."

And see a lot of the world he did in his 15 years of service, on several ships.

His last posting was on the ill-fated HMAS Voyager.

On the evening of February 10, 1964, the worst peacetime disaster in Australian maritime history unfolded off the New South Wales south coast.

Petty Officer Arthur Malin, shortly before leaving the navy in 1963.
Petty Officer Arthur Malin, shortly before leaving the navy in 1963. Contributed

During a naval training exercise, the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne collided with the destroyer HMAS Voyager, shearing the much smaller vessel in half and killing 82 of the Voyager's crew.

"The Voyager was clobbered two months after I left," Arthur said.

"The guy who took my job, he was killed. We were good mates.

"I was on the Voyager in Malaysia when Indonesia was playing up a bit in 1963.

"We were keeping the peace, more or less."

Between 1962 and 1966, Indonesia and Malaysia fought a small, undeclared war which came to involve troops from Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

The conflict resulted from Indonesian President Sukarno's belief that the creation of the Federation of Malaysia, which became official in September 1963, represented a British attempt to maintain colonial rule behind the cloak of independence granted to its former colonial possessions in south-east Asia.

RAN warships patrolled the waters off Borneo and Malaysia to deter Indonesian infiltration parties, and were involved in shelling Indonesian positions in Borneo and in repelling infiltrators in the Singapore Strait.

Years earlier, Arthur had served in the Korean War.

"We were in Korea for 12 months from 1953," he said.

"I was on HMAS Sydney aircraft carrier, just patrolling.

"I was on the flight deck, operating the arrester gear that catches the aircraft."

The HMAS Voyager was sunk when the ship was struck by the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne in 1964.
The HMAS Voyager was sunk when the ship was struck by the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne in 1964. navy.gov.au

While navy life as a single bloke was exciting, Arthur found that the long absences from home were hard when he was married with children.

"Family-wise, it was not good," he said.

"All the deployments we had were at least four to six months - Korea was 12 months - I left my wife and dumped her in a home with no furniture, with two little kids and it wasn't good."

Arthur says the navy is now much more supportive of families of serving personnel.

A highlight of his long service was a round-the-world trip on HMAS Sydney in 1953 to the UK for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

"I missed all the pomp. We were standing around like dead ducks for hours and hours," he said. "I watched the coronation on the telly."

The Queen later sailed past the Sydney on the waters of the Solent, adjacent to the major ports of Portsmouth and Southampton, during a naval review.

Arthur remembers marching in a Fourth of July parade in Maryland, US, and going through the Panama Canal during the six-month trip.

As a petty officer on HMAS Sydney, Arthur's main job was "watch-keeping" in the engine and boiler room.

He spent some time with the RAN hydrographic service, which used to survey the Australian coastline.

"We surveyed the approaches to Portland before they built the big harbour there in Victoria," he said. "Nowadays, they do it from aircraft."

Petty Officer Arthur Malin on the deck of HMAS Voyager.
Petty Officer Arthur Malin on the deck of HMAS Voyager. Contributed

Apart from a couple of "submarine scares", Arthur's naval service was free of the horrors of wartime.

"People are coming more to the realisation of what war means," he said.

"Anyone who lived through World War II knows what a desperate time it was."

After Arthur left the navy, he went  into the steelworks at Port Kembla as a foreman running a production line.

Eleven years later, he returned to deep sea fishing at Byron Bay, his birthplace.

"I retired when I was 80 and the only reason I did that, the government made a marine park here and they bought me out," he said.

Arthur, aged 91, is a member of the Byron Bay RSL Services Club, which will hold its dawn service at 5.30am on Anzac Day, April 25.

The guest speaker will be Paul Clark, grandson of Roy Wynter who was a veteran of the Battle of Beersheba. 

The bugle carried by Roy during the battle will be played by Pastor Keith Jackson, minister of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, at the service.

Main service guest speaker will be Ross Sillar, a lieutenant and platoon commander of 4RAR ANZAC Battalion in Vietnam.

He will be speaking on the centenary of the Armistice.

ANZAC DAY

Many Anzac Day commemoration services will take place in the Northern Rivers on April 25 conducted by RSL Club sub-branches.

Ballina RSL Sub-Branch will hold its Dawn Service at the Ballina RSL Memorial  at 5.30am, a commemoration service at the East Ballina cemetery at 9.15am, and the Anzac Day March down River St to the Ballina RSL Memorial cenotaph at 10.30am.

Alstonville RSL Sub-Branch Dawn Service starts at Elizabeth Ann Brown Park at 5.20am, with the commemoration service and parade through Main St starting at 9.30am.

Check with your local RSL for other services.


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