Home' Navy News : February 3rd 2011 Contents NAVY NEWS
February 3, 2011
By Graham Davis
IT WAS one o'clock on Christmas
morning when scores of phones began
ringing and pagers "beeping" in Navy
homes across Cairns.
Sure, Santa was coming but so was
"Would you please return to your
ship immediately. We are locking
down HMAS Cairns," was the message
officers, sailors and civilian members
received from their superiors.
Minutes later members were shrug-
ging into their DPNUs and heading
off in heavy rain towards their ships --
Cairns is home port to 14 RAN surface
assets and 11 were alongside.
Then-CO of Cairns CMDR Bob
Heffey said it was remarkable that most
personnel were back on board within an
"All the crews from the 11 Cairns-
based Fleet units (CBFUs) closed up and
were ready to react," CMDR Heffey said.
The "close up" saw engineers start
their diesels, communicators test their
radios and navigators plot a course
which would take them away from
"In the end we did not sail the
CBFUs or send them down Wahday
Creek as Tasha stayed at category one
and the winds did not get over 25 knots,"
CMDR Heffey said.
"Once Tasha was downgraded to a
tropical low at 8.30am, we were able to
send everyone home for their Christmas
celebrations despite lots of flooded roads
and strong winds.
"There was no damage to Cairns but
we were all very much fatigued from
lack of sleep."
Christmas wake up
call for Cairns sailors
AFTERMATH OF CYCLONE TASHA: Locals watch flood waters on the
Bruce Highway at the Aloomba turn-off south of Cairns after Cyclone Tasha.
HMAS Cairns-based personnel received an early morning wake up call on
Christmas Day to help the base and ships prepare for the cyclone.
Photo: Tenille Elms, courtesy The Cairns Post
By SGT Andrew Hetherington
"MY HEAD'S still spinning. It
feels extremely humbling and
makes me feel extremely proud
to be a part of the unit, but more
so the squadron for what we
achieved on the day and being a
part of something where we took
the fight to the Taliban and we
won. The boys did some amazing
This was the reaction from CPL
Benjamin Roberts-Smith after he
was awarded the second Victoria
Cross for Australia and became
Australia's most decorated serving
He said he was speechless after
being informed a week before
Christmas that he would receive the
"I told my family and wife
Emma -- what do you do? We talked
about it and were blown away.
"After the initial shock wore off,
Emma told me not to do it again, but
she was over the moon."
He said he never thought he
would be awarded a VC.
"You read all the other recipi-
ents' stories and think that's awe-
some," he said.
"It's still surreal. I was just like
everyone else in Afghanistan; I was
doing my job -- I know it's a cli-
ché but it's true. You always go over
there and fight as hard you can and
never go over there half-hearted."
Bryce presented him with his award
in front of more than 500 guests
at his unit's home at Campbell
Barracks in Perth on January 23.
One of CPL Roberts-Smith's
mates who shared a beer with him
at the after-ceremony function was
fellow VC recipient CPL Mark
"I was in the same troop as 'RS'
when I joined the regiment and I
used to play rugby with him," CPL
"For me to be told there was
another VC, then to be told it was
for someone from the regiment and
it was someone you're actually good
mates with, what more could I ask
for? It's fantastic."
CPL Donaldson said his mate
was a naturally talented soldier.
"He does everything well
across the board. He is naturally
gifted at being able to shoot," CPL
Donaldson said. "To do his job
properly as a trooper, then to step up
to a corporal's position, take com-
mand and inspire leadership, came
to him naturally."
He said his mate now had a lot to
look forward to after becoming one
of only three surviving Australian
"He'll get to shake a lot of hands
and sign a lot of signatures and I
think he'll enjoy it."
CPL Roberts-Smith said he knew
his life would change after receiving
"Having been mates with Mark
for quite some time, I've had a bit of
an insight into what it would be like
and I think I knew what I was get-
ting into," he said.
"The bottom line is life's going
to change drastically, particularly
with the media.
"The reality of it is the world
will turn and I'll come back to work
and there will be things I'll have to
do on the side, but my main focus,
as always, will be to come back to
work and run my patrol and get pre-
pared to go back to Afghanistan."
Soldier awarded Victoria Cross
Quentin Bryce awards
the Victoria Cross to CPL
VC, MG, at an investiture
ceremony at Campbell
Photo: CPL Chris Moore
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