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Assist Darwin - when the call went out
by Phillip Ross Mckendrick
HMAS Vamire at the Australian National Maritime Museum
I was an able seaman on HMAS Vampire and on duty in Sydney when we received a call about the disaster. The NAVY at Garden island was mobilised and due to Christmas leave all services were recalled. My Ship Vampire was in dry dock a the time and a contingent of sailors were sent to Townsville to join the fleet that had set sail.
Most ships set sail with minimum crew and we had to join either HMAS Melbourne or HMAS Brisbane. Garden island was a buzz of activity loading and storing tents blankets and food for the Assistance effort.I chose HMAS Brisbane.I also remember clearly sailing into Darwin Harbor to see the devastation that the cyclone had caused will be remember to this day (we lost a sailor on HMAS Acute that fateful day). I remember as we were leaving Sydney airport and the poor folks that came through Sydney from Darwin wide eyed and scared.
I was sent out with a crew to firstly clean up the naval houses that had been flattened. On the way to the area we saw steel tanks wrapped around poles and tanks and caravans up trees so high up that one could only imagine what people that had gone through this event.I was there for 3 weeks assisting the clean up and then we returned to Our ships in Sydney.
I will never forget the force of nature