Sailors head to home port

AGE is wearying them, but former crew members of HMAS Wagga are summoning strength for another reunion at their “home port.”

A major talking point of members of the HMAS Wagga Association at the reunion will be their long campaign to have another warship proudly carry the name of NSW’s largest city.

The last HMAS Wagga was a corvette built in 1942 for service during World War II.

She was paid off on October 28, 1960.

Former navy warrant officer David Williams will be among about 40 people who will attend the 2013 reunion from April 23 to 26.

For the past several biennial reunions, the association has feared each would be the last as their group aged and dwindled in number.

The same fear exists for this gathering.

“Sadly, as with most of the other corvette associations, most of the wartime crew members are no longer with us,” said Mr Williams, who joined HMAS Wagga in 1958 as a 17-year-old and was on her last voyage two years later.

“This year may be our last reunion.

“The only way the association can carry on is for the navy to name another ship ‘Wagga’.

“Sadly, this is not likely to happen as we have been petitioning for years to no effect.”

Member for Wagga Daryl Maguire is a strong supporter of the association and has began fighting for Wagga’s name to be adorned on another warship since he was first elected.

Yesterday, he was more optimistic than Mr Williams that the campaign would succeed.

He said his initial submission was regularly updated with the navy historian.

“The issue now is the (federal) government has not built any ships,” Mr Maguire said.

“It is something I am not giving up on, but it depends on the government acquiring ships.”

Navy tradition is that for a ship to be named HMAS Wagga it would have to be about the same sized ship.

The HMAS Wagga Association’s 2013 reunion dinner is being called “the last hurrah” and will be held in the Wagga RSL Club on April 24.

A mayoral reception will be held at 10am the same day in the Civic Centre where a HMAS Wagga display is kept, including the ship’s restored white sea ensign flown during her last voyage.

Members of the association will also march in Wagga’s Anzac Day parade.

Over the past year, the association’s president, Larry Horton, and secretary Nev (Lofty) Rackemann have died.

Only about 10 members of the war time crew are still alive.

HMAS Wagga

– One of 60 Bathurst class corvettes built during World War II.

– Launched in 1942 and entered service in January, 1943.

– Overall length 160 feet; beam 31 feet; standard displacement 650 tons; maximum speed 15 knots; crew 98.

– World War II service included escorting convoys along the east coast of Australia.

-Escort duties extended to New Guinea forward areas in March,1943.

– Came under attack from Japanese dive bombers in Milne Bay in April, 1943.

– Steamed 304,000 kilometres between 1943 and 1960.

– Service after the war included being a training ship.

– Paid off on October 28, 1960, making her the last and longest-serving corvette in the history of the Royal Australian Navy.

FINAL JOURNEY: HMAS Wagga sails into Sydney Harbour at the end of her last journey.

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