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Naval Armament Supply Cadets

Unlike the Army and Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Navy's armament supply organisation was largely civilian-manned from its inception. At times, the relevant Navy Office directorate was headed by a uniformed officer, at others by a senior public service officer.

On 2 September 1945, Reginald Ball, Assistant Director of Armament Supply in the Naval Ordnance Branch submitted a 15-page proposal to the Secretary of the Department of Navy, on the recruitment, training and appointment of Executive Officers. This was the product of his experience in managing armament supply operations during the recent war, and was to lead to the establishment of the Naval Armament Cadet scheme.

1938 photo of staff at Spectacle Island

Staff of Spectacle Island, 1938

In 1947 positions of Cadet, Naval Armament Supply were advertised and a first batch of 4 cadets (Barclay, Curran, Nicholls and Williams) were accepted for a 5-year course of training which included a mixture of university, technical college and departmental subjects. A further 2 cadetships were taken up in 1949 (Murton and Scott), and another commenced in 1952 (Goffey). Further cadetships may have commenced around 1960 (Stainsby, McKenzie). On completion of the first 4 years (later reduced to 3 years), cadets were sent to the United Kingdom for a year for further training and experience. On return to Australia, they were appointed as Assistant Armament Supply Officers.

The cadet scheme was discontinued because some graduates, being better trained than was the Public Service norm at the time, rapidly moved on to positions that offered higher salaries and better prospects. As a result training fell into something of a "black hole" during the decade or so leading up to just before the fatal accident at Newington in 1975.

The syllabus for the Departmental training is useful in showing the scope of activities undertaken in armament depots of the immediate post-war era:

"ARMAMENT SUPPLY.

First Year.

Gunwharf Stores. - Main characteristics of B.L. and Q.F. guns, automatic and machine guns, and small arms; their preservation and storage:-

The instruction given, and practical experience gained in the storehouses, are designed to give the candidate a good understanding of the chief naval weapons and their associated stores, methods and problems of preservation and storage, and the gunwharf storehouse organization.

Magazine Stores - The main characteristics and methods of storage of:-

Preparation of Form O.8 - Preparation of components statement, based on assembly, and requirements for proof, repair and modifications.

Shipping and Transport.

Gunwharf Main Office Procedure:-

Third Year.

Laboratory Work &c:-.

Annual Examination and/or repair of:

Assembly and packing of cartridges.
Operation sheets and S.N. tool lists.
Safely precautions.
D.C. pistol testing.
Sealing and examination for safety in storage or transport.
Empty packages and cartridge cases.
Examination for freedom from explosives - repair.
Inspection and proof.

Armament Workshop
Gun inspection.
Gun repairs.
Gauging and measurement.

The course for the third year takes the cadet through the principal work in the main office in sufficient detail to afford him a good general knowledge of administrative procedure in provision, supply and store accounting; gives him practical experience in the main types of work done in the laboratories, with sufficient detail to afford a good knowledge of both major and minor components of the chief stores, methods of assembly, repair and examination, and a good grounding in safety arrangements and the methods of handling explosives generally,; gives him practical experience in the workshops in the gauging, measurement, testing, inspection and repair of ordnance, and in the inspection and repair of guns mounted in ships.

Fourth Year

Foreman of Storehouses - General organization, coordination of section's activities and control of depot transport (road, narrow gauge and water), planning lighter loads, approved methods of slinging, general safely precautions, maintenance of buildings and plant, fire-fighting organization, timekeeping.

Foreman of Laboratory - General organization, Laboratory work programme. Demands for stores and equipment. Transfers and conversions. Laboratory work records."

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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au