Monday, 9 January 2017

Reminiscence of Bribie in WW2

In the 2017 edition (#43) of Bribie magazine Holiday Guide & Business Directory (pages 32-33) is an interesting article written by Historian Ron Donald about serviceman Frederick Sydney Sharp's reminiscences of Bribie Island in World War 2.

Syd Sharp continued his association with Bribie Island after his military service when he became the proprietor of the Ocean Beach Guest House for a few years.

The following article is reprinted with permission, from 2017 Bribie Holiday Guide & Business Directory published by the Bribie Island Chamber of Commerce.

The long life of a sailor comes to an end. . . 
By Historian Ron Donald

"The last remaining military link with Bribie Island in World War 2 has been severed with the death of former naval lieutenant and wartime Darwin bombing survivor Frederick Sydney Sharp on June 9 [2016] at the age of 99 years.
Lieut. Syd Sharp, as the youthful officer-in-charge of
RAN No. 4 Indicator loop station at Woorim on the east
 coast of Bribie Island. He was also a highly responsible
 officer in the wartime Brisbane seaward defences structure
 Although now protected by sandbagging, the station was
seriously threatened by beach erosion several years ago and
 is still intact, as are its two diesel electric power huts a little further inland.
Caption: Ron Donald

But his experiences in the long service of his country remain for posterity through his detailed written reminiscences of some of the most critical episodes in Australia's wartime history.

Syd Sharp, as he became popularly known in adult life, was born into a family living on the Parramatta River and it was only natural that his main sporting activities would soon become swimming, sailing and rowing, with the waters of Sydney Harbour an irresistible magnet.
There were ominous beginnings to his life - at the age of only four years he contracted typhoid fever and spent three months in the isolation ward of a private hospital in Ashfield, Sydney.  The illness was cured and he became a student at Sydney Grammar, joining the school cadets and leaving in 1934 at the age of 17 to take a job in the insurance industry.

Subsequently he joined the peacetime Militia (Army) - becoming a sergeant - but the call of the sea was insistent and he transferred to the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve in February, 1939 - the same year in which Britain and Germany became adversaries in World War 2.  Newly-married, Syd was mobilised in the naval reserve in December, 1939, being stationed at the port war signal station and anti-submarine unit at South Head, Sydney.  His training included an ASDIC (anti-submarine detection) course with service in a submarine being part of the regime which was to stand him in good stead at Bribie Island and Moreton Bay later in the war. As a RANVR sub-lieutenant, he was posted to Darwin to serve in the northern capital's port war signal and loop station, arriving there on February 10, 1941.  His duties included reconnaissance flights, as naval observer, in Allied aircraft seeking to monitor possible Japanese military activity to the north. The Japanese began to strafe and bomb Darwin and its defence installations on February 19, 1942, and Syd Sharp survived a total of 26 devastating air raids before being posted south, hitching a ride to Sydney in a US Air Force Flying Fortresses.

Still standing is the old control post of the wartime RAN No. 4 station at Woorim. The building was manned around the clock and, with equipment connected to an under-sea electrical cable, was able to detect any enemy submarine activity in Moreton Bay.  Since this photograph was taken, about 20 years ago, beach erosion has removed the foredunes to within only a few metres of the building.
Caption: Ron Donald
In late 1942, he was appointed to command the newly-established RAN No. 4 indicator loop station close to the eastern beach of Bribie Island, near the township of Woorim.
No. 4 was the senior RAN establishment - the others were No. 2 (northern Bribie Island), port war signal station at Caloundra and RAN No. 3 at Tangalooma.  Built of concrete, No. 4 had seven rooms and, aided by electrically-operated cables on the seabed, was equipped to monitor all shipping movements in and out of Moreton Bay.

The RAN No. 4 station at Woorim, 2016.
Although now protected by sandbagging, the station was seriously
 threatened by beach erosion several years ago and is still intact,
 as are its two diesel electric power huts a little further inland.
Caption and photo: Ron Donald

The RAN No. 4 station at Woorim, 2016.
Caption and photo: Ron Donald

Any enemy ships, including submarines, would run the risk of being blown up by suspended mines in the bay while four six-inch (155mm) artillery guns on Bribie's ocean beach would be an added deterrent.

No. 4 station had a crew of about 35, including Royal Navy seamen who had survived battles against German ships in the European theatre of the war.

At times, Lieut. Sharp acted in his capacity as RAN deputy extended defences officer for Moreton Bay - a highly-responsible position considering that the North-West passage of the bay was the main route to and from the port of Brisbane for convoys of Allied shipping.

With the Japanese retreating in the islands north of Australia, the RAN installations in Moreton Bay were closed in 1944 and Syd Sharp was posted first to Darwin and then to Cairns for his final duties in WW2.

Proudly wearing his naval service medals,
Syd Sharp regarded the annual Anzac Day
observations in Sydney as a 'must' to attend - so much so that
 in 2012, at the age of 95, he was the oldest in the navy contingent
and opted to complete the march on foot!
Caption: Ron Donald
Always a keen yachtsman, he became a member (ultimately commodore) of the Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association and, as either skipper or crew member, took part in ocean races between Sydney Harbour and Noumea.  These achievements earned him membership of the London-based Ocean Cruising Club.

In 1980, he sold his insurance brokerage business and retired while still owning a cruising yacht for leisurely trips to Fiji and other destinations. A modest and gentlemanly person, he was proud of his service medals and of being able to participate on foot each year in the Anzac Day march in Sydney until the time when very few WW2 naval veterans were still alive.

Lieut. Syd Sharp is survived by Linda, his wife of the past 39 years, and three daughters (Rosemary, Suzanne and Alison) from his first marriage, as well as their families. He and Linda has lived on the Gold Coast for the past 28 years. His funeral service was held with naval honours in Somerville Chapel at Nerang Cemetery on the Gold Coast on June 17, 2016.

An additional - an rare - tribute was the sending of a signal from RAN headquarters to all serving ships and shore installations, acknowledging Lieut. Sharp's service to his country over a period of four decades.  He had requested that his ashes be scattered at sea from a serving RAN ship."

Historian Ron Donald
2017 edition (#43) of Bribie magazine Holiday Guide & Business Directory (pages 32-33)
Bribie Island Chamber of Commerce 

Dr Richard Walding's site Indicator Loops of the Royal Australian Navy at Bribie Island - lists Officers and Ratings who served at RAN4, 1942-1943.  This site also contains a copy of the Tribute acknowledging Lieut. Sharp's service sent from RAN headquarters in June 2016.

Final salvo for Naval officer by Dr Tom Lewis. Navy Daily 22 June 2016 [online]
This article mentions Syd Sharp's service in Darwin.

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