It was only a three hour train journey but it was a trip that took Mr Ron Heron back more than 50 years when he travelled from Sydney to HMAS Albatross recently.
Now aged 84, Mr Heron was stationed at Albatross in the 1950’s, years he described as “some of the happiest of my life”.
While his position was that of Naval Aircraft Mechanic Airframes it was his artistic skills that were most in demand, which is why Mr Heron was given a special engraving job when the First Sea Lord, Admiral The Right Honourable The Earl Mountbatten of Burma visited Albatross in 1956.
A memento in the form of a brass albatross paperweight was prepared for Lord Mountbatten. The paperweight also featured an engraving of the southern hemisphere and it was Mr Heron who was given this intricate task. The problem of finding the right tools for such a fine job was solved when he was given some old dentist drills which proved perfect.
Lord Mountbatten obviously enjoyed his visit to Albatross as the Daily Telegraph of 11 April 1956 reported “Lord Mountbatten yesterday described the Naval Air Station HMAS Albatross at Nowra as the smartest station he had ever seen.’Of any type, in any service, in any country,’”
Mr Heron bought a long treasured possession with him on his trip to Nowra, a letter of appreciation from Lord Mountbatten which Mr Heron donated to the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
The letter reads “I am writing to thank you very much for the fine work on the model of the Albatross given on my departure”. Lord Mountbatten also asked that his thanks be passed on to the five men who worked on the paperweight: S.L. Paul, S. Corboy, K. Baddock, R. Heron and L. Drake.
The letter will now take its place in the Museum archives with other memorabilia relating to Lord Mountbatten’s visit. Albatross Commanding Officer at that time was Captain Peter Fanshawe.
Lord Mountbatten and Captain Fanshawe had many connections from their Royal Navy service in WW2. Captain Fanshawe had been an Observer in the Fleet Air Arm and was shot down in Norway in 1940 and captured. Whilst a POW at Stalag Luft III he was a member of the “Great Escape” Executive Committee. Captain Fanshawe’s descendants visited the Museum in 2007 to donate a sizeable collection of photographs depicting Lord Mountbatten’s visit and the exploits of Captain Fanshawe.
Museum Manager, Mr Terry Hetherington, says it is both a great honour and responsibility to receive objects such as these. “Donors such as Mr Heron and Captain Fanshawe’s family are forward thinking. An item such as Lord Mountbatten’s letter may have never again seen the light of day, but thanks to Mr Heron’s generosity this special item is now permanently archived and will always be available for inspection. “
“The Museum has many items of national significance that have come from individual collections, and these items tell a much deeper story about the personal involvement and rich heritage of the people who served before us.”
Naval Today Staff , June 15, 2012; Image: Australian Navy