GREAT MEMORIES: John Hay served on the Tobruk during his time in the navy.
GREAT MEMORIES: John Hay served on the Tobruk during his time in the navy. Mike Knott BUN041216TOBRUK1

My days on the 'brand spanking new' HMAS Tobruk

WHEN John Hay first boarded the HMAS Tobruk in Moreton Bay, it was fresh out of the shipyards.

"I joined it just after it was commissioned in April 1981," the Burnett Heads man said.

"I was doing my PO's course, and I served on until I was paid off in 1982.

"She was brand spanking new - very nice and shiny."

Now the ship is set to be scuttled off Bundaberg after a hard-fought campaign across the region.

In Mr Hay's mind, "she was one of the best ships they ever built".

"It was built for its purpose; it did a lot of sea miles," he said.

The Royal Australian Navy posted this photo of the Tobruk setting sail.
The Royal Australian Navy posted this photo of the Tobruk setting sail.

"On one of our first missions, we took peacekeeping troops to Sinai. We took them over to Israel and we had five United Nations helicopters, tanks and 500 personnel."

Mr Hay was a 26-year-old engineer, doing four hours on and eight hours off.

He made plenty of friends, including several others who have also retired in Bundaberg.

The Tobruk was an anomaly in his 12-year Royal Navy career, which he mostly spent on smaller, speedier ships like minesweepers and landing crafts - "the little toy ones; shoeboxes, we called them".

"Compared to them, she was massive.

"I used to get lost walking around on the decks.

"It would take you ten minutes to thread your way from one end to the other.

 

John Hay served on the Tobruk during his time in the navy.
John Hay served on the Tobruk during his time in the navy. Mike Knott BUN041216TOBRUK2

"When they scuttle it here it will be good - when they strip out the inside, you'll be able to swim all the way through."

From Bethlehem and the Jerusalem Wailing Wall to Singapore, the Tobruk took Australian sailors across the world.

Did the Tobruk crew ever get up to any mischief?

"Only on shore," he grinned. "Being sailors."

But the roughest sea they had was close to home.

"That was going across the Great Australian Bight, from Sydney to Perth," he said.

"It was beautiful and flat going across the Indian Ocean; you'd never know you (hit a storm).

"We had a Yankee destroyer escorting us across, and the Russians came down and they were having a look at us," he said.

 

John Hay served on the Tobruk during his time in the navy.
John Hay served on the Tobruk during his time in the navy. Mike Knott BUN041216TOBRUK3

"But they were more interested in the Yanks than us."

It wasn't a sad occasion for Mr Hay when he said goodbye to the ship.

"You don't really get upset," he said.

"Because you know you've got mates wherever you go."

 

Artists impression of the proposed HMAS Tobruk proposed dive site.
Artists impression of the proposed HMAS Tobruk proposed dive site. contributed