John (Snow) Williams
From John (Snow) Williams:
I went south in Jan 59 on Magga Dan with the RAAF crew as airframe fitter on the Auster aircraft, Doug Leckie was the pilot and Nev Meredith was the engine fitter for the voyage to relieve Wilkes station and take it over from the US. The trip was to take about 3 months; however, after arrival and seeing the amount of buildings and equipment to maintain Phil decided to find a third mechanic to stay for the year.
I, along with Bob Dingle, our Wilkes OIC was, at 10 am called to his cabin on Magga Dan [with the ship due to sail at 5 pm] and asked if I would like to stay. With my mind blown by the cargo cult aspect of the place [this was during the austere post war years in Australia when there was not much in the way of overseas stuff around] and the thoughts of adventure I readily agreed.
Phil then told me that I was the third mechanic and Bob said to call into his office after the ship sailed and he would outline my duties. That evening Bob said something like ‘forget what Phil said, you are the carpenter and plumber’. And so, my first job was to clear the blocked galley drains. Incidentally, on the maintenance side the US had 8 personnel which Australia replaced with 3.
I had a very good Carpenters shop and a good plumber’s workshop beside it and plenty of work. However, 3 months on I was moved to number 2 mechanic when the original number 2 had to be sedated for over 9 months. Three months later in July our well liked chief engineer was killed and I took over his job; with help from all I was able to cope and although a bit twitchy, from coping with the power house mainly, I survived a mostly enjoyable year even with a lack of field trips!
Phil had to get me seconded from the RAAF; I don’t think that was a problem as the air force had no choice! But, after I took over the mechanical side he lobbied the Department Of Air to pay me at Civilian rates of pay and allowances which was contrary to Queens Regulations; I believe that he had a hell of a fight but eventually they acquiesced.
The civilian rates were only marginally better and I was happy to stay under any conditions.
A couple of years later I was only released on condition that I accept air force pay and allowances.
I was a Corporal then at Richmond air force base working on Hercules inspections and repairs. One of my crew had been named by his parents – Robert Falcon Scott! I did not think of my secondment as being anything special but my co-workers did and presented me with a travel alarm clock, that after many field trips at Mawson, a couple of years in the tropics and etc is still going strong when needed.
p.s. the alarm clock could probably tell some good tales!