John (Jack) Campbell Williams, RAAF, was a fitter/ armourer, posted on loan to Canberra

August 14, 2009

Dear Mac

I came across your site again yesterday, actually trying to track down the Cole Report delivered a few days ago, but was delighted to see you are still at it!

I exchanged an email or two with you quite some years back having then just read Bruce Loxton's (then) recently published, definitive book, as it was consistent with what my father had told me as a child - that it was friendly fire. I was amazed that the Canberra Inquiry had not heard Seaman St George's account of the large hole near the waterline on the starboard side.

To recap, Dad was in the RAAF- Citizen Air Force from January 1939, but was a fitter/ armourer, posted on loan to Canberra a few weeks after 1 September- and spent until early 1942 aboard her. So he knew her well!  In fact, I think I might not have been around if he had been aboard at Savo, given that most if not all RAAF personnel were killed.

I got so engaged reading your now very smart site yesterday that I did little work! As to the Indian Ocean passage short one prop, Dad had told me about that. It was quite a feat. He also told me of being aboard off the Seychelles, or Saya de Mahla Banks (?) in a cyclone where the sea was flattened to a smokey mist by the wind. And how he ended up at one point staying ashore with the aircraft which had been damaged in an accident in Ceylon, made worse by the efforts of 2 elephants used to pull it out of a ditch. He was aboard during the Coburg and Ketty Brovig action and said that he managed to be on the aircraft when it landed by the ships after they had been abandoned.

We are currently relocating Mum - 85 and mentally fit - and this has revealed a number of Dad's Canberra photos but in particular, some photos of Coburg and Ketty Brovig, and Seagull launching some of which appear identical to some I have seen published, as well as others of groups of crew in Ceylon and Africa. Some have names on the back. I will try and get to them shortly and see how they scan.

Dad was born in January 1920, and died in late 2001, and always wanted me to go to Jervis Bay. He always seemed to be very pro Navy. I very nearly did go in as senior entry in 1970, but opted to simply go to Uni and do law, and there in 1971 met and sailed (yachts) with 2 fellows who would have been classmates at Jervis Bay - they having done the first year of Uni at Jervis Bay. One, Mark Proctor was I discovered yesterday, a Commissioning crew Lieutenant aboard Canberra II. Last I had heard he was skipper of the Adelaide.

Having seen the Gun Room on Vampire many years later, I think I would have rejected the idea of a Naval career much sooner, had I known! That said, with 20:20 hindsight I should have done as several friends in my profession have done - serve in the RAN Legal Reserve. I discovered a few years back that Dad's great grandfather was the boatswain of the 3rd rate ship HMS Cumberland in 1846 and indeed that the family lived aboard the ship - at least two of the children born aboard, and the said boatswain died having fractured his skull falling into the hold of the Lively class frigate HMS Apollo, in 1850.

Keep up the good work.



David Campbell-Williams


Nice to hear from again after all this time, and to receive your flattering comments about AHOY.

We keep on hammering away, and it is really remarkable that we are not too far off from 100,000 visitors.

Best wishes,


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