Gary Haigh, Bruce Francis, Dave Owen, Gus Getteridge, Merry Owen and Tad Fribbins were crew members on the commissioning of HMAS Fremantle on March 17, 1980 and were in Gladstone to celebrate with other Fremantle class patrol boat sailors.
Gary Haigh, Bruce Francis, Dave Owen, Gus Getteridge, Merry Owen and Tad Fribbins were crew members on the commissioning of HMAS Fremantle on March 17, 1980 and were in Gladstone to celebrate with other Fremantle class patrol boat sailors.

‘Ultimate dream’: Ship benefits from sailors’ donations

STANDING on the quarterdeck of HMAS Gladstone yesterday, a group of sailors spoke of fond memories of being aboard HMAS Fremantle for her commissioning on March 17, 1980.

Greg Haigh was part of the 22-man crew who commissioned that ship in ­England 40 years ago.

To celebrate, he organised a reunion of ­Fremantle-class patrol boat sailors.

Mr Haigh said crews on the 15 Fremantle-class vessels, including Gladstone, “worked their butts off” for 25 years.

“It was quite a contribution to the Royal Australian Navy and Australia,” he said.

“There were a lot of crews and a lot of good guys.”

More than 100 ex-patrol boat sailors attended the reunion, which started on Friday and had them spending a lot of time reminiscing on the ship.

Gladstone Maritime History Society president ­Linday Wassell said seeing the smiles on the sailors’ faces was what kept him and his team motivated.

“This is what the ship’s all about,” Mr Wassell said.

Conversations with the sailors allowed GMHS volunteers to get first-hand accounts to add to their tours.

“But there would be some stories we can’t tell,” Mr Wassell said.

Former sailors explore HMAS Gladstone for the Fremantle Class Patrol Boat reunion, March 14, 2020
Former sailors explore HMAS Gladstone for the Fremantle Class Patrol Boat reunion, March 14, 2020

A few of the sailors offered to donate items to help bolster the experience for the ship’s guests. Mr Wassell said the donations would help make the ship look as though it was still alive, only missing the sailors.

“That’s the ultimate dream” he said.



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