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August 09 Edition Cover

A trip down memory lane for sailors

01 May 2012

A trip down memory lane for sailors Image

A group of World War II veterans enjoyed a day out on the water in Docklands on April 7 aboard one of the world’s last surviving Fairmile patrol boats.

Currently in service as a pleasure craft, Keith Rankin’s boat Challenger was originally built for the Australian army in 1946.

For 85-year-old Hub Davis’s mates and their families, the tour to Williamstown and back on Easter Saturday was a dream come true.

“It was truly marvellous,” Mr Davis said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better day. It was a great success and everyone on board, from six-year-olds to 90-year-olds, had a great time.”

The veterans are members of the Fairmile Association of Australia, having served on the wooden vessels, as well as their close relatives Harbour Defence Motor Launches and Air Sea Rescue boats

Mr Davis said a member of the group came across the existence of Challenger while researching Fairmile vessels.

“The trip came about entirely due to the Keith’s generosity, which I suspect is considerable,” Mr Davis said.

He said the tourists passed around the hat and collected a “miserable” amount which they attempted to give Keith to at least cover the afternoon tea on board.

“I’m 85 and I’m the youngest so it was great that Keith was able to treat us all this way before we ‘cross the bar’ into the next world,” Mr Davis said.

He said the invitation for the trip went Australia-wide, but only veterans from Victoria and NSW managed to attend.

“As you could imagine, it’s not easy for us to get to events like this,” Mr Davis said.

The group was delighted to be taken to Williamstown for an up-close, waterside look at the restored mine sweeper HMAS Castlemaine as well as a corvette.

Mr Davis explained that only six or seven members now attend the group’s quarterly meeting in Williamstown these days.

“We’re getting old.  A lot of us can no longer drive and the train is unmanageable too,” he said.

He said, while the Challenger no longer resembled a Fairmile above the deck, the trip was nostalgic for the group.

He said the British-designed Fairmiles were built all around the world during the war.  

“Out of 35 built here, the army only had two, with most of them being built for the navy for anti-submarine duties,” he said.

“They were a heavily-armed vessel with cannon, machine guns and depth charges,” he said.

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