Ron spent three years with the wartime Royal Australian Navy on the HMAS Katoomba mine sweeping.
At the age of 17, Charles Ronald Barrie (Ron) joined the wartime Royal Australian Navy in 1945. He was mobilised and drafted to the Australian minesweeper (commonly known as a corvette) HMAS Katoomba as a Supply Assistant.
HMAS Katoomba was one of 60 corvettes that were built in Australia during World War II in Australian shipyards as part of the Commonwealth Government’s wartime shipbuilding program.
“When I was on the ship, HMAS Katoomba, we were engaged in mine sweeping, from early 1946 until 1948,” Ron said.
“We went around the Australian coast, around New Guinea waters and the Solomon Islands. There were no radars, no divers. We used to sweep with sweeps out either side. We’d sweep the mines, cut the cables, the mine would float to the surface. We'd explode the mines with rifle fire or gun fire.
“There were minefields laid by both the Japanese and ourselves all around Australia. In fact, we actually swept a German mine in Bass Strait! There were minefields all around country, in the main shipping routes. South of Tasmania, south of South Australia, all around the northern coast, around New Guinea and the Islands up there, Solomon Islands. There were fields some we knew, some we didn't know, it was a matter of potluck in a lot of cases,” he said.
“Apart from the seamen and the stokers and the other crew, there were three in the supply branch, a Petty Officer Supply and two Supply Assistants. I was one of the Supply Assistants.
“Shortly after I joined the ship, the Petty Officer Supply got discharged, so I was left doing his duties. So there were two Supply Assistants – one looked after all the hardware on board the ship, nuts and bolts, and paints and what have you and the other one looked after all the food and clothing. I looked after the food and clothing and my job was to order, receive, store and issue all food and clothing.
“I looked after two holds on the ship. One hold we kept the flour and the sugar in. Always remember that there were there 60 pounds in a bag of sugar and 50 pounds in a bag of flour that were stacked in that hold. And the other hold had all the tinned stuff, like tinned milk, and cases and all that sort of stuff,” Ron said.
When Ron left the Navy in 1948, he joined the Repatriation Department, where he was a clerk in the staff section, and then the medical section. He worked with the Repatriation Department for three years until a promotion to the Postmaster Generals Department.
Ron became involved with the Corvette Association, and was instrumental in forming their own HMAS Katoomba Association, of which he was Secretary. Unfortunately the HMAS Katoomba Association has had to fold in recent years, due to a decline in veteran numbers.
“I decided to become involved with the Corvette Association for comradeship and friendship with the members and past crew mates,” he said.
Ron’s father served in two world wars for both New Zealand and Australia!
“Dad was in the First World War as a New Zealander in Gallipoli, he was an ANZAC. In the second war he was in the AIF in the Middle East. He was frontline in two world wars.”
Ron’s public service continues today, he has been a Justice of the Peace (JP) for 69 years this November, and works twice a week as a JP at a local shopping centre in Queensland.
Thank you for your service Ron.