Daniel "Dags" Byrne. Official Number R93029 

We first met Dags on 13th July 1960, when 154 of us marched through the gates of HMAS Leeuwin. We were 15 years old and looking for adventure and excitement. After 12 months of training at Leeuwin we went to Cerberus in Victoria for further training in a particular branch of the Navy. Dags, in his wisdom, chose to be a “Stoker”.

Aged 17, he found himself in Far East Asia, representing his country as a uniformed roving Ambassador – he couldn’t have been happier!  

When Danny joined his first ship he was teased about his kit looking new and just out of recruit school. He decided to do something to make his uniforms look old and “Salty”. Most of us used a weak solution of bleach to rinse our clothes in – but not Danny – he had a better idea! One night at sea, Tug Wilson noticed that Danny was fiddling about with his clothing – but thought nothing about it. The next morning at “Wakey Wakey” Tug noticed Danny fly out of his bunk and scoot up the ladder. Tug went to the heads and then wandered up on deck for some fresh air. There he saw Danny on the stern, pulling in a heaving line. On the end of the line was a cotton dhouby bag, empty and with the bottom ripped open. Tug said, “whatcha got there, Danny” and Danny replied “Nothing – it’s just nothing”
Suddenly the penny dropped – Dags had put his clothes into the bag and hoped the seawater wash would fade them. Tug just about broke a leg rushing back to the mess deck to tell everyone what had happened.
Poor Danny – his nickname was “Salty” for the rest of the trip!  

There are many stories of his exploits in the Far East, however I have chosen this one to illustrate his generosity.

Dags and “Frosty” Nash went ashore one day in Singapore and decided to have a few cool ones at the NAAFI club. LO and behold! Someone started up a game of “Crown and Anchor”. This is a simple gambling game with a piece of cloth, marked into squares, and some dice. It can quickly be rolled up and concealed should any authority show up. The boys had a bet and won, so they continued playing. Their luck held and they continued winning roll after roll. Soon they could no longer fit any more notes into their wallets so they filled their pockets with the winnings. Then their pockets became full so they stuffed the winnings down the front of their uniforms. Eventually the organizers cancelled the game as they had run out of money – the boys had broken the bank!
For a very short time they discussed what they would do with all this cash and then decided to share it with the locals.
The bankers watched sadly as our boys ran out of the NAAFI Club and down the street with banknotes falling from their shirtfronts.
Two days later they reappeared at the end of the ship’s gangway having finally and completely redistributed their winnings. Such was their generosity to the locals in Singapore.

It took the Navy two weeks to get the smiles off their faces.

Back home in OZ, Danny was still a “Runner”
One night he and Donny Barker missed the last ferry back to their ship at Cockatoo Dock in Sydney Harbour. They had no money for a hotel room for the night and were despairing about where they could get their heads down.
Just then, Danny noticed St Mary’s Cathedral, the largest in the state of NSW. “Let’s sleep in here,” said Dags, “they look after the homeless, don’t they?" Barker was too tired and emotional to argue, so they curled up on a pew.
When they awoke, there was a group of Nuns peering at them. “Please can you stay for early Mass?” they asked.
“Sorry we can’t” said Dags, “we have to get back to our ship straight away”.
They didn’t even leave a donation in the “Poor Box”.

I have described Danny as a “Stoker” – most of you will not know what a Stoker was in those days of Steam.
For a start you are in the bowels of the ship – 30 feet below the waterline. You are surrounded by lots of pipes carrying super heated steam at very high pressure. Fore and aft are Boilers with flames burning fiercely in each. Next door are high explosive ammunition one side and furnace fuel oil on the other. Above the noise of the machinery, the huge fans create an air pressure to keep the flames inside the furnaces. Things are nicely balanced. You are told that you have 10 seconds to live if a steam pipe ruptures. You know it takes 15 seconds to get up and through the airlock doors. You realize that you have each other’s lives in your hands and there is no room for errors. You are part of a team of equals where seniority determines who takes the blame if something goes wrong.  

Danny was a man you could trust with your life – and he was a good “Runner” too! What a remarkable man. Your life lives on in our memories of a good mate.

Farewell Dags from all your many Navy Mates, may you have smooth seas and gentle winds on your new journey.

Lest We Forget

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