Jim was my mate.
He was the nicest bloke I have ever known.
We served together on HMAS Hobart during her third deployment to Vietnam
(1970). As chiefs, we lived together in the aft chiefs mess
where he was known as “Rags Old” (being the senior in years) and I was just
plain “Rags”. The name is
taken from that Naval Stores item “rags, old, cleaning, for the use of –
consumable” and one of the most useless items on the ship.
Jim always looked on the
brighter side of everything that was going on around him.
He saw humour in everything and put his skills to good use with the pen.
Together we wrote a daily “paper” for the mess that was full of
nonsense relating to events going on around us. Jim
was the author and my job was to type his sheet up each forenoon so it could be
presented to the mess members at lunchtime. Our
objective was to get a laugh out of someone though we would settle for a smile.
He never failed.
Jim always wanted to get
into writing scripts for plays and comedy sketches. He did so on many occasions during his service in the R.A.N.
At short notice, he wrote and coordinated the entire program for a
concert on our way back to Subic Bay from the gun line.
Such light relief was priceless for a bunch of guys who had just spent
weeks of four on and four off.
Born in the U.K., Jim
entered the R.N. as a “greenie” apprentice and served his twenty years
before immigrating to Australia and joining the R.A.N. as a C.S.A.P.
His first draft was to the Supply from which he was transferred to Hobart
as part of a compassionate arrangement for another CSAP.
He served in a couple of other vessels before drafting to Cerberus
“greenie” school where he was divisional officer and “father confessor”
to those on course. He did this job with
a great deal of compassion for nearly seven years for which he was awarded the
Jims father was a senior
officer in the U.K. army. His
grandfather, General Shrapnel, invented the shrapnel bomb/grenade.
For a man with such an
acute sense of wit, Jim was often in trouble with his health.
He overcame a bout of cancer followed by a heart attack but he couldn’t
overcome a stomach disease from which he had suffered much of his life.
He entered hospital on 27 January 2001 and weighed 45 kilos when I saw
him in late March. Several
operations and a myriad of medical “trials” only added to his suffering. They couldn’t get his stomach to work properly.
He had five “incoming” lines and three “outgoing” into three
bags. His top-of-the-range diet consisted
of clear soup, black tea and choice of red or orange jelly.
This went on for nearly eleven months. On
the Thursday before Xmas he asked the hospital to telephone me so he could say
his last goodbyes. He had had enough.
He died on Boxing Day.
Jim leaves a wife Sandra,
two beautiful daughters and two sons. He
also leaves a legacy of having brought a smile to the face of nearly everybody
he has touched. I’ll miss him.
Rest easy Rags Old. The world is a
better place for your having passed by.
LEST WE FORGET
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