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A LIFE WELL LIVED – (Excerpts from WOGI Jack Donnelly’s Memoirs) – Part Eighteen

A LIFE WELL LIVED – (Excerpts from WOGI Jack Donnelly’s Memoirs) – Part Eighteen

“The Winds of Change”

As I stepped into the Management Office in Philomel I was greeted by “RAF” Owen who had also been given a contract such as mine to rejoin. Apparently the Navy had identified approximately twelve personnel from branches that they believed were critical to manning as the “Take the cash payout in bulk and run” scheme had many experienced personnel taking that option and departing. I remember in my first 3 months back in the Navy there were many lavish farewell parties with no expense spared.

I soon learned that I was to return to the Tamaki parade ground as the CPOGI. During my first week, I stood back, observed and said very little. Nothing had changed in the way that morning divisions were run, the ceremonial training for all classes remained as it had been eight years ago when I had left, which indicated to me that the systems and techniques of parade training we inherited from the RN had stood the test of time. However, I felt after observing a couple of weeks training that maybe it was time for a few changes to be implemented. This generation of young sailors seemed to thirst for knowledge and thrive on new ideas. GI’s are NOT experts in the art of marching and one of the things that I did was to have a lady who was a tutor with a local marching team visit and talk with me about the finer techniques of the military way of walking, ie marching.

Changes can be difficult for some, uncertain on where we are going or how effective these changes will be or what impact they will have. There is also an element of sadness as we have to let go on things that were important and that we were comfortable with. Over the next year I reintroduced the “Advance in review order” on completion of every divisions, or parades. This also incorporated guards presenting arms, unarmed platoons saluting or 3 cheers been given at a farewell parade. Having the whole parade step off together with 2×3 beats of the drum, marching past in the opposite direction, using all three modes of marching past, the slow, quick and double past. These changes gave the fleet a challenge and the ability to “Think on their feet” It also made life on a parade ground a little more interesting and challenging.

I was also blessed with having excellent young, and enthusiastic staff that supported the direction that I wanted to pursue. They also were encouraged to put forward their ideas and changes that would benefit how we carried out ceremonial and parade events. Danny Bassett, Rau Hunt, “Biggles” McMahon, “Dolly” Gray, Craig Mumford (RAN) George McCarvey, Mack McLean, BD Phillips. Tony Lewis, “Bushman” Garrett (Junior) Rik Stilwell, Steve Poka and “Hammers” Hammerton were just some of the instructors that I had the privilege to have on the parade. Many of the changes that I got accredited for, belonged to these guys and at the time I always made sure that people were informed of that fact.

My first ceremonial assignment was to support Jed Coates who was GI on Southland in Brisbane for Expo 88. Having been to Expo 70 in Japan I had a little experience on what was required. GI Jed had ideas of how he wanted his Guard trained and although we let the Army WO think he was in charge to me, Jed was. It is the first time that I have seen a guard prepare for an event by mustering them in a room before the ceremony and giving them a very motivating team talk “Ala” The All Blacks before they run out. It worked wonders; they were settled, and ready to do the job for their GI.

One night at the Beer Festival I met “Biggles” McMahon (RNZN Band) who wanted to become a parade instructor. We spoke at length about what he could offer and weeks later I followed up with his request to transfer over, and from the first day he stepped onto the parade I knew that I had made the right decision. As a parade GI throughout my first period in the Navy I used to completely ignore the Band. To me they were just a section of the parade who stood in the corner and provided military music whenever the GI wanted it.

This time around I ensured that they were a very important “cog” in the ceremonial “wheel.” I met with “Brownie” their CPO on many occasions to discuss and create ideas that would benefit the way we wanted divisions and ceremonial occasions to precede. I also ensured that I thanked them at the end of divisions/parades. I learnt so much from them.

Thank you Jack for allowing us to share in your memories. I have had so many positive comments that I have decided to reproduce the memoirs in full. – Ed.

(to be continued)

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