Watson

Date of Entry: 03/05/2017
Surname: Watson
Christian Names: Dean
Country: Australia
State or Province: South Australia
City or Town: Port Elliot
Service #: Unknown
Service: Royal Australian Naval Reserve
Branch: Seaman
Commencement of service: 1966
Completion of service: Unknown
Case Notes:

 

WUWatson 1

Dean Watson is the President of the Port Elliot RSL Sub-Branch in South Australia.

The above photograph was taken on ANZAC Day 2016, just one of many taken over the years, where Watson has been wearing the following:

1.       Australian Service Medal 1945-75.

2.       Reserve Force Decoration.

3.       National Medal

4.       Australian Defence Medal.

5.       FESR Commemorative Medal (unofficial ‘junk’ medal).

Watson served for many years as an officer in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve (RANR) and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Watson did, however, serve a short period of continuous service in 1966, when he was part of the officer complement on the survey vessel HMAS Diamantina.

It is this period of sea service that underpins this particular case and clearly evidences that, apart from Watson wearing an unofficial medal, he also has no entitlement to be wearing the ASM 1945-75.

Watson was contacted regarding his entitlement to the ASM 1945-75, and provided the following response:

“I was a Reservist on full time service during 1966 on HMAS Diamantina. Subsequently, I found out that it had been attached to FESR while carrying out oceanographic work Up Top in the second half of the year.

I assume everyone in the ship in that period would have qualified for the ASM 45-75 if they had not already or later qualified in other ships”.

All of HMA Ships supply a monthly report to Naval Headquarters, listing significant events in the day-to-day operation of each vessel. These are known as a Report of Proceedings (ROPs) and are available for the public to access on the Australian War Memorial website. These reports go on to make a lasting history of our Australian Navy and its’ involvement in all conflicts up to, and including, Vietnam.

The ROPs for Diamantina, for the period August to November 1966, were examined and relevant entries, regarding ships’ location, are as follows:

August

2                  Set sail for Christmas Island

3 to 10          Surveys conducted off Christmas Island

10                Crossed Australian Station limit CHOPPED to COMFEF

12 to 24        Singapore, Scientific Operation MONSEA

25 to 29        Singapore

29                Sail to commence OP MONSEA in South China Sea

September

1 to 11          Trials between Hong Kong and Singapore

12 to 13        Subic Bay

14                Gulf of Lingayen

22 to 30        Hong Kong

October

1 to 6            Hong Kong

7 to 17          South China Sea surveys

18 to 22        Singapore

23 to 31        OP MONSEA

November

1 to 5            OP MONSEA

7 to 8            Singapore and slip at 1600h

8                  Sail for Fremantle

15 to 30        Alongside Fremantle for refit

Nowhere in the ROPs is Diamantina recorded as being assigned to FESR as part of the Australian Far East Fleet. The entry on 10 August 1966, “CHOPPED to COMFEF” however, could give rise to the mistaken belief of the crew that the ship was performing duties as part of the FESR. COMFEF refers to ‘Commander, Far East Fleet’.

Confirmation has been received from the Navy Historical Unit in Canberra, confirming Diamantina was never attached to FESR. In relation to the reference ‘CHOPPED to COMFEF’, this indicates signal handling procedures in that all signal traffic for Diamantina came under the distribution list of COMFEF for as long as the vessel was in that area.

Watson was again contacted, this time with the new information, and the following response was received:

“When I became aware of the FESR award, I applied to Defence Honours and Awards stating my period in the ship and much later received the medal. Consequently, I am unaware of the exact period the ship was attached to FESR. There would have been a CHOP signal after the ship sailed from Singapore for Fremantle in late October/early November, but I am unaware of it”.

The involvement of the ADF, be it Navy, Army or Airforce, during the ‘Indonesian Confrontation’ has been a very contentious issue, specifically in the determination of type of service rendered – ‘warlike’, ‘non-warlike’ or ‘peacetime service’ and the appropriate entitlements for each type of service.

In 1999, a review examined possible anomalies in service entitlements, affecting members of the ADF who served in South-East Asia during the period 1955-75. The review was chaired by Major General R.F. Mohr, the final report, at 176 pages, became known as ‘The Mohr Report’.

The following extract from this report concerns Diamantina:

During the review there had been a number of enquiries regarding the involvement of Diamantina in the Indonesian Confrontation and the FESR in general.

Submissions argued that Diamantina served in the South-East Asian region, including in areas of conflict, and that its crew’s service should therefore be recognised as qualifying service. Submissions added that the fact that personnel serving with the ship were not allotted for service as part of a conflict should not disqualify them from having their service recognised as qualifying service.

The review thoroughly investigated the service of Diamantina and determined that the ship, although it entered the operational area, did not have a mission to pursue military objectives in connection with Confrontation. There was no evidence to suggest that Diamantina had active rules of engagement allowing the use of lethal force or that the level of threat was such that there was an expectation of casualties. Given the similar circumstances of HMAS Moresby, it was concluded that these two ships did not render warlike service in connection with confrontation. Moreover, as the roles of Diamantina and Moresby were to conduct scientific research and surveying respectively, it was concluded that the classification of ‘non-warlike’ service under the VEA would not be appropriate.

In summary: HMAS Diamantina was not involved in the Confrontation, nor was it ever allotted for duty with the FESR, therefore the crew would not be entitled to the award of the AASM 1945-75 (with clasp MALAYA) or the ASM 1945-75 (with clasp FESR).

In 2003, this was further confirmed in the Review of Veterans Entitlements – Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

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 Once again, Watson was contacted, with the suggestion, he may have been awarded the ASM 1945-75 in error. Watson was also asked if an official letter was received and were his service details engraved on the edge of the medal.

Watson replied:

“I received the ASM with FESR clasp accompanied by SOM, DNPS(M) letter through MHQ advising the Governor General had approved the award”.

Watson did not respond to the question why a man of his experience would be wearing a commemorative medal alongside official medals. One would assume that an ex-serviceman, RSL Sub-Branch President and former Secretary of the Naval Association of Australia, would be well aware of medal protocol.

Dean Watson, the evidence is overwhelming – you do not have an entitlement to the ASM 1945-75, for your service in 1966 onboard Diamantina and have now earnt the award of appearing on the ANZMI site.

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