Monday, June 17, 2024

School ties bond Canberra sailors

The sailors and officers in HMAS Brisbane are a tight-knit family who work, train and travel the world together.

Three members of the crew, however, share a link that dates back far beyond an average sea posting.

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Urquhart, Lieutenant Ben Page and Able Seaman Hayden Beaver all attended the same school – Marist College in Canberra.

Although they attended at different times of their life, they have been able to connect through memories of their schooling and feel an additional sense of camaraderie. 

“It is nice to have something extra in common within the Navy family aboard HMAS Brisbane,” Lieutenant Commander Urquhart said.

“The Navy values align quite strongly with our school values so the fit is quite natural.”

Officer of the watch, Lieutenant Page, said it’s a small world.

“Running into people in the Navy that you have a connection with from back home is pretty special,” he said.

“It has been fun reminiscing on our school days, some of the teachers we all had and some of the memorable events we all took part in over our time at school.”

Just as Lieutenant Page was in his graduating year, Able Seaman Beaver – who is now a combat systems operator – was beginning his schooling at Marist College.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be serving in the Royal Australian Navy, let alone serving beside my fellow Marist brothers,” Able Seaman Beaver said.

Lieutenant Commander Urquhart said his decision to join the Navy could also be traced to a crew member of Brisbane, although he wasn’t to find this out until years later.

“I was inspired when one of my father’s good friends was rescued from a life raft by a Navy Seahawk helicopter after his yacht sank during the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race,” Lieutenant Commander Urquhart said.

“After doing some research I decided that the aviation warfare officer role was the best fit for my interests.

“Lieutenant Vallance, who is an officer of watch aboard Brisbane, informed me that his partner’s father was the pilot of the Seahawk helicopter who rescued my father’s friend.”

Lieutenant Commander Urquhart has just completed the milestone of 1,000 flying hours on board the Sikorsky Seahawk helicopter, along with an additional 1,000 hours on board other aircraft.

Brisbane is deployed to South-East and North-East Asia conducting a regional presence deployment.

Lieutenant Page said the deployment had been a great experience so far.

“It’s been busy and challenging, but the ship as a whole has come together really well and is supporting each other to achieve the mission,” he said.

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