Evan Davies signed up for the Royal Australian Navy active reserves under the Story Bridge in Brisbane in July 1945, near the end of the Second World War. He only joined the Navy by default. He had always wanted to fly airplanes but when he went to the Air Force signup tent, they told him to forget it because the allies had it under control in Europe. He then went to the Navy enlistment tent and signed up for service.
He spent the rest of 1945 training on the Brisbane River. In January 1946, Evan and the group he had been training with were due to be sent down to HMAS Cerberus. Before they got on the train, the Chief Petty Officer gave them an ultimatum: sign on for 12 years or go home! They all signed on for 12 years.
Evan was a diver in the Navy. At the time, all ships had to carry a diver.
A wet plate collodion tintype of Evan Davies. © Jack McLain 2022
Before the Korean War, Evan had been assisting sweeping mines that were leftover from the Second World War in the South-West Pacific area on the HMAS Echuca, a town class corvette. He was transferred to HMAS Shoalhaven and sent to Japan as part of the Commonwealth Occupation Force. At the outbreak of the Korean War, Prime Minister Robert Menzies committed the HMAS Shoalhaven, 77 Squadron and the 3rd Battalion RAR to the United Nations.
"Within six to 10 hours, we were under way from our base in Kure [Japan]."
The Shoalhaven was tasked with patrolling the seas around Korea and escorting troop ships from Japan to various ports in Korea.
Evan did whatever had to be done. One of the most challenging things he did was repair one of the water tanks on the ship. The tank outlet was blocked so Evan had to go into the pitch black tank and sort out the problem.
"It was like going into a maze. You couldn't find your way out. It was all by feel. While sometimes we faced dangerous situations, we didn't think about that. It was a job that we felt we were well equipped to deal with and we just got on with it."
He has fond, enduring memories of his crewmates and his experience in Korea and Japan.
The HMAS Shoalhaven was the first operational ship to return home from a hostile area since the Second World War. Evan and the crew had a memorable welcome home in Sydney.
"Instead of going straight up to Garden Island, they sent us via Rose Bay and Rushcutters Bay at a very slow speed. They'd notified everybody and they were all waving flags and cheering."
Evan continued to serve in the Navy and was sent to ships that didn't have a diver as needed. He served on many ships, but the longest ship he served on was the Shoalhaven. Just a month or two before his 12-year contract was up, he was on his way to Western Australia on the HMAS Sydney when he got the option to sign on for another six years or leave at the next Port of Call.
"I took the Port of Call notice. We were down the bottom end of South Australia, and they flew me home from there."
After his time in the Navy, Evan pursued his passion for aviation and has flown light aircraft to this day (age 94).
Evan Davies today. © Jack McLain 2022