Royal Australian Naval photographers reunion in Port Stephens

COLLABORATION: Former RAN photographers with a draft copy of the historic publication Doug Pryke, Medowie's George Anderson, Charles Lammers and Bob Maughan at One Mile caravan park.
COLLABORATION: Former RAN photographers with a draft copy of the historic publication Doug Pryke, Medowie's George Anderson, Charles Lammers and Bob Maughan at One Mile caravan park.

"There have been millions of stories about Australian servicemen and women in front of the camera, but unfortunately there are not many stories of those people behind the camera."

With this in mind, surviving photographers of the Royal Australian Naval (RAN) have set about to record their own history following the unit's humble beginnings in 1948, by producing a coffee-table publication featuring all those who have served in the 70-plus years.

The publishers made huge inroads into achieving that goal when 34 former and current RAN personnel, many with their partners, gathered for a biennial reunion held in Port Stephens last month, organised by Medowie's George Anderson.

"This branch of the RAN is quite unique as its numbers serving as photographers at any one time is around 20. Most of us served from between nine and 12 years with the longest being 40 years. Some of our oldest members served around the Korean War years," Mr Anderson said.

"These gatherings commenced in the Vietnam War era and in total we have shared these memories on at least eight occasions. The concept of a historic account in the form of a book came from Perth-based Charles Lammers and this reunion provides us with an opportunity to collaborate and throw around ideas."

REUNION: The RAN photographers reunion dinner held at Nelson Bay Bowling Club.

REUNION: The RAN photographers reunion dinner held at Nelson Bay Bowling Club.

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This year's reunion class featured current and former photographers aged from 40 to 88, with many travelling from major cities Perth, Hobart, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney.

The group was based at the Middle Rock Holiday Resort at One Mile and toured many sites around Nelson Bay, as well as places like Maitland Goal, Hunter Valley Gardens, Hunter winery and the chocolate factory.

A formal dinner evening was held at the Nelson Bay Golf Club with support from Nelson Bay Rotary.

Mr Anderson, who enlisted in 1961 aboard the HMAS Leeuwin in Fremantle, said there were many benefits to being a Navy photographer, not the least being the "travel and adventure".

"We also had a degree of freedom others in the Navy did not have. You did not have someone standing over your shoulder as you worked."

Mr Anderson said that while some of the work was mundane, there was always excitement on training exercises particularly in areas of aerial photos and map making.

"And of course back then because we didn't have the luxury of reviewing our shots, we had to wait till we got back to the dark room to see the fruits of our labour."

He also got to meet the Queen and other dignitaries.

The touring group's second eldest member, Bob Maughan, aged 83 from the Gold Coast, spent 22 years in the branch after enlisting in the Navy in 1955.

"My photography took me to all parts of Australia, in and out of south-east Asia, to Hawaii, England and I had a short stint in Denver, Colorado, at the Naval Nas Miramar fighter school, made famous by the 1986 movie 'Top Gun', starring Tom Cruise."

Another long-serving branch member was Penrith's Doug Pryke, who served with the RAN from 1961 to 1984 before transitioning to the Reserves where he remained until his retirement in 2000.

"In addition to getting a chance to contribute to the publication, it is great to catch up with people with similar interests," he said of the reunions.

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