“I still can’t believe I have been on a submarine” by Rachel……

Written by AHQ

4 July 2017

It is 9am on a Thursday and I am at work,  my phone rings and it is Jan Maree.  After the usual pleasantries Jan Maree invites me to accompany her on a submarine visit at Garden Island to tour HMAS Waller.

What better way to spend a Saturday morning than touring HMAS Waller.

An invitation had been extended to Jan Maree by Susan, a Lieutanant Commander on HMAS Waller, to undertake a tour of the submarine as a thank you for a laundry bag that Susan received.  As we all know Jan Maree has bad knees, and the thought of up ladders and down hatches was not a consideration, but too good an offer to waste, so Jan Maree extended the invitation to myself.

The tour took about an hour and having been met by Susan and signed in, Jan Maree and myself where then escorted to the submarine.

Just being this close to a real submarine I was becoming excited but must remain composed after all I am representing AHQ.

After the pleasantries and much ado, Jan Maree was seated, given a mug of coffee (not tea, not complaining) and I was taken aboard the submarine.

I am standing on a real live submarine!! I am excited. Just a side note for those who are probably thinking “it is only a submarine”…. let me tell you, this tour was more than I could have anticipated!   I was taken to places I never thought I would see.

Entering the submarine is via a vertical 90 degree ladder and when you have accomplished this you then descend another ladder to the floor of the submarine.

Only enough room to stand “to attention” so to speak, with pressing against the wall if another wishes to pass.
I was shown where the crew sleep, pee, 
eat and do laundry (there are some sad laundry bags on the floor)
The crew consist of both male and female and when I asked  a female crew why submariner she replied” it is the closest thing to being an astronaut”
Sleeping arrangements are shared and some even sleep under the torpedoes.

One female crew member from Canada has made her own comfy quilt which adorns her bunk under the torpedoes.

Outside the sleeping quarters there are privacy signs if there is such a thing in such close quarters

More ladders and I am in the engine room – not much air circulation down here and quite warm, but this is the heart of the submarine.

I was shown the galley and even met with the cook, was shown the bathroom/showers and Susan even told me that if some of the taller larger males needed to sit their knees actually touched the back of the door.

I was allowed to look through the periscope and see all the secret controls (which I cannot relate to you else I will have to kill you).

I was shown the escape hatch and the exercise room 

Every available space, nook and cranny is packed, stuffed with something as available space is limited.

The second most impressive part of the day is as always the reaction of people when they know that you represent AHQ.  Their response “I have a laundry bag thank you for what you do” The sound of their voice changes, their body language changes – it is something I find hard to explain but have felt on more than one occasion. So even though a sewer may not receive a personal thank you for your sewing efforts it is unconditionally appreciated.

Susan herself showed me with great pride the laundry bag that she had been given and what it meant to her. Susan further explained that when her young children where told of the laundry bag they asked if they themselves could sew some laundry bags .Never to young for recruitment

The other thing that always impresses me when in the company of serving personal is their quiet, reserve and respectful nature and this was very evident at HMAS Waller.
Ever so soon climbing ladders, ducking into hatches, looking into periscopes and seeing the escape hatch was over and I was once again back on top of the submarine. I had toured from one end to end and was now back on the wharf.

When I disembarked from the submarine some of the crew where heaving the line  and I asked if I could have a go.  So Jan Maree and myself had a competition as to who could throw the farthest. Let’s just say I could have won (I was standing on the rope not a good thing)

Jan Maree had bought some laundry bags and these where handed out to more than happy personal.

All to soon our visit to HMAS Waller was drawing to a close, but not before the Commanding Officer, himself a recipient of a quilt, met with Jan Maree and myself and, of course, the obligatory photo.

At the conclusion of the day Jan Maree and myself where given a coin 

and a set of dolphins from HMAS Waller – all submariners wear the dolphins.

That only left one more thing to do…… 

to forget my composure and do my happy dance, 

not done lightly or frequently, 

and to once again thank  Susan, the crew of  HMAS Waller and Jan Maree for a most memorable visit.

Cheers for Rachel…..

Till next time…. to all our submariners…. 
Thank you for your service.


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  1. Sue Niven

    Wonderful stuff, Thank you for the wonderful pictures and words.

  2. Jo

    What an opportunity for you. Thanks for the trip too.
    It is great we can add a bit of colour…


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