It was a return to very familiar territory when Commodore Toz Dadswell recently (October 2007) addressed ceremonial divisions at HMAS Albatross, the naval air station at Nowra on the New South Wales south coast.
Toz (or Tom), son of Henry and Jessie (Smiley) Dadswell, joined the Navy at age 14, graduated from naval college as a King's Medallist, and then had a long and distinguished career as both a seaman officer and a naval aviator.
He was invited back to the air station to be the reviewing officer at ceremonial divisions, when all of those stationed at the base parade before their commanding officer for inspection.
Toz Dadswell retired from the Navy in 1986 and it is rare for a civilian to be invited to review serving personnel but it was a tribute to his past and present passion for naval aviation.
In the words of a Navy report:
Introducing Commodore Dadswell, Albatross Commanding Officer Captain Robert Morrison summed up a career that words like "illustrious" don't begin to cover:
"Commodore Toz Dadswell AM RAN Retired, former senior pilot and Commanding Officer of 816 Squadron, former Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne, former Commander Air, Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of HMAS Albatross, former Naval Officer Commanding North Australia Area, and later Naval Officer Commanding Victoria".
"Commodore Dadswell joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1946 and served this nation with distinction for over 40 years.
"He was a dual seaman/aviation specialist, and a damn good one at that. A very well-respected naval officer of immense credibility and foresight, he was passionate about the Fleet Air Arm when he was in uniform and remains so to this very day."
Captain Morrison also reminded those present of the inscription above the turbo-prop Gannet aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Nowra, an inscription which is credited to Commodore Dadswell: "The first 600 (carrier landings) are frightening, and then you settle down".
The last time Commodore Dadswell stood on the Albatross podium was in 1984.
He told the assembled servicemen and women: "It was a very sad occasion. Not only was I saying a personal farewell to Albatross and my time in the Fleet Air Arm but it was a time of great uncertainty and sadness for all Fleet Air Arm personnel.
"Some months previously the Government of the day had disbanded the fixed wing element of the RAN Fleet Air Arm and many people did not know what the future held for them and their families."
Happily on this occasion, Commodore Dadswell had only good news to impart:
"Never in the history of the Fleet Air Arm has the future looked so bright and promising. New helicopters, two new carriers, larger than any ship the RAN has had in the past, and now the establishment of the Australian Defence Force helicopter training school here at Albatross.
"Nowra is about to become the helo capital of Australia."
Commodore Dadswell also had words of inspiration and encouragement for those assembled:
"The future success of the Fleet Air Arm does not rest in new ships and aircraft. It rests in your hands.
"Ships and aircraft are pieces of metal and wire, and left alone they do nothing. It is people who turn the machines into living things. And here at Nowra, you are the people who will make it all happen.
"It will not be easy. But nothing ever is. Hard work, dedication to the task and a belief in what you are doing will make it happen. And we, the "dinosaurs of another age", will be watching you with great interest.
"We have faith in you. We believe you are "Second to None". It is now up to you to prove it. Fly Safe."
Life in retirement
In retirement, Toz and wife Gwen now live close to Nowra, and one of his interests is researching the historical collection at the naval college at nearby Jervis Bay.
In the recent past, Toz has also been a volunteer guide at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and he was responsible for uncovering some interesting information about a World War One photograph of a group of signallers, one of whom was his father Henry.
The photograph was on display in the Memorial, and was also included in a special exhibition titled To Flanders fields, a collection of photographs and other works of art to mark the 90th anniversary of the battles of 1917. The remarkable story about the photograph is told on this website.
In 2015, Toz Dadswell became a published author when his novel, The Two Days in Your Life, was released.
- Information compiled October 2007, updated 2015
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