Never a Reluctant Sailor

When Colin William Mann, aged 20, No.710345, was called up to do his Compulsory Military Training in 1952 during the time of the Korean War it was with no sense of irritation or reluctance that he left his civilian life in Wellington and volunteered to join the marine section of the airforce based in Hobsonville, Auckland, because there was nothing he liked better than to be “messing about in boats.”
He joined the RNZAF Marine Section at the Hobsonville base for 3 months training in June 1952 as part of a “Motor Boat Crew Under Training.”
Following the overnight train journey from Wellington, a bus ride to the Base a medical and a clothes issue he was finally introduced to the barracks which he would share with 18 other young men for 3 months basic training followed by 2 weeks annual territorial camps from 1953 to 1958 with a final discharge in 1960.Scan

For the first 3 weeks life was an established routine:  rising at 6.00am, learning the orders to fall in, stand at attention, route marches, P.T., early barrack chores (bed making, wardrobe layout), lots of “square bashing”, marching to the mess for meals.  Some nights were compulsory film nights.  As Colin was a Basketball player he joined the Station Team for games on Wednesday nights in the city.  An early scheduled game would allow time to take in a movie in Auckland.  Rugby games were organised for Sunday afternoons as there was no weekend leave.  During this time there was only one rifle shoot – the exceptional amount of rain ruling out the beach exercise under war conditions.Route march

After 3 weeks of this basic training the group divided into their chosen sections.  The Marine Section began with roll call at 8.ooam followed by  learning about Air Force rules, rules of the sea, Morse Code with sound and flags, knots, splices and other small boating skills.  Then there was information about things new to him:  heavy moorings for aircraft and other requirements for securing seaplanes.  After lunch at 12.00 some afternoons were spent in the gymn.  1700 hours was early tea time followed by an evening in the barracks washing and ironing shirts, creasing trousers, cleaning brass buttons and rifles and generally getting ready for the 0600 wake up call.

Boat at moorings

Colin on board No. 313 – a Bilge Cabin Launch about 25ft. Good for towing and training trips for coastal navigation.

Colin decided to stay in the T.A.F./F. Force to do 2 weeks a year camps for 5 years training and became a Motor-Boat Crew Assistant.


Sunderland preparing to land

Now, 6 decades later and after discovering that Launch No. 88 on which he had crewed all those years ago was now being held by the Airforce Museum at Wigram in Christchurch, he was encouraged to write down his recollections of that time and together with photographs, maps and other information he has now produced a booklet  for his grandchildren and members of a generation who would have no idea of what CMT was all about.

Boat in museum

Colin and his wife, MaryAnn, with Safety Launch No. 88 used to clear landing zones and lay light buoys for night landings. A twin screw vessel capable of 25 knots.

We were privileged to hear Colin speak at our April meeting and enjoyed his relaxed wry humour in recounting some amusing episodes which he had experienced during that time.  Here is one example:  One morning as all the craft returned to the wharf after servicing a Sunderland, the 20ft launch fitted with a generator for charging the radar went to the inside of the wharf to tie up.  The high tide was on the ebb so the skipper endeavoured to hold on to the pile while he passed the rope around it to tie to the cleat on the deck.  Unfortunately for him, the very strong tide took the boat from under his feet, so to the highly amused onlookers he slowly slipped into the water.  He (and the launch) was duly recovered – somewhat wet but O.K.


Colin demonstrates a manoeuvre with one of his flying boat models during his talk.










Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: