VALE BILL WHITNELL

VALE BILL WHITNELL

Dad was born on 2nd October 1948 in Subiaco, WA on his mother’s 21st birthday. His brother Greg was around 12 months old. I don’t know a lot about his early years, as he didn’t talk about it much. Thanks to my mum and aunty and their great memories, I do know the following.

The two boys went to boarding school at St. Michael’s in Adelaide where they fed the children porridge every single day for breakfast. Dad didn’t like the porridge, so Grandma told the school he was allergic to it. For some years later Dad believed that he was allergic to porridge!

When the Grandma moved with the two boys to Adelaide they met Mrs. Phillips. She took them in and they became family to her. Legacy also helped them out a great deal.

Dad was accepted into the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music as a drummer, but left at 16 ½ to join the Navy. He got into drumming thanks to his stepdad Max, who thought it would keep him off the streets. Dad married my mum, Margaret Davidson in Port Fairy Victoria on 18th November 1967 at just 19 years of age.

Dad met his father Frank for the first time in 1968. He only ever had one photo taken with him.

I was born in 1968 and Les came along 5 years later in 1973.

One of my fondest memories is from Christmas Day 1974.We were having lunch at a friends place when the news of Cyclone Tracy came on the TV. Dad and his friend were both in the Navy and had to report to their ship immediately. We went home so dad could pack. For some reason, that I still don’t know to this day, dad had to shave off his beard. Being only young, I had never seen him without it. I was devastated. Dad shaved it off and put it into an empty Vegemite jar for me to keep.

Some of my fondest memories growing up were related to HMAS Melbourne.

Many a time we waved her goodbye and welcomed her home from Garden Island. I often had the latest technical gadgets before any one else at school, as dad would bring presents home from his overseas trips. We spent Christmas parties on board and I was christened on board the Melbourne in November 1973. I even had the chance to sail through Sydney heads on board the Melbourne. I remember trying to eat lunch with mum blocking my ear on one side, with dad on the other as the jets were so loud doing touch and go’s. Les was christened at HMAS Nirimba in August 1973. Navy ships and submarines were a normal part of our lives.

Dad married Sandra Black on the 5th January, 1980. They lived together at Glenorie right up until his death. They have been married for 40 years. As you know, dad had a long career in the Navy. I don’t think anyone would know how many times he sailed overseas for his country. He spent over 40 years in the Navy and it was his life. He was proud to be a member of The Australian Defence Force.

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