Andrew Sniedze Interviews Greg Hope, National Service in 32 Small Ship Sqn
Posted on: Mon 16 Nov 2020
The 32nd Small Ship Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers was an amphibious unit, formed in 1959 to operate the four LSM-1 class Landing Ships Medium purchased from the United States Navy… the Harry Chauvel (AV 1353), Brudenell White (AV 1354), Vernon Sturdee (AV 1355) and Clive Steele (AV 1356). Later they added a small coastal freighter purchased from Adelaide Steamship Co and renamed the John Monash.
When the National Service draft ensnared young Tasmanian Trainee Accountant Greg Hope, it also set him on course to be aboard Landing Ship Vernon Sturdee on 11.04.1966 heading out of Sydney Harbour, bound for service in Vietnam.
Photo: Saigon River, Vietnam. Army Vessel (AV) 1355 Vernon Sturdee at full speed through the Saigon River delta with a full load of heavy equipment including vehicles which can be seen on deck. Note the 50 calibre gun crews are closed up. AV Vernon Sturdee was the first Landing Ship Medium (LSM) of 32nd Small Ship Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) to serve in South Vietnam. She sailed from Sydney to Vietnam via the Philippines on 11 April 1966, carrying equipment and troops of 17th Construction Squadron RAE and escorting the Army Ship John Monash which was similarly loaded. AV Vernon Sturdee returned to Australia via Singapore, Manus Island and Rabaul at the end of June 1966, and was the only LSM to sail to Vietnam and back with the same crew. (Donor J. Bonnett) AWM
Greg Hope circa 2020. Photo provided by G Hope and used with permission