Garry James McGRATH was interviewed by Patti Bolt for the Busselton Oral History Group (Inc) in May 2014. It is one of a series of recorded interviews with ex-service personnel funded by Lotterywest to celebrate the Anzac Centenary.
Garry was born in Northam, Western Australia, in 1947. His father was John Edward and his mother Carmel Cecilia.
Garry had two brothers and three sisters and spent most of his childhood in Northam before moving to Albany. He was educated at Marist Brothers College in Northam and Albany Senior High School.
Garry left school at aged 15 in 1963 to join the Royal Australian Navy, undergoing his training at HMAS Leeuwin in Fremantle, Western Australia.
At the age of 16 Garry joined HMAS Duchess patrolling the Malacca Straits. He was part of the boarding party locating suspect fishing vessels to search for smuggled arms. His next posting was to the HMAS Vampire which was part of the escort of the troopship Sydney to Vietnam. He trained in small arms, anti-aircraft gunnery and missile systems in Sydney and was posted to the HMAS Ibis, a minesweeper, which was locating old World War II mines near the Great Barrier Reef.
Garry trained as a physical training instructor. He then returned to Leeuwin as a PT instructor and married Helen.
He was posted to HMAS Diamantina based in Fremantle and worked with scientists conducting experiments in the Southern Ocean. He was the only diver on board and the ship’s crew recovered cannon, coins and relics from the wreck Batavia off the Abrolhos Islands.
In 1977 Garry was posted to the aircraft carrier, Melbourne, based in Sydney, and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. He organised a ‘Red Sea Olympics’.
He studied for a Diploma of Recreation Studies at Kuringai College.
Garry applied for a job with the Catholic Education Commission as a sports administrator, which led to a successful 30 year career in secondary education.
In 1994 Garry and his family moved to Busselton as part of a team to establish Mackillop Catholic College.
He joined the Busselton RSL, attends the services and actively promotes its message through various school and community activities.
Garry he is a member of the Veterans’ Children Education Board, Western Australia.