Kevin John BIRSS was interviewed by Margaret Tickle for the Busselton Oral History Group (Inc) in August 2014. It is one in a series of recorded interviews funded by Lotterywest to celebrate the Anzac Centenary.
Kevin John Birss was born in 1944 in Perth, Western Australia, the youngest of the four children of John and Elizabeth.
Kevin enlisted in the navy in 1960 and had 12 months at HMAS Leeuwin. Kevin was sent to the main training base, Cerberus, where his focus was on the paperwork attached to dealing with, and the control of, navy stores.
During 1963 and 1964 Kevin served on HMAS Melbourne and remembers the vibration of the ship when the collision involving the Voyager occurred.
Kevin married for the first time in 1966 and was posted to the guided missile destroyer, HMAS Hobart, which was deployed to Vietnam. This was the first of eight different deployments in which Australia’s three guided missile destroyers joined with the US Pacific 7th Fleet on the ‘gun-line’ off the coast of North Vietnam.
A steady rise in the ranks and some interesting and enjoyable experiences followed for Kevin. In particular, 12 months in New Guinea as that country prepared for independence was very memorable and there followed a stint in Indonesia. Other HMAS vessels or bases on which he served included Supply, Penguin (hospital base), Platypus (submarine base), Derwent (guided missile destroyer), Cairns (patrol boat base), Stirling (patrol boat base) and Stalwart (maintenance vessel).
On retirement in 1981 Kevin was a chief petty officer which, when the navy reviewed their scale of ranks to be in line with the other services, was equivalent to the highest army NCO – that of WO1.
After some years he went to night school and did a course for a year on stores/warehousing.
Kevin and his partner Carmel, a nurse, made a five year commitment for his employment by mining companies in the North West. They moved back to Perth and bought a house in Busselton to be closer to Carmel’s parents who relied on her for family support. In 2006 they moved permanently to Busselton.