Project Description

Gordon Clair LAVENDER, known as Jim, was interviewed by Margaret Dawson for the Busselton Oral History Group (Inc) on the 1st of May 2014. It is one of a series of recorded interviews with ex-service personnel funded by Lotterywest to celebrate the Anzac Centenary.

Jim was born in Bellingen in New South Wales in 1920, the youngest of seven children. His father James Lavender and mother Helen, nee Spokes, were dairy farmers.

Jim schooled at Boggy Creek until he was 15 then went farming.

In 1937 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy, spent nine months training at Flinders Naval Depot and was assigned to the HMAS Sydney.

Jim talks about life aboard the Sydney and his role as a gunner and gunner trainer. When World War II broke out the Sydney was operating out of Fremantle on patrol duties. They travelled to Colombo (Sri Lanka) and spent six weeks patrolling then on through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to Alexandria where they were part of the British Fleet in the Mediterranean.

He tells of their battle in July 1940 with two Italian cruisers the Bande Nere and the Bartolomeo Colleoni.

In 1941 the Sydney escorted the Awatea to Canada, via New Zealand then, that September, Jim was transferred to another ship, the HMAS Rockhampton. On 19 November the Sydney was sunk by the German Raider, Kormoran off the Western Australian coast near Carnarvon. Jim describes his feelings when he first heard of the sinking and felt he should have been on her.

Jim married Norma Ward in Sydney in 1942 and they had two daughters, Jan and Lee. Norma died of a heart attack aged 43 as did his second wife, Doris Migro, 17 years after they married. His third wife was Anne and they divorced. He then married Judy who died in 2009.

Jim retired from the navy in 1950 and worked as a clerk for WA Wool Combers for 25 years. He studied wool classing. At 60 he retired and moved to Esperance to be near his daughter Jan.

Jim and Judy moved to Busselton and his daughter Lee also resides there.

When the site of the Sydney wreck was discovered, Jim was one of the first to know. In July 2013 he was invited to attend the AFL HMAS Sydney commemorative football match between the Eagles and the Sydney Swans. Over the years Jim has been approached to do many interviews on radio and television to do with his time spent on the Sydney.