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RAN – JRTS – HMAS Cerberus 1963-1965


Billy Taylor was a Victorian country schoolboy who dreamed of swapping his grey school shorts for a pair of ‘navy bellbottoms’ and the shiny white navy cap with the HMAS Leeuwin talllyband, to become a new navy Junior Recruit (JR). That’s what encouraged this young fellow to join the navy in 1963, the love of the navy uniform, and Billy wasn’t the only one.


From 1961 to 1984, over 13,000 young 15-year-old Australian schoolboys joined the Royal Australian Navy Junior Recruit Training Scheme, based at HMAS Leeuwin, East Fremantle, Western Australia. The boys would be known as JRs and Tingira Boys to this day. Of the 84 intakes over this period, there were two very special intakes. 300 odd lads that braved the Victorian winter and hot summer who completed their training at HMAS Cerberus, Crib Point on Westernport Bay over a two-year period from 1963 to 1965. The Leeuwin establishment in the West underwent a complete redevelopment during this period, to cater to the unexpected flow of new recruit numbers that were about to join this very popular RAN ‘boy sailor’ scheme over the following decades.


JRTS – This is Bill’s story, from the paddocks of the farmland property at Macedon in central Victoria to those first 12 months at HMAS Cerberus. The story continues, with three of Bills’ former Junior Recruit shipmates, Billy Stokes, Jeffery Dalgliesh, and Bruce Nambour also contributing their experience over that first 12 months at Cerberus and then some, with many years of sea life on board the Royal Australian Navy fleet of warships.


They all served over a 10 to 40-year period. They all completed service deployments to the Vietnam conflict as did many of the boys from those JR intakes. Distinguished and decorated many of these young servicemen stepped back into the civilian world for creditable industry careers and some directly into a retirement situation. They all live and tell the story of daily navy challenges, periods of risk, adventures ashore with shipmates, and many great opportunities put before them that they took and reaped the rewards. The front end of the publication introduces a long history of how ‘navy recruiting’ was established in 1912 when the first 15-year-old recruits joined the RAN on board the training ship HMAS Tingira in Rose Bay, Sydney. Most of those young boys also went directly into the fleet for voyages to the Northern hemisphere war front of World War One.


The backend of the book is about the ‘afterlife’ of the boys from Tingira and Cerberus/Leeuwin ships. They formed their own ex-service associations and rekindled the friendships of former shipmates and took active roles in their ex-navy community. The cover says ‘Volume One. Tingira Australia Association Secretary, Mark Lee, who was the driver of this project for Bill with the Tingira National Committee is sure there will be an ‘avalanche of requests’ in the near future from the other 84 JRTS intakes to have their story told and published in future years.


There is an old navy saying these boys have heard many times from the old navy chief “standby sailor!”


“Best navy read for 2022 – Brad Murphy, President Tingira Australia Association.