VETERAN: Cannonvale's Ken Paterson served in the Vietnam War and Malayan Emergency.
VETERAN: Cannonvale's Ken Paterson served in the Vietnam War and Malayan Emergency. Monique Preston

Ken recalls his early Navy service days

KEN Paterson was sent to take part in what would become a prelude to the Vietnam War only three months after he joined the Royal Australian Navy.

The Cannonvale resident joined the Navy in 1962, but had his training short as he was sent off to join the crew aboard the HMAS Melbourne.

"Vietnam (War) hadn't quite started, but they were giving everyone trouble,” he said.

During his first stint on the Melbourne, Mr Paterson did not know anything about what had been happening or his involvement in what was to later become the Vietnam War.

The Melbourne was tasked with escorting the HMAS Sydney safely to Vietnam, before continuing on to the waters around the Philippines and Japan to "show the flag”.

Mr Paterson's job was in logistics and he was responsible for itemising everything on the ship.

He did several trips onboard the Melbourne before being sent to Victoria to learn to work gun turrets on ships.

He was then posted onboard the HMAS Vendetta in 1964. It was the only Australian destroyer in the war zone.

He did three trips on Vendetta, with his involvement including both the Vietnam War and the Malayan Emergency between 1968 and 1969.

The destroyer's main role was to provide naval gunfire support and to keep the waters open for the HMAS Sydney to move troops and supplies into Vietnam.

One of Mr Paterson's roles on the ship was to aim the guns in the back turret of the ship ready for firing. Another was to again work in logistics.

Mr Paterson said his involvement in the war was not scary, as most of the time they did not know exactly what the ship's role was.

He said each person was focused on their actual job, but did not know its overall effect. In fact, it was only after about a year that he discovered they were at war. "You did what you had to do each day,” he said.

"To me it was just trips and we did different things.

"It was not something that worried me at the time. But (when I found out) I thought 'gee somebody could have said something'.”

After his service on the Vendetta, Mr Paterson worked in logistics onshore, organising five Navy depots in NSW before he left the Navy in 1971, aged 26.

Mr Paterson said he had used much of what he learned in the Navy in his civilian life.