Parkes sailor Anzac guest speaker

The son of a well known local family will return to Parkes this week to deliver the Anzac Day address.

Parkes RSL Sub Branch Secretary Terry Knowles has announced that Commander Brett Westcott, son of Helen and Malcolm Westcott, will speak at the civic ceremony in Cooke Park and the RSL Luncheon.

Commander Westcott has a distinguished career, but really came to the fore during a dramatic sea rescue of refugees in April 2009 with HMAS Childers (see later in this article).

“Not only is Brett Parkes born and bred, he is currently Submarine Escape and Rescue Manager based at HMAS Stirling located on Garden Island, Western Australia and therein also lies a linkage back to Parkes,” Mr Knowles said.

“After the end of the Second World War, the Freemantle Detachment of the Reserve Fleet was moored at Careening Bay on Garden Island (present day HMAS Sterling) off the coast of Western Australia.  

“It was here that HMAS Parkes was moored as part of the Reserve Fleet prior to decommissioning and scrapping.  

“All posting to the Reserve Fleet was known as posting to HMAS Parkes with all sailors wearing HMAS Parkes tally.”

Commander Westcott RAN grew up on the family property here in Parkes.

He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1989, and completed a Bachelor of Arts at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1991.

Following graduation as a Midshipman, Brett commenced Seaman Officer Training in 1992 and then started submarine training in August 1995. 

As Lieutenant Westcott, Brett joined his first submarine, HMAS Otama in November 1995 and qualified as a submariner in May 1996. 

He remained in Otama until the end of that year before undertaking conversion training for the Collins Class, joining Nuship Farncomb in May 1997.’

In subsequent years, he has achieved remarkble success. 

During Brett’s two-year tenure as Sheean Executive officer, the submarine was awarded the Duke of Gloucester Cup recognising the submarine and its crew as the most operationally proficient unit in the RAN for 2005.  It was during this period Brett’s service as Executive Officer in Sheean was recognised with a Commendation from the then Maritime Commander. 

In 2007, Brett attended the Submarine Command Course “Perisher” in the Netherlands – internationally renowned as the penultimate test for prospective submarine commanding officers. 

Although unsuccessful in his quest for submarine command, Brett relished the leadership and tactical challenges of this demanding course and still counts his selection and performance on Perisher as one of the highlights of his career to date. 

Throughout 2009-2010, Brett assumed command of the Armidale Class Patrol Boat (ACPB) crew Ardent Four. 

 Based in Cairns for the tenure of his command, Ardent Four served in HMA Ships Bundaberg and Childers under a multi-crewing regime and was primarily involved in border protection operations.  

In 2009 the crew was honoured to be awarded the Kelly Shield recognising the foremost patrol boat crew in the RAN.  

In April 2010, Ardent Four was awarded a Chief of Joint Operations Gold Commendation for the crew’s lifesaving actions in response to the SIEV 36 explosion in April 2009.  

Brett was also commended by the Chief of the Defence Force for his leadership during the same incident.

Mr Knowles explains:

‘The SIEV 36 (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel 36) was a vessel from Indonesia that exploded and sank off Ashmore Reef, Australia on 16 April 2009.  

The vessel, carrying 47 refugees and two crew, was intercepted by HMAS Albany early on 15 April 2009.  A boarding party from HMAS Albany secured the vessel, but failed to locate two canisters of petrol.  

“A second patrol boat, HMAS Childers, arrived that evening, and was directed to provide a boarding party and take care of the vessel starting at 06:00 on 16 April.

Shortly after salt was poured into the boat's diesel engine, stalling it, and a petrol canisters was spread on the deck.  

“Reinforcements were sent from HMAS Childers to restore control, and boarded shortly before the petrol was ignited; the resulting explosion tore the boat apart. 

“Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) from the two patrol boats focused on recovering the nine Australian Defence Force personnel first, then began recovering others. 

“Five passengers were killed, and many of the survivors were heavily burned.   

“Brett, who felt a thump in his chest as he witnessed the explosion 60 metres away on board HMAS Childers immediately became the on-scene commander for the rescue, an operation which had all survivors out of the water in less than a quarter of an hour.”

Mr Knowles continued:

‘Upon completion of his patrol boat command, Brett was promoted to Commander in January 2011.  

“In February of that year, he and his family returned to Perth where Brett assumed the posting as the RAN’s Submarine Escape and Rescue Manger.  

“During the posting Brett planned and conducted two Black Carillon submarine rescue exercises and overseen the return to pressurized submarine escape training.

Brett is married to Bronwyn and they have two young sons, Callum (2004) and Declan (2005). 

Interested in most water sports, Brett is also an avid follower of rugby union, and is a long suffering supporter of the Western Force.’

‘It is with great pleasure and recognition that the Sub Branch welcomes this fine serviceman back to Parkes and thanks him for being the Anzac Day Speaker for 2012,’ Mr Knowles said.

Special speaker at this year’s Parkes Anzac Day commemoration, Commander Brett Westcott on HMAS Childers.

Special speaker at this year’s Parkes Anzac Day commemoration, Commander Brett Westcott on HMAS Childers.

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