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John Toland – Passed Away Sunday 12 December 2021 – Aged 96

20 Dec 21
Peter Bull

John Bennett has passed on the sad news of the passing of John Toland.

Mark Toland called JB to advise that John had passed away last Sunday, 12 December aged 96 after complications with eating.

A Service won’t be held until February. Mark will advise of the date, time and place once those details are known.

The below photo of John was found in the Transit library and was taken at the Bounty Day Picnic in 1983


  1. Peter Bull December 20, 2021 at 6:38 am

    Another activity, in which John was involved, was a cable jointing class for the Tasman cable that he was running in the basement at Paddington. I was in the UK at the time doing to factory commissioning tests for both Tasman and APNG.

    I heard that John could have lost his life when doing x-ray testing in the basement when the fire retardant gas bottles where accidently set off and the fire door closed on him and could not be opened.

    As I understand it others were trapped as well. Some of those involved may be able to provide more details.
    Ross Craig

  2. Peter Bull December 20, 2021 at 6:41 am

    I was working at Paddington when this accident happened ,
    To the best of my recollection John and Percy Day were working in the Diesel Room for a Cable Jointing exercise, The Diesel room was fire protected by a large Bank of CO2 bottles,
    The door to the room is normally open and is automatically pulled shut if there is a fire alarm, The door had been pulled closed as they wanted a dark room for the cable jointing .
    A Wormald’s employee visited Paddington to test the fire system, he did not know that you have to insert stop pins in the system to stop the gas bottles firing, When he pushed the test button the door closing system operated, and as the door was already shut jammed it shut and the bank of CO2 bottles discharged into the room .
    The Diesel room became a dark CO2 gas chamber,
    I think someone managed to get the door open with a crow bar and Percy and John rushed to hospital in an ambulance,
    I heard that someone’s heart stopped on the way (may have been Percy) requiring resuscitated in the ambulance, so a tragedy was narrowly averted,
    Ian McDonald

  3. Peter Bull December 20, 2021 at 6:45 am

    I remember it well, I was on that course – and worked with John on the Cable Jointing team that installed the Bondi to Paddington leg of the TASMAN cable.

    The course was actually conducted by an STC engineer from the UK, in an area on the ground floor (I think it was in the Training School area) of the Paddington building. Percy Day was the lead guy (so to speak) of the OTC team and he an John Toland were trained-up as the radiographers by the STC engineer. I cannot remember all of the course participants – but from memory there was Bill Dunn, Roland Ayo, Bruce Boler, Michael Cook, Warren Reany, Bill ??.

    To successfully pass the course each member had to:

    • present ten SUCCESSIVE faultless joints of the inner conductor, the method of testing was to place one end of the cable in a vice and the other end in a hand held brace (remember the old ‘brace and bit’ method of drilling holes before electric drills came about). The brace was rotated until the cable snapped – and to be deemed a successful joint it had to snap at any point other than the actual joint.
    • present ?? (not sure of the number) SUCCESSIVE faultless mouldings (that encased the centre core). To be deemed faultless each mould was x-rayed and had to contain no inclusions whatsoever (like minute particles of dust).
    The x-rays were performed by Percy and John in a makeshift darkroom in the basement (where generators and other equipment were located). On the morning in question Percy and John were performing x-rays on some of our submissions when the fire alarm went off. The automated sequence that subsequently took off was the closing of a very heavy metal sliding door (to isolate the supposed fire from other areas) and the dousing of the affected area with CO2. With the lights already being switched off to facilitate the x-raying, the boys scrambled their way to the exit door – but were unable to open it. The heavy metal door had a couple of counter weights that apparently became entangled preventing the door being opened. I am not too sure who it was that rescued them, when he went to investigate the source of the alarm, but they were in a pretty bad way and were taken to hospital for observation. Although both were severely affected by the CO2, they both recovered remarkably well – but it could have been far worse, if not for the quick action of the rescuers.

    On the humorous side == whilst in the Emergency Department of the hospital, true to his nature Percy wouldn’t stay on the hospital bed, he was caught wandering down the corridor in his operating robe (with his bum hanging out), trying to get back to work. The whole incident became the source of many a story by Percy over the ensuing years, he loved the notoriety.

    John and Percy were two great guys, real gentlemen and a pleasure to work with.

    Ian Warby

  4. Peter Bull December 20, 2021 at 6:49 am

    I wasn’t involved but had to read a lot of the reports into this incident when I was working at Building Services under Wal Donald.

    I believe a fire technician was testing the alarms and put some kind of insulator in to isolate a relay that controlled the flood system – which of course got knocked off and the gas started to be dumped.

    I believe that a poor design in the fire door which John and his crew had closed for their x-ray work got some kind of counter weight jammed and could not be opened very far – checks were being done and somebody noticed a face jammed into the crack.

    I believe that Percy Day might have also been involved and may have required CPR

    Our purpose in looking into these reports was to look at other flood system alternatives – we started to push the barrow for something called Halon and it was adopted in some projects until the affect on the Ozone layer was discovered.

    Steve Gray

  5. Peter Bull December 20, 2021 at 6:58 am

    I remember that occurrence, Percy Day was also there, the gas was CO2 not fire retardant. I was there on the day but did not know how serious it was until they were out.

    I think Jim Neylon also helped drag them out as he was slightly affected by CO2 and was also treated afterwards.

    They were doing I think X-ray development for a cable joining class in the diesel gen. area. The fire alarm went off and they had some 10 or 20 seconds to get out before the CO2 would be released, but they were a bit slow. The fire door was closed mechanically by a heavy weight released by the Alarm going off. The heavy weights which close the sliding fire door ran down a 4 inch tube, but there was a design fault in that the 4 inch tube did not extend all the way to the floor. The weights when reaching the end of the tube and the floor nudged slightly sideways so when they tried to open the sliding door it would not budge as the weights were jammed at the bottom of the tube. With the CO2 starting to enter the room and in the confusion they did not see the problem. Fortunately some Eng branch staff were working in the motor room adjacent and heard them yelling for help and grabbed a large pinch bar and forced the door open. They were dragged out by staff via the basement stairs treated by Ambos out the front of the building and recovered soon afterwards.

    CO2 flooding is banned and a much safer gas is now used today, in the rare cases where gas flooding is needed. Gas flooding was installed at Oxford Falls but it was not CO2.

    At Paddo after this instance when ever work was being done in the basement, large metal tags were inserted into the CO2 cylinder gas taps to prevent the gas tap from ever operating should the alarm go off.

    Cheers Kevin O’Brien

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