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Phil Chapman – Passed away in Mid 2000s

18 Apr 17
Peter Bull
one comments

Sandra Smith (nee Beatson) asked:

Do you know if Phil Chapman is still alive.  I remember working for him when his Secretary went on long service leave.  A character to be sure.  He was Manager of the Coastal Radio Service and he had stored in his office lots of ships logs of sailing ships that sailed around the horn.  I remember him dictating the report (I think weekly) which noted all at sea events i.e. Man overboard etc.  I can see me sitting outside his office bashing away on an old typewriter.  Had to be a good typist in those days as there was no correction facility on the typewriter.  That was one of the more interesting relieving positions that I held.  He was what made it interesting as you never knew what he was going to say next.  Not always politically correct and not seen as an issue in those days.

Did a search on him as I remember him telling me about his days in Darwin during the war.  Not sure if you have seen this.

Interview with Phil Chapman (When the war came to Australia)

ID number F04049
Collection type Film
Title Interview with Phil Chapman (When the war came to Australia)
Object type To be confirmed
Date made 21 February 1991
Descriptor Betacam SP/Colour/sound
Description Mr Phil Chapman was a member of the Coastwatchers and was stationed at coastal radio station VID Darwin Radio. The Coastwatchers were set up by the Royal Australian Navy by Commander Falt. The Navy supplied a radio transceiver to volunteers- missionaries, planters, etc. There were eight hundred coastwatchers in northern Australia and Pabau New Guinea. Mr Chapman describes the bombing of Darwin on February 19 1942, his station was attacked before the raid on Darwin. He notes that the authorities in Darwin didn’t act on the information to hand. A Royal Commission was held six weeks after in Darwin to examine the events surrounding the bombing. Mr Chapman discusses many events which occurred during those eventful days: Bathurst Island station being attacked; the hospital ship Manunda being hit, the ammunition ship Neptuna being hit. He comments that while there was a general panic and rout, certain defence force units remained and did a magnificent job defending Darwin. He mentions the 10 American Kittyhawks returning from Java, which the RAAF Operations mistook for the “huge flights” referred to by McGrath the coastwatcher. These aircraft fought the Japanese and were all shot down. Mr Chapman recalls a number of individual coastwatchers, many being missionaries. He describes coastwatching as a dangerous job-considered spying and treated as such by the Japanese. Mr Chapman describes Darwin before the raid- militaristic appearance, busy shipping-100 ships in port the week previous to the raid; only 40 when the raid took place. He discusses coastal shipping conditions in Australian waters and the convoys used by merchant ships. Mr Chapman says that Darwin was his worst experience in the war, and survival directly after the bombing was very hard- food was scarce, and looting took place.

1 Comment

  1. Peter Bull April 18, 2017 at 8:13 am

    My main dealings with Phil were when he was pulled-out of CRS at La Perouse (I think) to be our man on Guam while we were in the start-up stage for establishing a submarine cable station there. This was in the mid-60s. I was the project engineer.

    Phil was the perfect choice for the job. His bluff personality, get-on-with-anyone style, and ready smile, suited what we needed up there to a tee.

    The situation was that we (Australians) were seen as interlopers on US soil and, in some respects, weren’t welcome — at least by some of the US people. Not a problem for Phil.
    In no time flat, he’d arranged entry to the USAF B57 base (but not the Polaris submarine base — I guess you had to be at least the Vice-President of the United States to reach that point). More importantly, he had sussed-out the best places to get a beer and something to eat after work (the whole two of them).

    Since we were in the start-up mode, there were certain formalities that were needed and hoops to jump through. One such occasion was lunch with the Guamanian Governor and with me, barely a boy out of school, I felt a little in awe of the impending occasion. So, I asked Phi: “How am I supposed to address the Governor?” Phil’s response, short and sweet, was: “Just call him Gov; that’s what I do.”

    Can’t say I’m too clued-up about what became of Phil after that period so I hope there will be other of your correspondents who can help Sandra out.


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