50 years of service – and inspiring his mob
When Commander Bertram Slape enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy as a general-entry sailor in 1972, he fulfilled a childhood ambition and laid the foundations for a long and successful career.
CAPTION: Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mark Hammond presents a Federation Star to Commander Bertram Slape, marking 50 years’ service in the Royal Australian Navy. Photo by Petty Officer Christopher Szumlanski. Story by Lieutenant Brendan Trembath.
“As a kid growing up in Adelaide I always wanted to join the Navy,” Commander Slape said.
After clocking up five decades of service, Commander Slape was presented with a Federation Star and certificate of appreciation by Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mark Hammond in a ceremony at Fleet Headquarters in Sydney on 10 April.
“I was chuffed that CN made room to visit to see me and compliment me on my career,” Commander Slape said.
After basic category training as a marine technical propulsion sailor, he served in the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and then transferred to submarines in 1976.
“Career-wise, it was the best thing I ever did,” Commander Slape said.
“If anyone wants to make a great career I would always recommend that they join submarines. “
His first boat was HMAS Onslow.
After the Oberon-class submarine was decommissioned in 1999, Commander Slape helped deliver it to the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour.
“It was my first boat as a baby stoker and I took it over there as a marine engineer,” Commander Slape said.
Following submarine service, Commander Slape held a wide range of engineering and staff appointments and saw operational service in South-East Asia and the Middle East.
His current job is Officer in Charge of the Crew Support and Readying Group, which prepares individuals who are posting to a force element.
Commander Slape has an Indigenous heritage and hopes his experience inspires up-and-coming Indigenous sailors.
“I am hoping that younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders see that they can progress in their career or change over to an officer and prove their capability as Indigenous or First Nations people,” Commander Slape said.
His mob is the Larrakia people, the traditional owners of the Darwin region.