Rear Admiral David Charles Wells

Deputy Chief of Navy (1970-1971)

Commander Australian Fleet (1974-1975)

RADM Davis Wells

David Charles Wells was born at Inverell, NSW on 19 November 1918 and entered the RAN College (at Flinders Naval Depot) in January 1933. He was the outstanding Cadet Midshipman of his intake and was made Chief Cadet Captain in 1936, gaining his sporting colours for cricket, rugby, hockey, tennis and athletics. On passing out from the college in late 1936 he was awarded maximum time (towards early promotion to Lieutenant), prizes for mathematics, physics and chemistry, the Otto Albert prize for seamanship and the King's Gold Medal - being the officer who displayed the most exemplary conduct, performance of duty and good influence amongst his peers. Wells was promoted to Midshipman in January 1937.

His first ship was the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra in which he served during early 1937 before proceeding to England in June. He then spent three months serving in the battle cruiser HMS Hood before undertaking courses at the Royal Naval College. In January 1938 he returned to the Hood and served in her as part of the Mediterranean Fleet until the end of the year. In 1939 he was promoted Sub-Lieutenant and undertook various professional courses in England including the junior officers war course. He excelled in his studies gaining first class certificates in seamanship, signals and torpedoes before returning to Australia in September 1939. He was also awarded the Ian Macdonald prize for attaining the highest score in the RN signals course and this appears to have influenced a decision to later specialise as a signals communications officer.

Wells rejoined Canberra in November 1939 and gained his watch keeping certificate in May 1940 after which he was promoted Lieutenant. During his time in Canberra the cruiser operated on the Australia Station and was also employed on convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean. Canberra also searched the Indian Ocean for German raiders and in March 1941 she intercepted the raider supply vessels Coburg and Ketty Brovig forcing both to scuttle before taking their German crews prisoner. In July 1941, Lieutenant Wells returned to the United Kingdom to undertake the Long Signals (Communications) Course from August 1941-April 1942. He was then loaned to the Royal Navy serving on the staff of the Captain - 3rd Destroyer Squadron where he saw service in the Atlantic, on Russian convoys and at the Operation TORCH landings in North Africa in November 1942.

In January 1943 Wells served at HMS Mercury on the staff of the Radar School at Portsmouth. He returned to Australia in August 1943 and was appointed as the flag Lieutenant and Squadron Wireless Telegraphy Officer on the staff of Rear Admiral Commanding the Australian Squadron, Rear Admiral Victor Crutchley, VC, RN who at that time was flying his flag in HMAS Australia. In June 1944 Rear Admiral Crutchley rescinded command of the Australian Squadron to Commodore John Collins, CB, RAN who retained Wells on his staff. During the Leyte Gulf operations, in October 1944, Wells was wounded during the first kamikaze attack on Australia. He was subsequently evacuated to Australia and treated at the naval hospital at HMAS Penguin.

By January 1945 Wells had recovered from his wounds and was posted as the Signals Communications Officer to the Naval Officer in Command - Sydney (NOIC-Sydney) based at HMAS Kuttabul. From July 1945-February 1946 he served at Penguin overseeing the construction of the Signal Training Centre, before returning to work for NOIC - Sydney. Lieutenant Wells served briefly in the destroyer HMAS Warramunga in late 1946 before becoming the First Lieutenant of her sister ship, HMAS Bataan, in January 1947. During this period the destroyer operated in South East Asian waters performing duties in support of British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan.

David Wells was promoted Lieutenant Commander in May 1948 after which he joined the staff of the Director of Naval Communications at Navy Office in Victoria where he served until early 1950. He then undertook an exchange posting with the Royal Navy where he served at HMS Seahawk (Royal Naval Air Station - Culdrose) in Cornwall before completing the RN Staff Course in late 1952.

In January 1953 Lieutenant Commander Wells steamed to Australia in the aircraft carrier HMAS Vengeance which was being lent to the RAN while a new aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, was being prepared for service. Vengeance arrived in Australia in late February 1953 and operated in Australian waters for the remainder of the year. Wells was promoted Commander in June 1953 and joined Kuttabul later that year; in preparation for taking command of the frigate Queenborough which was then completing a lengthy four year modernisation.    

Commander Wells assumed command of Queenborough, on recommissioning, in December 1954. In early 1955 the frigate was deployed to England and assigned to the 6th Frigate Squadron. Later she joined the RN Training Squadron, attached to the Joint Anti-Submarine School in DerryNorthern Ireland. In addition to the squadron's badge depicting the Red Hand of UlsterQueenborough added a red kangaroo design to her funnel to reinforce her Australian antecedents; one of the earliest instances of using a red kangaroo to identify an Australian warship. http://www.navy.gov.au/history/tradition/origin-ran-squadron-and-national-insignia

Queenborough served in the Far East Strategic Reserve in early 1956 and arrived back in Australia in April. David Wells then relinquished command and was appointed as the Executive Officer at HMAS Cerberus; the RAN’s premier training establishment. After two years at Cerberus he was appointed as the Director of Personnel at Navy Office, Canberra, in early 1959. Promotion to Captain followed in June 1959 and in September 1960 Captain Wells was appointed in command of the Daring class destroyer HMAS Voyager.

While in command the destroyer conducted a hectic round of exercises in South East Asian waters as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve and also deployed to India, New Guinea, New Zealand and Japan. A four month refit in 1961 was also completed. Captain Wells handed over command of Voyager to Captain (later Rear Admiral) Alan Willis in July 1962 and then served in Navy Office briefly prior to being selected for further exchange service with the Royal Navy.  

In early 1963, Captain Wells became the Deputy Director of the Royal Naval Staff College; at Greenwich. In 1965 he, in turn, completed the Imperial Defence College course in London. On return to Australia in December 1965, Captain Wells assumed command of the RAN’s flagship: the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. During his time in command Melbourne conducted exercises in Australian, New Zealand, New Guinea and South East Asian waters. Melbourne also briefly escorted the fast troop transport, HMAS Sydney, to Vietnamese waters in June 1966. At the end of 1966 the carrier went into refit at Garden Island and Wells handed over command to Captain (later Admiral) Anthony Synnot in January 1967.

Captain Wells assumed command of the Naval Air Station, HMAS Albatross, at Nowra, in January 1967, a position he held until February 1968. Promotion to acting Rear Admiral followed in March 1968 at which time he became the Flag Officer in Command Eastern Australia (FOICEA). He was confirmed in the rank of rear admiral in October of that year. During 1970-71 Rear Admiral Wells served as the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff in Canberra. In the 1971 New Year’s Honours List he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services as the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff. During 1971-73, Rear Admiral Wells commanded the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom (ANZUK) naval forces based in Singapore.

Rear Admiral Wells final posting was as the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet during the period February 1974-November 1975 after which he retired from the RAN.   

Rear Admiral Wells died at Coolah, in northern NSW, on 27 September 1983.