Rear Admiral Ian McLean Crawford

Ian McLean Crawford was born in Cremorne, Sydney on 30 December 1931 and was educated at North Sydney Boys High School. He joined the RAN College as a Cadet Midshipman (supply) in January 1949. After six months of basic naval training, and some initial sea training in the corvette HMAS Gladstone, he travelled to England in the RMS Orcades. On arrival in England, Crawford was posted to the training cruiser HMS Devonshire conducting training cruises in the Mediterranean and West Indies. Ian Crawford was promoted Midshipman on 1 May 1950 and appointed to the Colony Class cruiser HMS Ceylon for service on the East Indies station based at Trincomalee, Ceylon.  The Korean War broke out on 25 June 1950 and Ceylon was diverted to the Korean Peninsula for active service.

Ceylon’s first task during the war was to transport the 1st Battalion, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to Korea. The cruiser was then part of the covering force supporting the United Nations (UN) aircraft carriers and amphibious vessels at the landings at Inchon during 15-19 September 1950. Ceylon also provided naval gunfire support for the UN forces ashore. Midshipman Crawford’s action station was assistant gun direction officer on the starboard side close range anti-aircraft weapons but these were not required as North Korean aircraft avoided the UN task force. Crawford saw nine months active service in the Korean War before returning to England in late March 1951 to undertake training at HMS Ceres (the Supply and Secretariat Training School at Wetherby, Yorkshire). He was promoted Sub Lieutenant in May 1951 and then attended the Royal Naval College, Greenwich; completing a general education course and the Junior Officer’s War Course.

Sub Lieutenant Crawford returned to Australia in late 1952 and was appointed to HMAS Kuttabul on the secretarial staff of the Flag Officer Commanding East Australian Area (FOCEA); then Rear Admiral Harry Showers. After his exciting service in Korea he found the work as a section officer in the personnel and materiel areas quite mundane, but Crawford quickly learned the skills needed to function as an effective secretarial officer and noted the mismatch of responsibilities between FOCEA and the Naval Board staff which was not resolved until the creation of Naval Support Command in the late 1970s. Crawford was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 February 1953 and continued with his secretarial training.

In March 1954 he was appointed to the staff of the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet (FOCAF), Rear Admiral Roy Dowling, embarked in the aircraft carrier HMAS Vengeance (on loan to the RAN while the carrier Melbourne was being prepared for service). In August of that year Vengeance sailed to Korean waters and FOCAF staff were transferred to the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney until Vengeance returned to Australia in January 1955. Upon rejoining Vengeance Lieutenant Crawford became one of the carrier’s deputy supply officers (she had three who reported to a commander supply officer). In June 1955 Vengeance sailed for England to revert to Royal Navy service and shortly after arrival her crew transferred to Melbourne which was commissioned on 28 October 1955.

Crawford’s time in Melbourne was short as he returned to Australia in December that year  to take up a new posting at a term officer at the RAN College (located at HMAS Cerberus) in January 1956. A term officer (sometimes known as the year officer) was given responsibility for the leadership, training and administration for 45 intermediate entry (15 year old) and matriculation entry (17 year old) Cadet Midshipmen.  During 1956 Crawford was assistant term officer for the 1956 entry (Waller Year) as well as managing the administration for the college Executive Officer and performing the duties of sports officer; including coaching the rugby team and supervising extra-curricular activities such as skiing and flying training for the cadets. He also completed two Sydney to Hobart yacht races in the college yacht Tam O’Shanter. The following year he was term officer for the 1957 entry (Phillip Year). Crawford completed his two year tenure at the college in December 1957 before being appointed to the survey vessel HMAS Warrego, as the supply officer, in January 1958.

While serving in Warrego the ship operated in northern Australian waters conducting surveys in the Timor Sea to locate a deep draft passage through the Sahul Bank for ships taking ore to Japan. Crawford was also a qualified ships diver and assisted with the recovery on one of Warrego’s survey boats which had sunk in Darwin Harbour. In September 1958 Crawford received a pier head jump (short notice posting) to report to Navy Office in Melbourne to become the secretary to the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (firstly Rear Admiral GGO Gatacre and then Rear Admiral Otto Becher after Navy Office moved to Canberra in 1960). The short notice posting had occurred as the position of Deputy Chief of Naval Staff had recently been upgraded to a Rear Admiral to bring it in line with the ranks of the Deputy Chief in the other two services. Thus Gatacre became entitled to a secretary and Crawford was chosen and promoted to Acting Lieutenant Commander. While working for Rear Admiral Becher he was tasked with finding a name for a new anti-submarine weapon consisting of a missile carrying a torpedo. Crawford stated he found the name Ikara (weapon carrier) in a book of aboriginal names and suggested this to Becher and the name was endorsed and became the successful Ikara anti-submarine warfare system.

After a year in Navy Office, Crawford was appointed as the supply officer of the destroyer HMAS Tobruk in September 1959 reverting to the rank of Lieutenant. He joined Tobruk in Singapore, while operating on Far East Strategic Reserve duties and the destroyer then visited Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam, Yokohama, Manila and Singapore before returning to Australia. Tobruk later visited New Guinea and New Caledonia in mid-1960. Crawford was on board when Tobruk and her sister ship HMAS Anzac conducted gunnery training off Jervis Bay during September 1960. Anzac conducted a ‘throw off’ firing using Tobruk as the target but an error in Anzac saw the drill shells actually hit Tobruk, penetrating the destroyer’s engine room which was partially flooded until steel plates were fitted to stop the ingress of water.  Fortunately no one was injured in Tobruk, but the destroyer was prematurely decommissioned on 29 October 1960.

Crawford then served briefly at HMAS Kuttabul and in HMAS Melbourne before being appointed as Officer in Charge of the Supply School at HMAS Cerberus. He was promoted Lieutenant Commander on 1 February 1961. In March 1962, Lieutenant Commander Crawford joined the Australian naval staff in the embassy in Washington DC where he played a major role in the introduction of the Charles F Adams Class guided missile destroyers into the RAN; particularly the significant stores holdings in these ships and the centralisation of all ships stores under the supply officer. He was promoted Commander on 31 December 1964 and sent to Bay City, Michigan to become the commissioning supply officer of the HMAS Perth; the first of the RAN’s new destroyers. Perth commissioned on 17 July 1965 and conducted extensive training and work-ups in US waters before sailing for Australia in February 1966. In November 1966, Commander Crawford became the secretary to the Fleet Commander (initially Rear Admiral VAT Smith, then Rear Admiral Richard Peek followed by Rear Admiral ‘Buster’ Crabb). During this time Crawford was at sea whenever the Fleet Commander was embarked and saw frequent service in Southeast Asia.  

During his service as secretary to Rear Admiral Crabb the divisive Group Pay System was imposed on Defence by the Department of Labour and National Service. This led to the navy’s workforce being divided into pay groups according to their skills as opposed to rank.  Previously an able seaman was paid the same regardless of his specialisation but now each specialisation was graded to equate to civilian standards. Some technical ratings and the supply branch stewards suddenly found their pay would be reduced and this led to open hostility against Crabb and protest meetings bordering on mutiny.

His next posting, in September 1969, was to the Australian High Commission in London as the senior administrative officer for the Australian Naval Staff.  This role was wide ranging including tasks such as dealing with damage to rental properties and unpaid bills in the Clyde area, after Australian submariners had departed, through to representing Australia at the International Military Film Festival at Versailles.  Crawford also found time to study and wrote an essay on the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean which won the inaugural Peter Mitchell Essay Competition prize. 

Commander Crawford then served as the supply officer of the fast troop transport HMAS Sydney from December 1971 until late 1972. Apart from trooping and resupply runs to Singapore, to support Australian personnel as part of the ANZUK forces, his time on board included two deployments to Vung Tau in South Vietnam to embark troops for return to Australia (28-29 February 1972) and deliver defence aid to Cambodia (via Vietnam) during 23-24 November 1972.

Ian Crawford was then briefly the Director of Administrative Planning where he began implementation of the Defence Facility’s Relocation Program which saw the closure and sale of a number of excess defence sites particularly excess rifle ranges and training areas used during World War II but this also saw the closure of HMAS Rushcutter, in Sydney, with her roles subsumed by the other Sydney depots (HMA Ships Kuttabul, Penguin and Watson). He was promoted to Captain on 30 June 1973 and became Secretary to the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS). He served as secretary to Vice Admiral Sir Richard Peek until November 1973, then Vice Admiral Sir Hugh Stevenson during 1973-76 and finally Vice Admiral Sir Anthony Synnot from November 1976. 

During that period the reforms of the Tange Review were implemented to provide a far more jointly focused Australian Defence Force (ADF). The Naval Board which had previously controlled the RAN was abolished on 9 February 1976 and full command of the navy was placed with the CNS. Although the Chief of Naval Staff Advisory Committee was formed it had no executive authority and CNS did not have to accept its advice. The period 1973-76 were particularly busy ones for Crawford as the ADF came into being and there were fears that the Navy, as the smallest service, may lose its identity.

As secretary to CNS, Crawford was able to observe first-hand the many changes to the navy and the new challenges it faced. The RAN was heavily involved in the new Kangaroo series of tri-service exercises (KANGAROO I in 1974 and KANGAROO II in 1976) and Operation  NAVY HELP DARWIN following the destruction of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day 1974. The closer ties forged by the RAN and USN during the Vietnam War saw more interaction while the links with the Royal Navy began to weaken. The ANZUK tripartite force in Southeast Asia was disbanded in late 1974 and the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) began to fill that void. The construction of the west coast fleet base (to become HMAS Stirling) surged ahead and there was a dramatic change of Government on 11 November 1975 when the Whitlam Labor Government was removed from power and the Fraser caretaker government installed.

The following year the first Defence White Paper was tabled in Parliament laying out the ADFs plans and funding for the next five years and the Navy suffered its worst disaster of the decade. In early December 1976 a deliberately lit fire at HMAS Albatross saw a hangar containing twelve Grumman Tracker aircraft destroyed and only three of the aircraft were saved. Vice Admiral Stevenson worked hard behind the scenes to have those aircraft replaced as quickly as possible. At the personnel level the rank of Commodore was formalised to bring the RAN in line with the other two services and the rank of warrant officer was reintroduced. Finally a number of small and diverse Navy Office functions still resident in Melbourne were finally moved to Canberra.   

After three busy years as the Secretary to CNS, Captain Crawford was appointed as Director Naval Logistic Planning at Navy Office in April 1977. His main focus was on the RANs shore based infrastructure particularly the development of Stirling, expansion of the naval facilities in Darwin and Cairns and the modernisation of Garden Island Dockyard. After a year in the appointment Crawford was appointed as the inaugural Defence & Naval Attaché in Paris in April 1978.

Crawford spent three years in this appointment and was heavily involved in enhancing the relationship with the French Navy and the Direction Techniques des Construction Navales (DTCN) with regards to building an export version of the French designed Durance Class tanker (later HMAS Success) in Australia. Originally the tanker was to be built in France but negotiations between the two countries enabled the ship to be built ‘under licence’ in Australia at Cockatoo Dockyard. Success was laid down in August 1980, launched in March 1984 and commissioned in April 1986.

France also exported other defence equipment to Australia including the Mirage III jet fighter and the Aerospatiale Squirrel training helicopter. Additionally Crawford was involved in the RAN’s assessment of a French mine-hunting sonar being built by Thomson-CSF for use in French, Belgian and Dutch minesweepers. Despite his hard work the decision was made to proceed with an untested German design which proved to be a failure.    

On return to Australia, Crawford was promoted Commodore on 20 February 1981 before spending six months conducting a study on the future of Naval Support Command and recommended a strengthening of the commands capabilities and a transfer of more responsibilities from Navy Office. He was then appointed Director General Supply - Navy. During his tenure the battle to replace the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne with a British Invincible Class carrier was fought and lost and the Oliver Hazard Perry Class guided missile frigates began to make their presence felt in the fleet. Crawford worked to increase the knowledge of supply officers and senior stores sailors with regards to inventory management and the US Navy principles of integrated logistics support.

He also commenced a major project to move the RAN’s main ammunition depot from Kingswood in Sydney to Jervis Bay to enable better ammunitioning of the fleet and removal of ammunition supply and movement operations, which were high risk actvities, from urban areas.  Despite the sound planning the Hawke Government saw this as an opportunity to remove not only the ammunition resupply process from Sydney Harbour but also the entire RAN presence from Garden Island and relocate the fleet to Jervis Bay. This concept collapsed due to the practical problems of conducting naval maintenance and basing functions remote from the industry of a large city. Additionally the environmental issues of constructing such a major facility at Jervis Bay raised the ire of south coast residents who convinced the Labor Party of the folly of their plan. The Navy stayed put in Sydney but the planned move of the Sydney based ammunition facility was also lost in the political decision making. The ammunitioning of RAN ships became more and more difficult and was not resolved until the ammunition depot at Eden (Twofold Bay) was opened in 2013.  

On 27 November 1984, Crawford was promoted Rear Admiral and appointed as Chief of Supply for the Department of Defence. Additionally he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), in the Military List, on the Australia Day honours List in 1985 for services as the Director General Supply - Navy. The role of Chief of Supply was a difficult one as the real logistics power still remained with each of the services senior logistician.

Crawford sought to have to position re-established as Assistant Chief of Defence Force - Logistics to enable the incumbent to have real power to implement change but his proposal was rejected by the Chief of Defence Force and the civilian Chief of Supply and Support.    There was frequent high level conflict between the three services over the limited defence budget for capital equipment and this was made worse by wide spread animosity between the senior civilian and military logistics staff in Canberra. An attempt to inject US Navy knowledge of supply and computer systems via the Supply System Redevelopment Program failed as the public service leadership refused to become involved. These issues were eventually resolved, but after Crawford had retired.

Rear Admiral Crawford retired from the RAN in 1989 and initially resided in Canberra before moving to Sydney. He was one of the first RAN supply officers to combine supply and secretarial duties across his entire career and he was also a staunch supporter of US Navy logistics systems and training being introduced int the RAN. Following his retirement Rear Admiral Crawford was Executive Director Very Fast Train Progress Group during 1989-96 and was also a member  of the Australian War Memorial Council in 1998. Additionally he was for a number of years the National President of the Australian Veterans and Defence Service Council. Rear Admiral Crawford was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), in the General List, on the Australia Day honours List in 2002 in recognition of service to veterans of the Korean War, as the Chairman of the Australian National Korean War Memorial Committee and for raising awareness in the wider community of the role of the business sector.