RANCDT Vidgeon, Norris Octavius

John Robertson

Staff member
Norris Octavius
  • UNIT
HMAS Moreton (RANR)
  • RANK
Lieutenant Commander

Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct
Surfers Paradise,Australia 1966
born 7.6.1909 Brisbane,Queensland
Midshipman 1.7.1927
Sub Lieutenant 1.4.1929
Lieutenant 1.5.1932
09.09.1938 married Marjorie Elizabeth Ann Stewart
Lieutenant Commander 30.6.1942
HMAS Parkes (C.O.) 1.1.1944 - 20.9.1945
HMAS Moreton 1966
retired 12.6.1967
daughters Diana & Kaye
died 20.12.1998


The Minister for the Navy, the Honourable Don Chipp, has announced that Her Majesty the Queen has awarded the Queen's Commendation to twelve Royal Australian Navy Officers and Sailors for their bravery in two operations earlier this year.

The operations concerned were the removal and disposal of a mine found floating off Surfers Paradise, Queensland, in March and the rescue of survivors from the dredge W.D. ATLAS which sank in rough seas off the South Coast of New South Wales during May.

The Officers and Sailors honoured for their part in the disposal of the mine are:-
  • Lieutenant Commander Bernard Joseph HAMILL, R.A.N,, at present serving in H.M.A.S. MORETON, the Naval shore establishment in Brisbane. (Home Address; 27 Laverton St, Williamstown, Victoria)
  • Lieutenant Commander Norris Octavius VIDGEN, R.A.N.V.R., H.M.A.S. MORETON. (Home Address; 17 Lessington Street, Alderley, Queensland).
  • Lieutenant John Kenneth Parker, H.M.A.S. RUSHCUTTER, the Naval Diving School in Sydney, (Home Address; 60 Surrey St.., King's Cross, Sydney)
  • Chief Petty Officer Clearance Diver John Frederick Dollar H.M.A.S. WATERHEN, Naval Mine Sweeping Headquarters, Sydney, (Home Address; 51 Minneapolis Crescent, Maroubra, N.S.W.)
  • Leading Seaman Clearance Diver Patrick John Turley, H.M.A.S. MELBOURNE, (Home Address; 31 Ogden St,, Collie, W . A . )
  • Able Seaman Clearance Diver Alan Laurence Ingham, H.M.A.S. RUSHCUTTER. (Home Address; 89 Raleigh Street, Carlisle, W.A.)
  • Able Seaman Clearance Diver Phillip Charles Kember, H.M.A.S. WATERHEN, (Home Address; Wentworth Avenue, Pagewood, N.S.W.)
In each case the citation begins, "In recognition of his brave conduct and disregard of his personal safety in securing a floating contact mine so that it would not cause danger to shipping."

The operation began when Lieutenant Commanders Hamill and Vidgen were sent from Brisbane to Surfers Paradise to investigate a report of a floating mine.

The two officers attempted to capture the mine in a trawl net from a hired trawler so that it could be towed to sea and exploded. The attempts were unsuccessful as the barnacle encrusted mine cut the net. The mine then drifted into shallow water and finally grounded on the beach.

Lieutenant Commanders Hamill and Vidgen entered the surf and secured a line to the mine The line was then anchored to the shore to prevent its being washed back out to sea.. Both officers were well aware that the mine could have been in a most delicate condition due to the evident corrosion and that it could explode either through contact with the beach or anyone close to it.

Lieutenant Parker was sent to the area in charge of a clearance diving team from H.M.A.S. RUSHCUTTER Sydney.

The team, which included Chief Petty Officer Dollar, Leading Seaman Turley and Able Seamen Ingham and Kember, arrived at Surfers Paradise at six-thirty p.m. on 15th March.

Lieutenant Parker's examination of the mine showed it to be of German origin, a Moored Contact Mine of a type with which he was not familiar. Because of encrustation with marine life and partial burial in the sand it was not possible to tell whether it was armed or safe. Lines were attached to the mine so that it could be eased in on the flood tide enabling the mechanism plate to be uncovered. Lieutenant Parker and his team remained on the beach tending the lines until at six o'clock the following morning the mine was in water shallow enough to permit excavation of the plate. It was then found that the firing circuit was "armed".

It was also found that it would be impossible to render the mine safe without undue risk of an explosion.

Lieutenant Parker decided to move the mine a distance of about three miles along the beach, clear of the populated area. The local authorities constructed a sled and provided a tractor to tow it. It was found that the best time for removal would be at twenty minutes to eleven that night, at low tide.

By nine p.m. all equipment was ready and Leading Seaman Turvey stood on the mine to attach the hoisting apparatus.

Lieutenant Parker drove the bulldozer with the sled attached to a one-hundred foot line, Three of the party were stationed 1,500 yards in front of the bulldozer and Chief Petty Officer Dollar 1,500 yards behind. However movement of the mine on the sled caused Chief Petty Officer Dollar to volunteer to walk alongside the mine packing it with sand to keep it steady.

At ten o'clock the following morning Able Seaman Ingham moulded a plastic charge around the mechanism plate and this was detonated shortly before two p.m. providing access to the interior.

The party was then able to remove 660 lbs of explosives.

In the second operation, the rescue of survivors from the dredge W.D. ATLAS, the Queen Commendation for Bravery has been awarded to:-
  • Lieutenant Raymond Barrie Lovett, R.A.N. at present serving in H.M.A.S. ALBATROSS, the Naval Air Station near Nowra, N.S.W. (Home Address: 29 Bedford St >, Nowra, N.S.W.)
  • Lieutenant Patrick John Vickers, R.A.N. , H.M.A.S. ' ALBATROSS, (Home Address: First Avenue, Nooloolaba,Qld,)
  • Petty Officer Airman Underwater Control Frederick Claude McCreanor, H.M.A.S. ALBATROSS (Home Address: 17 Hassell St, Ferryden Park, South Australia)
  • Petty Officer Airman Underwater Control Gregory William Peters, H.M.A.S. ALBATROSS, (Home Address: 5 Nesta Street, Nowra, N.S.W.)
  • Leading Airman Underwater Control Kenneth John Beaton, H.M.A.S. ALBATROSS, (Home Address: 61 Peston St,, Devonport, Tas. )

During the night of the 20th/21st May distress calls were received from the dredge W.D. ATLAS which was sinking in rough seas off the New South Wales coast.

Search aircraft were despatched from the Royal Australian Naval Air Station at Nowra at first light and at seven-forty-five a.m. a Dakota reported seeing two survivors in the water.

Iroquois helicopters Nos, 893 (piloted by Lieutenant Lovett) and 897 (Lieutenant Vickers) were scrambled to attempt a rescue.

Just before the scramble H.M.A.S. VENDETTA,. which was also searching for survivors sent a weather report stating that her speed was reduced to eight knots in 30-40 feet seas and sixty knot winds.

Knowing of these weather conditions the pilots and their crews flew straight to the area and shortly after eight o'clock sighted survivors.

In order to perform a rescue from the water a strop is lowered from the helicopter by a winch. In favourable conditions the maneouvre requires a high order of skill and co-operation between the pilot who must maintain a hover but cannot see the area, and the winch operator who must direct the pilot. In the weather conditions of 21st May the movement was extremely hazardous and very difficult.

The height of the waves meant that the helicopters had to be brought down low enough for the strop to reach the sea in the wave troughs and thus into the spray caused by the high wind. The aircraft's altitude had to be maintained so that the survivors would not be injured as they entered the strop. Lieutenant Lovett, with Petty Officer McCreanor and Leading Airman Beaton, in his crew, rescued three survivors during two flights to the area.

Lieutenant Vickers, with Petty Officer Peters, rescued a fourth survivor.

Canberra, 20th December, 1966
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