Chief Petty Officer Richard ‘Joe’ Lewis

The RAN’s last Sailmaker

Richard John Thomas ‘Joe’ Lewis joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Seaman in 1945.

Following initial training, Lewis served in HMA ships Arunta (I) and Warramunga (I) before being posted to Flinders Naval Depot for gunnery training. While there the opportunity to undertake a sailmaker's course became available and Lewis leapt at the opportunity.

Following the three month course, undertaken at HMAS Kuttabul in Sydney, Lewis gained his first practical experience as a sailmaker onboard HMAS Warrego (II).

Four years in the sail loft at HMAS Cerberus followed, before the arrival of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (II) in 1959, saw Lewis, by then a Petty Officer Sailmaker, manufacturing much of the canvas-ware for the flagship.

Between 1959 and his retirement in 1974, Lewis alternated postings at HMAS Cerberus, with several sea-going units, including HMAS Sydney (III), where he conducted 12 seperate voyages to Vietnam.

Chief Petty Officer Richard ‘Joe’ Lewis retired from the Navy in August 1974, severing the RAN’s last remaining link with the Sailmaker Category.

The duties of the Sailmaker Category were subsequently absorbed by those in the Naval Aviation Safety Equipment Category.