Catholics and Protestants Unable to work Together in Navy

On this day ………… 18th February 1954

Onlookers at a full dress rehearsal at Flinders Naval Base, Victoria on this day in 1954, were bewildered when nearly 400 Roman Catholic officers, men and W.R.A.N., fell out of line under an order and ran from the parade ground at the start of the dedication and consecration rehearsal of the Queen’s colour. The rehearsal was for the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Flinders Depot on March 2. There are to be two more rehearsals and a high Naval officer said that it was hoped the incident would not be repeated at the actual ceremony, but nothing was certain yet. The ceremony was conducted, by the Senior Chaplain of the R.A.N., Rev. Fawell, of the Church of England. As the old colour of King George VI was marched out, followed by the marching in of the Queen’s colour. Rev. Fawell stepped to the microphone and began a series of prayers leading up to the dedication and consecration of the Queen’s Colour. This is a rare ceremony which takes place in the R.A.N, normally only once in a sovereign’s reign. Immediately as Rev. Fawell (Protestant) began the prayers, an order was given to the 1,400 Roman Catholic men and 90. W.R.A.N.S. on parade to fell out and ran in orderly fashion to the shelter of trees at the back of the parade ground. There they formed up near the Roman Catholic Naval chaplain, Father Lake, who said a prayer for the Queen. Meanwhile on the parade ground Rev. Fawell dedicated the Queen’s Colour with these words:- “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we do consecrate and set apart this colour, that it may be a sign of our duty towards our Queen and our country in the sight of God. Amen.” As he finished the ceremony the Roman Catholic members raced back and rejoined the main parade, following an order given. Both Protestant and Roma and Catholic officials at Flinders naval depot are disturbed that this “undignified scramble ‘ will occur before the Duke’s eyes on March 2. Time was spent with Rev. Fawell and Father Lake rehearsing what they would have to do. Both were happy about the arrangement. However an order came from high Roman Catholic circles forbidding the Catholics to take any part in the ceremony. Both Protestants and Roman Catholics were disappointed at the decision.