WONZ 252 – Max Speedy’s Navy Flying

Guest: Max Speedy

Host: Dave Homewood

Recorded: 13th of December 2021

Released: 14th of January 2022

Duration: 1 hour 48 minutes 11 seconds

This is the third and likely final interview with Max Speedy. Born in Levin, New Zealand in 1944, Max moved with his family to Australia when he was five years old. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1962 on a course to be one of the first Observers trained to fly as crew in the new Westland Wessex 31A anti-submarine helicopters. He trained initially at HMAS Cerberus, before being attached to the Royal Navy’s Hal Far Observer School, at HMS Falcon, in Malta. There he being flying training in the Percival Sea Prince.

On completing that period of training and returning to Australia he joined No. 725 Squadron and got to grips with flying as an observer in the helicopters.  He and his fellow trainees spent time onboard HMAS Watson and its anti-submarine sonar training school.

Max was then posted to No. 817 Squadron aboard carrier HMS Melbourne and undertook his first operational cruise to Singapore where the aircraft carrier worked alongside the Royal Navy in the region.

On returning to Australia, Max was preparing for the next cruise on Melbourne with the squadron in 1964 when, on the night before they were to sail, the carrier collided with HMAS Voyager and cut her in half. He and his fellow helicopter crews were heavily involved in the rescue efforts, which delayed the sailing till Melbourne was repaired. They then completed another operational tour in South-East Asia.

In 1965 Max underwent a course to become an observer in the Sea Venom, learning to use the air interception radar. At this time he was also accepted for pilot training, and was posted in 1967 to RAAF Point Cook to become a pilot.

He ended up flying as pilot back in the Wessex helicopter. But he was not on the Wessex for too long before he ended up being chosen to be the 2 i/c of the second RAN contingent to fly Hueys in Vietnam. Max talks a fair bit more about his Vietnam experiences with some great additional detail to compliment the excellent stuff from the previous episode, WONZ 251 Max Speedy’s Vietnam War.

Max talks about his career after Vietnam, spending three years in Britain attached to the Royal Navy on exchange, training new helicopter pilots with No. 705 Squadron RN at HMS Culdrose; and then a return to Australia and more flying of RAN Wessex 31B helicopters with No. 725 Squadron RAN. He was then posted to No. 723 Squadron RAN, serving on HMAS Sydney. He did a course learning to drive the naval ships, and ended up as Executive Officer aboard a destroyer HMAS Vampire. He talks about being the Equerry to HRH Prince Charles who was visiting Australia in late 1973, and he remembers working as part of the relief effort in Darwin after Tropical Cyclone Tracy destroyed the city on Christmas Eve 1974. And much more over a long RAN Fleet Air Arm career.

Today he lives on his farm and vineyard in rural Victoria, Australia, and he keeps his hand in flying as a gliding instructor.

Quick Links:

  Max Speedy on the Royal Australian Navy’s website

Max’s Previous Episode WONZ 251 on his Vietnam War Experiences

Max’s earlier Episode WONZ 249 on his father Ian Speedy’s Pacific War

An 817 Squadron Wessex closely monitors the launch of a S2 Tracker from Melbourne’s flight deck.
L-R: Chief Petty Officer George Swanson, Max Speedy and Lieutenant Peter Adams following a sortie in an 817 Squadron Wessex, circa 1963.
A Sea Venom fighter on the flight deck of HMAS Melbourne (II)
A close call for pilot Barrie Daly and Max Speedy as they ‘bounced’ over Melbourne’s arrestor wires, gaining an ‘unwelcome’ view of Melbourne’s port anchor as the aircraft clawed its way skyward.
Max (centre) with that navy beard during his tour in Vietnam with the 135th Assault Helicopter Company.
Lieutenant Speedy, DSC, RAN in the company of his grandmother and wife on the occasion of his investiture at Buckingham Palace in October 1970.
Commander Max Speedy DSC, RAN rtd.

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