REUNION ON THE HORIZON: After 40 years apart, a magazine ad reunites Bernie Botham with an old navy buddy.
REUNION ON THE HORIZON: After 40 years apart, a magazine ad reunites Bernie Botham with an old navy buddy. Nicole Zurcas

Lucky find prompts naval reunion 40 years in the making

FLIPPING through the pages of the RSL News magazine, Bernard "Bernie" Botham never expected to see his name in an article.

On one of the back pages, a column had "Do you know Bernie?" - a call out from long-lost shipmate, Steven Coll.

It was more than 40 years since the two last saw each other, when they were mechanical engineers (stokers) working on destroyer HMAS Yarra.

And as the months went by Mr Coll thought he was unsuccessful until last week he had an unexpected phone call.

To their surprise, they both lived in Western Australia before Mr Botham moved back to Warwick two years ago.

During almost a decade in the Navy he travelled around the world, docking and boarding new ships but always tried to head back to the Yarra.

"It was a great crew, we worked well together and had some good times," he said.

Mr Coll quickly became a close friend, impressing him with his squash skills.

"We'd always try to meet up at the docks for a game," Mr Botham said.

Working on the destroyer meant close working and living quarters for the young men.

"There was about 40 of us in the mess deck.

"You always share a special bond with your crew mates, they're the only ones who understand the lifestyle," Mr Botham said.

The Yarra took the stokers to Vietnam, providing gun support for soldiers.

"You didn't have time to be scared, our job was to keep the ship moving," Mr Botham said.

With the likes of an entire life span gone by since their last encounter, Mr Botham was most surprised to hear about his shipmates long naval career.

"I left the Navy in 76 however it shocked me to hear Steve only left ten years ago," he said.

Swapping stories over the phone, Mr Coll is planning a reunion trip to Warwick Mr Botham said.



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