Epaulettes : Lieutenant H R Syme, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve

Accession Number REL35403
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Uniform
Physical description Cotton, Gilded brass, Gold bullion braid, Gold bullion wire, Wool
Maker Unknown
Place made Australia
Date made c 1940
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Pair of Australian Second World War Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve rank epaulettes. The epaulettes have a black wool upper and a white cotton underside. The rank shown on the epaulettes in that of an Australian Navy Reserve Lieutenant. The rank itself is shown in gold bullion braid with an 'R' in the rank's loop in gold wire. At the neck end of each epaulette is a gilded brass button with the Australian Navy crown and anchor raised in the middle and 'AUSTRALIA' in raised detail beneath that. On the reverse of the button has been soldered a loop to be attached with a split pin to the base of the uniform's neck. On the reverse of the button are the maker's details 'STOKES AND SONS'. On the underside of each epaulette, two laces have been sewn into the lining to attach each epaulette to the shoulders of the uniform.

History / Summary

Associated with the service of Lieutenant Hugh Randall Syme, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR). Syme was born on 28 February 1903 at Kew, Melbourne. His father, John Herbert, was a journalist, and his son settled into the family business (they published 'The Age' newspaper) as assistant manager before the war. As a keen amateur sailor, the 6 foot tall Syme was accepted in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANVR) as part of the Yachtsman Scheme (whereby the Australian Naval Board provided personnel to the Admiralty via the RANVR).

He passed a navigation test and was appointed a probationary sub-lieutenant on 1 September 1940. Syme was soon mobilised to England and trained at HMS King Alfred. He was among the first group of Australians to be chosen to serve in the Rendering Mines Safe section and they received specialist training and were posted to HMS Vernon where the section was based.

Syme was promoted to lieutenant in mid December 1940. German bombing and air raids ensured the team had plenty of practice disarming unexploded mines and bombs. Syme rapidly developed a reputation for bravery, being awarded the George Cross and George Medal and bar for a string of successful mine recoveries. He is only one of eight people who have been awarded both the George Cross and George Medals for gallantry.

In January 1943 Syme returned to Australia following the deaths of his father and uncle, becoming temporary trustee of the family business. Despite his desire to return England, the RAN decided to keep him in Australia and utilise his expertise, setting him up in April 1943 at HMAS Cerberus as Commanding Officer of a bomb-disposal section. Little was asked of the section and Syme departed in December 1944, returning to the family business. In 1946 he was appointed general manager of 'The Age'. Syme returned to uniform briefly as part of Australia's Coronation Contingent in 1953. In 1948, Syme formed David Syme & Co. Ltd. He oversaw the company's entry into television in 1956 and was general manager until 1963. Syme was then director of the company until his death on 11 November 1965.