By Captain Chris Churcher CSM, RAN
REGRETTABLY I advise of the passing of Commodore Bryan Cleary, RAN (Rtd), who died of a heart attack on Sat 7 Dec 2013. Commodore Cleary joined the Navy as a recruit in 1942 through HMAS Cerberus, but was quickly identified as an officer candidate and by Nov 1942 was a Midshipman in the RANVR.
After doing specialist training at HMAS Rushcutter (beginning his long association with Rushcutter), he was posted to HMAS K9 (a former Dutch submarine, tendered to Rushcutter) as an acting Sub Lieutenant in Aug 1943. His association with submarines continued for the rest of the war serving with the Royal Navy’s 3rd, 7th and 8th Submarine Flotillas. Hhe also served in HMS Elfin (a TRV) and HMS Maidstone a Submarine Depot ship.
Bryan transferred to the RAN in mid-1945. Post-war he was promoted to Lieutenant in Jun 1946 and briefly commanded HMAS Air View before posting to HMAS Manoora the same year. He subsequently served in HMA Ships Rushcutter (again), Quickmatch and Tobruk, before posting to the UK in 1951 to undergo specialist training as a TAS officer. Once qualified he served on exchange in HMS Porchester Castle during 1953.
On returning to Australia in Jun 1954 he posted to the Naval Ordnance Branch in Navy Office. In Feb 1956 he posted to HMAS Tobruk as the TAS remaining there until posting to HMAS Melbourne for the Admiral’s Staff as the Fleet TAS. In Jan 1958 he was sent to the Training and Staff Requirements Division of Navy Office for 12 months before attending JSSC in the UK during 1959. Promoted to Commander while on Course he returned to Australia to assume command of HMAS Quickmatch at the end of 1959. In Oct 1961 he posted to HMS Terror (Singapore) and on return to Australia was made the Deputy Director of Intelligence in Navy Office in May 1964.
After two years in Navy Office Bryan joined HMAS Watson as OIC TAS School in Apr 1966, before briefly serving in HMAS Rushcutter (yet again) in mid-1968. Temporarily promoted to Captain he posted to the Top End in Nov 1968 and took over as NOICNA (later NOCNA); he was confirmed in rank in Jun 1969. In May 1970 he returned south and became the Director Naval Reserves and Naval Dockyard Police Branch. This job lasted until Sep 1972 when he assumed command of HMAS Penguin and 18 months later moved on to assume command of HMAS Nirimba in March 1974. Returning to sea he posted in command of HMAS Supply in Dec 1975.
Promoted to Commodore in Mar 1977 he was made Chief of Staff to FOCEAA from where he retired, subsequently to become a barrister in Sydney.
Commodore Cleary’s association with the Navy, Rushcutter and K9 continued after he left the permanent Navy. As part of the Naval Association he was involved with the RANEL (later RANRL) Association links to Rushcutter and was active in ensuring the name of HMAS Rushcutter is not forgotten, being closely involved with the plaques that were unveiled at the site in Mar 2009. Similarly he kept an interest in the K9, which after being transferred back to the RNLN, near the end of WWII, ran ashore after breaking its tow line off the NSW coast and grounded at Fiona Beach (Seal Rocks).