I could not put a call for laundry bags out on the blog or the crew would find out about it, so I had to do it all via email. An email was sent out and that day I spent 12 hours organising volunteers to make the laundry bags. I knew we needed around 200 bags and so set about getting volunteers to make that many. A few days later I learned that the number needed to go up to 230. No problem! Our amazing volunteers rose to the challenge and before too long the 230 were promised.
The next challenge was to arrange for those with embroidery machines to make some of the HMAS Darwin Crests. Each crest had to have the Years of Operation included... 1984-2017. Soon enough crests started rolling into my letter box and as fast as they came in, I turned them around and posted them out to the people making the laundry bags. We were unlikely to get enough crests for all the bags so some people managed to applique the name of the ship, the side number and the years of Operation. Some even printed the crest and some appliqued the phoenix, the logo for Darwin.
Very quickly LBs started to roll into my PO Box. Bridget and I are the ones who collect the mail and many days over the last couple of months we collected a massive bag of mail so heavy it was difficult to carry it all in one lot. Remember, we not only had the HMAS Darwin Bags but also the thirty for ADV Cape Inscription and the one other secret project that we have been working on.
I did not always have time to open the mail and so had to wait til I had some extra helpers, usually on a sewing day, but there was one night when I had dinner guests and they had to help me photograph the mail! :-)
At last the day came and I took a group of quilters to visit HMAS Darwin. With us were five heavy blue Ikea bags each with around 50 something laundry bags in them.
I learned that the max capacity of a Mazda CX5 is 400 laundry bags, four quilts, five adult women and associated handbags, brollies and jackets... perhaps I should have bought a bigger car!
The Ships Warrant Officer met us at the Pass Office for Garden Island and whilst he accompanied my car load of ladies and laundry bags on board all the other quilters were personally escorted by a sailor. What a marvelous opportunity to chat as they walked to the ship's gangway. It was certainly a great way to break the ice.
Once on board we were invited to enjoy a cuppa and some delicious afternoon tea... compliments to the chefs! Everyone has commented on those yummy pastries.
The Captain and Executive Officer (XO) came to welcome us and then people spent time enjoying the afternoon tea, chatting to the sailors who were our hosts and hostesses and most of them went off for a tour of the ship.
The bulk of the laundry bags were stowed out of sight but one bag was brought up so that I could present them to the thirty of so sailors who had been our hosts and hostesses.
We started with Ron, the Chief Petty Officer whose conversation with me had started the whole ball rolling.
His bag was made by Clarissa but as she was not able to join us I presented it on her behalf. I had done a little digging and found that Ron was a Broncos fan so we were able to include a patch signed by Jharal Yow Yeh. Ron is a quiet fellow and was totally caught by surprise but he called me later that night to thank me and let me know how chuffed he is with his bag.
Next it was time for the rest of the ship's company. As so often happens, noone wants to be the first so some obliging fellow gave this unwitting volunteer a good shove in the back and "volunt-told" him to go first...
I just laughed and told him it was good to see the Navy hasn't changed!
Here I am pointing out Keryn who had made the Laundry bag that I was just about to hand out... Keryn's were distinctive so easy for me to recognise...
Thelma one of yours I believe
and finally the Ship's Warrant Officer received his...
After the presentations we remaind seated as the remainder of the crew joined up for a Clear Lower Decks... this is when all hands who can be spared to leave their posts gather on the flight deck for a short parade. This time medals and promotions were awarded before the crew were dismissed. Guests are not usually invited to Clear Lower Decks so it was special for us to be included.
It was a fabulous visit and I know from the feedback that all the Aussie Heroes volunteers had a great time and felt so proud to be there.
More posts to come... photos of laundry bags and comments from the volunteers who attended.
Huge thanks to all involved in making it possible for us to attend and for hosting us on the day, Specifically, the CO, XO, SWO and our hosts and hostesses.
Big thanks to all who made one of the 250+ laundry bags that I was so proud to hand over... you all did a fabulous job and the bags look wonderful! They will mean a great deal to the crew!
Till next time... keep spreading the word and happy stitching