The naval college HMAS Creswell celebrated its 105th birthday on March 1.
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The date coincided with the 117th birthday of the Royal Australian Navy.
One of the men intrinsically linked with Creswell is Berry local Lovel John Towers.
Read more: HMAS Creswell’s old bell returns home
Towers was part of the RAN Cadet Midshipman entry at RANC North Geelong in 1914.
He transferred to Creswell when the college moved to its new facilities at Captain’s Point on the southern shores of Jervis Bay in February 1915.
He graduated from the college in 1917. And would continue to serve until 1922.
His history and that connection with Creswell resurfaced again in 2013.
When the original bell that hung in the clock tower at HMAS Creswell, missing for half a century, was returned to its home alongside Jervis Bay, Towers was again in the mix.
He was one of four cadets in the college’s second intake of midshipmen, who infamously managed to get into the bell tower and put their initials on it and they are still on the bell today.
LJT, PFD, OF McM and AHS left their initials while a further name Read was left in Morse code (possibly from 1917 but there is also another theory).
There was also an inscription underneath the four names: “And the rest of us, Royal Australian Naval College Jervis Bay 1914 entry.”
The bell had disappeared when the college was decommissioned between 1930 and 1958, but in 2013 was returned by the Hoskins family from Sydney and placed on permanent display at the college’s historical collection.
The quartet that left their initials on the bell has been identified by going back through the navy’s records of officers.
It is believed LJT was Lovel J. Towers, who served from 1914–1922; PFD was Percy F. Dash; OFM was Otto F. McMahon, 1914–1946; AHS was Arthur H. Spurgeon, 1914–1942.
The name Read appears on the bell in Morse code and it is assumed this refers to a 1917 entry cadet, Neven Robinson Read, who served from 1917 to 1948.
But the other theory is the word Read also has an arrow pointing to the cadets’ names – perhaps it was just a notification to anyone who found the graffiti to read the other side of the bell.
Well-known local historian Robyn Florance also wrote about Towers in a book Berry Remembers - The Town of Berry Remembers: Honouring the men and women who served from The Berry Municipality.
Lovel John Towers was born at Berry on October 17, 1900 a son of Frederick and Agnes (Aggie) Towers (nee Tomlins).
His father was storekeeper in Berry and at one time Mayor of the Berry Municipality.
At the age of 13 he joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
He was a Cadet Midshipman in the Royal Australian Navy at North Geelong Training College from December 31, 1913.
In February 1915 the RAN College moved from its temporary beginning at Geelong to the new facilities at Captain’s Point on the southern shores of Jervis Bay (HMAS Creswell).
He graduated from the college in 1917 and joined HMAS Cerberus on January 1, 1918 until March 22, 1918.
He then served on HMS Canada from March 23, 1918 until March 24, 1919.
In a letter written from the ship HMS Canada dated May 24, 1918 to Mrs Thompson of The Pines, Broughton Village he says: (His brother Cliff enlisted in the A.I.F.)
Cliff is well and cheerful which is a blessing. Just at the present his mob have their work cut out. They have been praised by Haig himself (which is different to the Australian Press). There is no leave on the horizon however we send him everything he wants or may want. I commenced my part in the Great War on 7th April, when I arrived on the ship.
Towers served on HMAS Sydney from March 25, 1919 until September 24, 1919.
He was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant on September 1, 1919 and served on HMAS Platypus from September 25, 1919 until June 22, 1921.
He was promoted to Lieutenant on May 15, 1921.
He was president of the RN College Greenwich from September 28, 1921 until July 31, 1922.
He returned to Australia in September 1922 and after a years’ leave retired from the navy on October 20, 1923.
He served in the Volunteer Defence Corps from March 1943 to May 1944.
His name is recorded on the Berry School of Arts Memorial Plaque.
He married Marie (Marnya) Vobruba at Chatswood on February 4, 1936.
They moved to Leeton to a rice farm and stayed for 33 years.
Lovel and Marnya retired to Nowra in 1960.
They lived in St Anne Street for many years and then in a unit in Burr Avenue.
They moved to Osborne Hostel on October 8, 1981.
Lovel died at Nowra on October 4, 1985 aged 84 years.
Marnya died at Nowra on June 26, 2008.
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