WHITTEN, Robert CAPT(O)

WHITTEN, Robert CAPT(O)

CAPT (O) Robert (Bob) John WHITTEN OBE RAN (Rtd) passed away on 4 June 2018.  His funeral service was held at St. John’s Anglican Church, 45 Constitution Avenue, REID ACT on Thursday 14 June at 1 p.m.


Robert Whitten, born Newtown VIC, joined the Navy in 1952 as a Naval Airman.  He qualified as an Observer in 1954 and was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant in 1955.  He served in 817 Squadron (Gannet ASW aircraft), was promoted Lieutenant in 1956, and after further flying training in the UK, he qualified for photographic duties in 1958 and joined725 Squadron on his return.  Whitten was promoted Lieutenant Commander in 1961 while serving on the staff of the Flag Officer-in-Charge East Australia Area.  He commissioned Supply in the UK in 1962 and in 1964 went to Navy Office to the Directorate of Manning and Training.  He did a helicopter conversion course (Wessex) at Albatross in 1966 and then went to the UK for a Staff Course.  On return he was posted to Navy Office to join a team preparing for the introduction of the highly contentious Group Pay Scheme into the RAN (Note).  When the Scheme was introduced, his role was to explain its rationale and its effects on individual pay packets to groups of sceptical and disgruntled sailors.  For his success in doing this he was appointed an OBE in (The Queen’s Birthday List) in 1970.  As his citation observed, ‘Commander Whitten by his tireless efforts and dedication contributed markedly towards the introduction of the new Group Pay system for the RAN.  This required long and intricate negotiation with other Government Departments and an outstanding degree of efficiency under continual and sustained pressure.’

(Note: The Group Pay Scheme was the first attempt to introduce variable rates of pay into the sailor ranks.  The reasoning behind it was the marked differential between the skill sets and knowledge required of the more technical categories, and thus to reflect their higher worth to the RAN through better pay.  As everybody, no matter what their skill set or knowledge, had a contribution to make to the successful operation of a ship, that all members of a ship’s company had been paid on rank rather than category, and that many of the less technically demanding categories wound up with less pay under the new Scheme, all made its introduction contentious and difficult.

Extract from Bravo Zulu, Vol.1 by Ian Pfennigsworth, pp. 590-1

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