From Royal Navy Beginnings  

In 1889 the designation of Writers as 1st, 2nd and 3rd Class was abolished and substituted by Chief Writer (C.P.O.), Second Writer (P.O.) and Third Writer (Order-in-Council No. 38). The following year, Writers were given the familiar six-pointed Gold Star as a distinguishing badge. It was not, however, restricted to Writers, but was also issued to Schoolmasters and Stewards. In 1891 the Admiralty decided that “in view of the considerable increase in the amount and the responsibility of the duties of Writers”, they be paid an extra shilling per day when serving in ships not allowed an Accounting Officer.

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Caption:  Writers rate badge

In 1909 Warrant Rank was established for Writers, along with Telegraphists, Ship’s Stewards, Ship’s Police and Ship’s Cooks. The number of Warrant Writers in the RN was fixed at 12 (increased to 15 in August, 1911) with pay of 71- per day, rising to 8/6 per day after five years then 10/- per day after ten years.

When the Royal Australian Navy was formed, it adopted most of the structure and traditions of its parent force, the Royal Navy, inducting the category known as the Writer Branch. Two months after Federation,  on the 1st March 1901, the Commonwealth Naval Force was born. Then, on the 10th July 1911, the Royal Australian Navy was created, with the designation formally promulgated later that year on the 5th October. Finally,  on  4th October 1913 the Australian Fleet Unit entered Sydney Harbour for the first time, ending Britain’s responsibility for an Australia Station.

Further south in the state of Victoria, the first record of Supply & Secretariat Department activities in HMAS Cerberus was when the Naval Stores Building was erected in 1916. Paymaster Lieutenant Commander R.C. Negus RAN, who formerly served as the Staff Paymaster at the Williamstown Naval Depot, was the first Supply Officer of the Westernport establishment.

For many years, the training of Writer sailors was not conducted as formally as it is today. Ratings who had joined as Recruits Clerical, completed their New Entry disciplinary training and were categorized Probationary Writers. Then followed on-the-job training, during which it was intended that the trainees   be   given   elementary   category   lectures   in   th_eir      ships   and establishments, complemented by some typing instruction.

An exception to this practice occurred in 1935 when, on 15th April, eight Writers, including Alfred Bede Calder, joined the navy. At the time, Captain S. Trivett thought that Writer entries should be given some professional training before taking up practical work. He directed Petty Officer John O’Hare to the task and the Writers were given several weeks of training in the category to provide them with a better understanding of what was expected of them on the job. For the time being apparently, no other Writer classes were given similar instruction, as with the outbreak of World War II, training reverted to learning on the job.

Following World War II, it was eventually realized that newly recruited Writer sailors needed ongoing and proper training in their professional duties before being posted to ships and establishments. This was required to bring them into line with trainees of other branches of the RAN and  the  training objectives were addressed along the lines of the curriculum of the newly formed RN Supply School, HMS Ceres.

In November 1946, a formal Supply and Secretariat Training School was set up in HMAS Cerberus. Newly promoted Warrant Officer Alfred Bede Calder, Commissioned Writer Officer, was appointed by Captain (S) to the school in 1946 for instructional duties. (Alf Calder retired with the rank of Commander some twenty years later.)

Most of the organisational work for the initial setting up of the school was left to WO Calder. He set about finding a suitable building which  would provide the necessary classrooms. At the time, WWII having ended,  there  were plenty of spare buildings around which were of good potential. However, the most suitable was a block of classrooms, by then redundant, comprising the old New Entry School building that was originally erected in 1925.  These  were centrally situated in the vicinity of the Drill Hall and had enough spare room for the training of supply assistants as well as writers. Captain (S) took the necessary action to secure the rooms for branch  use  and they became the Supply School. The school was to remain in the same building until it was relocated in the refurbished “A” Accommodation Block in 1979.

Chief Writer Eddie Rogers was also posted to the school as an instructor and he and WO Calder supervised the securing of the necessary fittings, furnishings and stationery to facilitate the first new entry class.  Copies  of every AS form writers would have occasion to use in a pay office or captain’s office had to be gathered and be on hand. Together, the two worked out a training program and syllabus that would keep the learning process as practical as possible. During this time, Writer 11, Harry Bird, an experienced typist, having been transferred out of the Communications  Branch  on eyesight grounds, typed the drafts from Calder’s notes. He then reproduced sufficient copies with the aid of the very new Gestetner duplicator.

Ledgers were prepared as would happen at the commissioning of a new ship. Ship’s company were drafted in with their documents, both pay  and certificates of service. Pay and captain’s offices were set up and individuals were drafted in and out, together with the necessary documentation. Sailors were promoted, demoted, sent to cells and detention for punishment and, to complete the full cycle of possible occurrences, some died. In fact, most things that could reasonably happen in a ship or establishment were covered, and the necessary paperwork prepared. On completion of the course the  aim was to have trainees become useful members of ships’ offices in the vessels to which they were drafted.

The students who graduated from the first class in 1947 were Recruit Writers Cecil Atkinson, John Bolton, George Carolan, Brian Cherry, Tony Dellarmarta, Milton Martin Gordon Reinhardt, Brian Wren and Writers II Harry Bird and Rick Thompson.

The comprehensive lecture notes of Alf Calder and CPO Rogers formed the basis for the professional training of Supply and Secretariat sailors for many years, following the completion of the inaugural course.

Since the establishment of the Supply School, many Writer sailors who originally graduated from the Writers’ Course and, through later promotion were elevated to officer rank, have had the privilege of carrying out the duties of ‘OIC Supply School’.

Compiled from the notes of Alf Calder, Harry Bird and the HMAS Cerberus Museum.

The Evolution of Writers

The Transition to Maritime Logistics – Personnel Operations

In 2012, under the auspices of Project Demeter, the Chief of Navy approved a change of title for the Supply Branch, to Maritime Logistics Branch, Supply Branch workgroups were also retitled, with the Writer workgroup becoming Maritime Logistics Personnel Operations. The rate badge was revised to replace the ‘W’ with ‘ML’ in the centre and a distinctive ‘P’ underneath the lowest point of the star, which is often referred to as the ‘Star of David’.

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Caption:  ML-P rate badge


Project DEMETER also modernised the provision of payroll support and accounts in the seagoing environment.  At the same time the below administrative tasks were transferred from the Naval Police Coxswain (NPC) category to the ML-P workforce:

  • Management of Official/Sponsored Passports
  • Leave management, advice and support
  • Travel management, advice and support – this task included the Fleet Command wide reintroduction of the Defence Travel Card and updated forms replacing the legacy Form PY082, Travel Requisition

In 2018 Navy People Branch conducted an in-depth and comprehensive review of the PERS effect across Navy was conducted in 2018. The PERS Effect Review identified a number of issues affecting the delivery of PERS capability in Navy, including a lack of ownership and accountability, partly as a result of the PERS effect being provided by a number of disparate workgroups. The review provided 23 recommendations to address a range of PERS related deficiencies impacting Navy.

On 14 June 19, the Chief of Navy Senior Advisory Council considered options for the professionalisation of Navy’s PERS and HR capabilities. All CNSAC members agreed the need to professionalise Navy’s HR management workforce, inclusive of both officer and sailor cohorts, and CN directed the following:

  • Establishment of a Maritime Personnel Community (MPC).
  • Naming the HR Officer workgroup ‘Maritime Human Resources Officer (MHRO).
  • Transition of the ML-P workgroup to the MPC, noting their intrinsic link to the MHRO workgroup and the PERS specialist capability they provide.
  • Renaming the sailor workgroup to Maritime Personnel Operator (MPO)
    (SMN*-LS), Maritime Personnel Supervisor (MPS) (PO) and Maritime Personnel Manager (MPM) (CPO-WO) to align to the new community and provide a clear demonstration of their duties and responsibilities.
  • Growth over a five year period to establish a sustainable workforce of MHRO practitioners.
  • Revision of at-sea command and control arrangements, through the creation of a distinct PERS Sub-department, with the N1 position (MHRO or senior Maritime Personnel (MPERS) sailor in the absence of an MHRO) reporting to the XO.

A Dedicated Maritime Personnel Community

On 01 Dec 19, Navy’s senior HR practitioner, CDRE Anthony Klenthis, was appointed by Deputy Chief of Navy (DCN) as the inaugural Head of Maritime Personnel Community (HMPC). The establishment of a dedicated MPC was the first step in decoupling logistics and PERS/HR into separate domains, allowing each to focus on their respective professional mastery.

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Caption:  The Maritime Personnel Community badge depicting the community’s motto ‘capability through people’. 

The MPC’s vision is “to provide excellence in personnel capability through an agile, responsive, innovative and professional workforce, focused on the rapid and reliable delivery of human resources and personnel skillsets in the maritime and joint military environment”.

Through its specialised and integrated workforce of officers and sailors, the MPC will provide enhanced support to Navy people and a dedicated and consistent capability directly supporting Navy’s mission to fight and win at sea.

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Caption:  Graduates of the first Initial Maritime Personnel Operator course from the Maritime Personnel School at HMAS Cerberus are pictured with POMPS Wagner.

A New Identity – a New Insignia

With the transition of the sailor workgroup, a rate badge which includes the ‘Star of David’, with its intrinsic links to the Maritime Logistics Community was no longer deemed to be appropriate. Accordingly DCN approved a trial of the MPERS rate badge design, which was reflective of a specialist personnel management workforce, pictured below.  The trial was conducted in 2020 and included 100 MPERS sailors wearing the trial rate badge and invited Navy community feedback.

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Caption:  The MPERS rate badge 

This design is the culmination of extensive research and consultation. The ‘team of people with wreath’ insignia was created by a LSMPO, and is both contemporary and reflective of the people-centred capability MPERS sailors provide as part of the Maritime Personnel Community. The wreath symbolises victory and strength, and supports and encompasses our people. Similar wreaths can be found in the WO-N and CPO rank insignia.

The MPERS rate badge was formally approved in October 2020 and implemented across Navy in early 2021 which included a transition period to allow all members to update their uniforms.  The former ML-P rate badges were formally removed from uniform policy on 01 June 2021 with a copy of each badge sent to the Sea Power Centre-Australia for historical purposes.

Establishment of Maritime Human Resources Officers

On 05 Mar 20, the MHRO workgroup was officially established. The focus of this new workgroup is professional mastery in the HR domain. Generation of this capability is based on a career continuum, formal training and progression through the structured Navy HR Competency Framework. The employment of MHROs in MFUs, Shore Establishments, Groups and Forces will provide enhanced support to Navy’s people at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. The MHRO workgroup will be developed over a five year period commencing in 2020 to meet capability requirements.

MHROs will led the delivery of HR and PERS services and work intimately with MPERS sailors and other enablers to support Command and Navy people.

It was agreed in 2020 to extend membership of the RAN Writers Association to the Maritime HR Officer workforce.  Already a number of Maritime HR Officers are former Scribes – and the extended Association membership reflects the workforce responsible for supporting Navy people and providing professionalised specialist administrative and personnel support functions.

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Caption:  Maritime HR Officer Charge Badge

ML-P Sailors Transition to the Maritime Personnel Community

The following Monday, on 09 Mar 20, the ML-P workgroup officially transitioned to the MPC, to collectively become Maritime Personnel (MPERS) sailors.

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Caption:  DCN, RADM Hammond is pictured with CDREs Klenthis and Ottaviano with the ML-P – MPERS Sailor handover ceremony participants

In a ceremony which included DCN, the Head of the Maritime Logistics Community, CDRE Simon Ottaviano, conducted a handover of the ML-P sailor workgroup to CDRE Anthony Klenthis in his capacity as HMPC. The handover ceremony included the passing of a framed presentation capturing the ML-P workgroup’s history and earlier identity as ‘Writers’.

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Caption:  CDRE Ottaviano passes the handover presento to CDRE Klenthis.  

During the handover ceremony, CDRE Klenthis said, “the MPERS sailor workgroup with the MHRO workgroup will provide an enhanced level of human resources and personnel support not previously seen in our navy.” CDRE Klenthis went on to say he was not aware of any other navy in the world delivering this level of professional integrated human resource management.

CDRE Ottaviano was excited for the future of the workgroup he was passing on to the Maritime Personnel Community. “This is an evolution of the professionalisation of the human resource response to our organisation and its needs. I am proud to handover a quality system and workforce that will be ready to meet the challenges ahead,” he said.

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Caption:  CDREs Ottaviano and Klenthis sign the ceremonial ML-P – MPERS sailor handover certificate

Whilst Logistics and Personnel formally separated on 09 Mar 20, the close association between the two communities will no doubt continue to endure.

Following the handover ceremony, CDRE Ottaviano, wrote to all ML-P sailors to thank them for their contribution to the Maritime Logistics Community and to the wider Navy. CDRE Ottaviano said he was appreciative and proud of the outstanding service the Writer and ML-P workgroup has delivered as members of the Supply / Maritime Logistics Community.

Training for the Future – a ‘New’ School

The Maritime Personnel School was also established on 09 Mar 20 to align with the transition of the MPERS sailors into the Maritime Personnel Community, and the transfer of the ML-P/MPERS training into the new school.   The MPERS School provides training to the MHRO and MPERS workgroups from HMAS Cerberus, and sits within the remit of Director Training Authority-Maritime Logistics Health.  The inaugural Officer in Charge, LCDR Andy Maskell, a former WO Scribe and now Maritime HR Officer heads up the Maritime Personnel School.

In late 2020 as part of the Cerberus base redevelopment the Maritime Personnel School (and other Training Authority-Maritime Logistics Health) schools and staff moved from ‘A’ Block into the refurbished ‘B’ Block.  B Block was home to the Base Administrative Support Centre (BASC) staff, which included the pay, accounts and removals offices in the 1990s (and earlier).  The redeveloped B Block includes a ship’s office simulator to train our future HR and PERS workforce.

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Caption:  ‘B’ Block HMAS Cerberus as captured by Commanding Officer Cerberus, Captain Morthorpe.