Peter Wallen
Chief Petty Officer
Royal Australian Navy

Australian Service Medal with clasp Special Ops
Australian Defence Force Service Medal with 20 year clasp
Australian Defence Medal
RAN Submariners Qualification Badge


I was born in Oodnadatta in South Australia on the 13th of June in 1959. I’m an illegitimate child. My mother’s name was Tilley Baker. My father is unknown. I was taken from Tilley Baker and placed at the Kate Cocks Babies Home in Hulbert Street, Brighton, in Adelaide. I was in care there for eight months, and in February 1960, I was placed with John and Jean Wallen, who lived in a house at 106 Diagonal Road, Somerton Park, South Australia. They migrated from Crewe in England in 1950. They had three children: Jen, born in 1950; Mandy, in 1953; and Kym, in 1956. I started grade one in 1965 at Glenelg Primary School. When I was in grade four in 1968, we moved to the Gold Coast in Queensland. Mandy’s best friend from Brighton High School, Fanny also came to the Gold Coast with us after getting permission from her family. I attended Musgrave Hill State School in Southport. I grew up playing soccer and played for Musgrave Hill Soccer Club at Keith Hunt Park. I captained the Gold Coast Rep team in the under thirteens, fourteens and fifteens. After primary school, I attended Southport State High School from 1972 to 1974. In 1969, John and Jean adopted a little Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander baby girl, and we called her Kerry-Lee. Her name was Anita Gayle Savage.

In 1974, my mother learned that the Navy accepted boys at 15 years of age to train in the junior recruit training establishment at HMAS Leeuwin in East Fremantle, Western Australia. She drove me to the Brisbane Recruiting Office at 130 Mary Street, where I took various tests and interviews. In November 1974, I received a letter informing me I’d been accepted into the Royal Australian Navy as a junior recruit. I would be sworn in and put on the flight to Perth on January 8, 1975, to commence 12 months’ training.

I was a member of the 50th intake comprising the Mark, Morrow and Howden divisions. I was in Howden. I was a model recruit. Out of 300 recruits, I was nominated with five others to lay out my kit muster for the Admiral’s Inspection. At HMAS Leeuwin, I chose to be trained as a sonar operator at HMAS Watson at South Head, Sydney. After completing recruit training, I passed out of HMAS Leeuwin in December 1975 and flew home to the Gold Coast for Christmas leave. In January 1976, I embarked by train from Brisbane to HMAS Cerberus, Crib Point, Victoria, for three weeks of seamanship training. Then, I was put on the train to Sydney for training as a sonar operator at HMAS Watson. On completing the Sonar Operators course, I was posted to HMAS Parramatta on the 10th of May 1976.

In June 1976, when I turned 17, the HMAS Parramatta deployed to Southeast Asia and the Far East. I had liberty in Surabaya, Penang, Singapore, Bangkok, Manila, and Cebu. In the Philippines, HMAS Parramatta attended the 32nd Leyte Landing anniversary near Tacloban and the ship later called into the US Naval base at Subic Bay. We visited Hong Kong, and Kure and Yokosuka in Japan, then helped out in the earthquake at the top end of Bali before calling into Cairns and Darwin. In 1977, after Christmas leave, we sailed into Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, for the RIMPAC exercise. After completing the exercise, HMAS Parramatta returned to Sydney via Suva, Noumea, Isle of Pines, Norfolk Island and Wellington, New Zealand. In May-June 1977, HMAS Parramatta decommissioned and went into HMA Naval Dockyard Williamstown, Victoria, for refit. I was then posted to HMAS Torrens, also in refit in Williamstown, Victoria. Whilst on the Torrens, I volunteered for service on submarines.

I was accepted and, along with other sailors, embarked on QF1 to London, UK, for submarine training at HMS Dolphin in Gosport, Hampshire, UK. At HMS Dolphin, I changed Category to torpedo man, and after completing training in the UK, I reported to the submarine base at HMAS Platypus Neutral Bay, Sydney. In March 1978, I qualified as a submariner on HMAS Otway and was presented with the Submariners Dolphin Badge by Lieutenant Commander Rod Fayle, CO of HMAS Otway. I went on to serve on HMA Submarines, Orion (1979, 1984, and 1985), Otama (1980, 1981, 1983, and 1987), and Otway (1984). I deployed on six covert intelligence-gathering missions in SE Asia on either Orion or Otama, hence my Australian Service Medal (Special Operations) award. My last sea-going posting on a submarine was with HMAS Otama in 1987. From January to December 1989, I was posted to HMAS Stirling in Western Australia and then from 1990 to 1994 to Recruit School, HMAS Cerberus, personally training approximately 300 recruits, many of them female.

In 1994, having been trained as a Bosun’s Mate, I went back to the fleet. I posted to the destroyer HMAS Hobart on the 4th of November 1994 at Fremantle, sailed for Adelaide for the Grand Prix, then home to Sydney in 1995. I was with HMAS Hobart for the Freedom of the City March in Hobart and then deployed to Southeast Asia and the Far East. Highlights of this deployment include being Petty Officer in charge of the Catafalque guard at the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore on Anzac Day, and at the Hodagaya War Cemetery near Tokyo, Japan, and also visiting the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. When HMAS Hobart returned to Sydney, I was posted to HMAS Tobruk, where I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer by Commander Wells. My last posting, in 1996, was to HMAS Cerberus, where I finished up as Chief Petty Officer, Parade Training and Ceremonial. On November 7, 1997, I retired from the Navy after 22 years of service and came back to the Gold Coast.

In 1999, during NAIDOC Week, I approached a Link-up tent at Musgrave Park in Brisbane and gave them the details of my early childhood. They made investigations, including phone calls to Eric Duncasse at Indulkana on the APY Lands. I found out that Alec Baker had spent many years trying to find me and wanted to see me. In 2000, Link-up workers from Brisbane, Ian Twist and Gordon Tallis, accompanied me to Adelaide. From Adelaide, we flew to Coober Pedy, where transport was arranged to drive me to Marla in South Australia to meet Uncle Alec and Aunties Mini Tobi and Angelina Wonga. In 2007, I drove into Yalata on the Eyre Highway and met Uncle Tommy Baker, Tilly Baker’s other brother. As a result of meeting Tommy, I found out that I had a real brother, Steven Ewen and a sister, Pauline Baker, in Adelaide. All of us were taken away from Oodnadatta. Steven’s partner Maria Comino was a Bush Nurse at Yalata and Oak Valley in the 80s and 90s. Maria’s tireless efforts helped restore and heal the people there. Steven and Maria had 2 boys, Yanni and Michael. Steven also had an older son called Robert. I’m so glad that I have connected to my Mob. I have visited them frequently on the APY Lands, in Adelaide and Oodnadatta. Unfortunately, my real mother, Tilly Baker, passed away in 1975 at the age of 38 and is buried at the cemetery on Davenport Street, Port Augusta.