BPEQ 90th Anniversary: Celebrating Claude Palmer

BPEQ 90th Anniversary: Celebrating Claude Palmer

In 2020, BPEQ turns 90. To celebrate this milestone BPEQ is acknowledging the achievements, projects, innovations, discoveries and stories of RPEQs past and present.

Former-RPEQ Claude Palmer (2753, Mechanical) ‘had three engineering careers’ – the Army, the oil industry and finally academia.

A graduate of Royal Military College, Duntroon, of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the British Royal Military College of Science, and Australian Defence Industrial Mobilization; Claude served in the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was responsible for Technical Support of a Construction Squadron in Papua New Guinea during the now-forgotten Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation (Konfrontasi in Indonesian/Malay language), pending the threat of Indonesian invasion of PNG from ‘West Irian’.

“…saw active service in Vietnam where he assumed command of the newly-raised 106 Field Workshop of 1st Australian Task Force at Nui Dat…”
Claude Palmer at the naming ceremony for the ‘Major Claude Palmer Building'. Image courtesy of Southport RSL.

Claude also saw active service in Vietnam where he assumed command of the newly-raised 106 Field Workshop of 1st Australian Task Force at Nui Dat – the first unit to be raised in a theatre of war since the Second World War. Claude’s unit was responsible for technical support, repair and battlefield recovery of all armoured and unarmoured vehicles, weapons, electronics, radios, instruments, and equipment. The work of his unit provided excellent availability of all the technical items needed for Task Force operations. Units supported remember his design of an ‘uparmouring’ system for the M113A1 Armoured Personnel Carrier, minor modifications to the Centurion Tank to improve performance in jungle for manufacturing parts no longer available, for his design of a supplementary baseplate for Mortars to improve their accuracy in soft terrain, and for coordinating the use of helicopters for forward repair of Centurion Tanks where recovery was impracticable.

After resignation from the Army, Claude joined AMPOL (Australian Made Petroleum Oils and Lubricants). He quickly rose to Chief Engineer, managing an annual capital budget of up to $20 million. His team achieved the reputation of completing projects on schedule, to specification, and under budget. His most difficult and dangerous task was the repair of Crude Oil Tank 5; during a storm, the floating roof of that tank, a mass of 50 tonnes, had sunk with penetrated floatation cells. The danger of ignition of fumes from the crude oil remaining in the tank called for innovative solutions. In cooperation with his colleagues, Claude slowly but safely restored the damaged roof, using air powered tools to insert new legs to prop the roof, heavy PVC air bags to fill the damaged floatation cells, then gently refloating the roof by introducing water into the tank.

Resigning from AMPOL just prior to Caltex’s takeover, Claude accepted the position of Sessional Lecturer at Griffith School of Engineering, Gold Coast Campus. There, his main achievement was as Foundation Lecturer in Engineering Leadership and Communication. Commencing as an elective, its success made this course a core part for PhD studies.

“…accepted the position of Sessional Lecturer at Griffith School of Engineering…”

In his long and varied career Claude also earned Chartered status from Engineers Australia and was posted to the Australian Embassy to the United States of America. In November 2018, his unit’s Vietnam service was recognised by then Governor-General, General Sir Peter Cosgrove, naming the new 106 Field Workshop engineering complex at 7 Brigade, Enoggera, the ‘Major Claude Palmer Building’.

This year is a celebration of the achievements, projects, innovations, discoveries and stories of RPEQs past and present. BPEQ encourages RPEQs to share their thoughts –

• What are some of Queensland’s great engineering feats?
• Who was the RPEQ/s who helped deliver the project?
• Are there unsung heroes in the profession?

To have your say contact BPEQ at admin@bpeq.qld.gov.au.

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