Customs and Traditions – Naval Pennants

HMS Ocean

With HMS Ocean (L12) entering Portsmouth for the final time late last week flying her paying off pennant, before she is decommissioned and transfered to the Brazilian Navy, it is worthwhile looking at the naval tradition of flying pennants.

A pennant is a flag that is larger at the hoist than at the fly, and can have several shapes, such as triangular, tapering or triangular and swallow-tailed.

In the days of chivalry, knights carried pennants on their lances, just as men-of-war flew pennants from their masts. During the conflicts of the thirteenth century, when merchant ships were commandeered and placed in command of military officers they transferred their pennants from their lances to the mastheads of the ships they commanded. The tradition continued until the end of the Napoleonic Wars when the Royal Navy adopted the style of pennants used today.

Today the pennant is hoisted on the day a warship or shore establishment commissions and is never struck until the day of decommissioning. Onboard ship the pennant is flown at the masthead, for which reason it is also commonly referred to as a ‘masthead pennant’. In the Royal Navy (RN) today there are two types of pennant – a ‘Commissioning pennant’ and a ‘Paying off’ pennant.

In the RN the commissioning pennant (shown below) is flown continuously in every ship and shore establishment in commission unless displaced by a senior officer’s Rank flag. The masthead pennant is a cross of St George in the hoist and a white fly.

1920px-Royal_Navy_commissioning_pennant_(with_outline).svg

It is the custom in many navies for a ship which is ‘paying off’ to wear an extremely long commissioning pennant, which is normally at least the length of the ship, and the length of which reflects the length of service. HMS Gloucester (D96) is shown below flying her paying off pennant in 2011 when she decommissioned.

HMS Gloucester Paying Off Pennant

The term ‘paying off’ refers to the fact that RN ships formerly ‘paid off’ each time they returned home after a commission overseas. The ship’s sailors were not paid until the ship returned home, to avoid desertion.

In the US Navy (USN) the commissioning pennant is ‘blue at the hoist, bearing seven white stars; the rest of the pennant consists of single longitudinal stripes of red and white’. Like their RN cousins, ships of the USN fly the commissioning pennant from the moment of commissioning until the decommissioning ceremony. The commissioning pennant of USS McInerney (FFG 8) is shown below.

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The US Navy has no tradition of flying a paying off pennant before decommissioning. US Navy ships maintain a separate tradition of flying a ‘Homeward Bound’ pennant when returning from a deployment to their home port. The dimensions of the pennant are not prescribed by regulation, but the customary practice is one white star for the first nine months of continuous service outside the US, plus another for each additional 6 months. The overall length of the pennant is one foot for each member of the ship’s company on duty outside the United States for more than 9 months, but not to exceed the length of the ship itself. Below is a picture of USS George Washington (CVN-73) flying her 297 foot ‘Homeward Bound’ pennant returning from deployment in 2015.

USS George Washington Homeward Bound Pennant

On this day – Australia’s worst peacetime naval disaster – HMAS Melbourne (R21) and HMAS Voyager (D04) collide at night off Jervis Bay

HMAS Voyager

On this day in 1964 what is considered to be Australia’s worst peacetime naval disaster occurred 20 nautical miles off Point Perpendicular near Jervis Bay in New South Wales, when at 8.56pm the Majestic class aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21) and the Daring class destroyer HMAS Voyager (D04) collided at night during manoeuvres.

At the time HMAS Melbourne was performing flying exercises and HMAS Voyager was performing plane guard duties, positioned behind and to port (left) in order to rescue any aircrew if a plane was forced to ditch.

HMAS Melbourne following Voyager collision

After a series of turns effected to reverse the course of the ships HMAS Voyager ended up ahead and starboard (right) of HMAS Melbourne. Voyager was then ordered by Melbourne to resume plane guard position, which involved turning to starboard, but then she came around to port. The crew on the bridge of HMAS Melbourne thought that Voyager was zig-zagging and would turn to starboard and resume her correct position.

At 8.55pm both ships began desperate avoiding manoeuvres but a collision was inevitable. One minute later the bow of HMAS Melbourne (travelling at about 22 knots) struck behind the Bridge and Operations Room of HMAS Voyager, effectively cutting the ship in two.

Over the coming hours, frantic efforts were made to rescue the crew of HMAS Voyager, with helicopters from both HMAS Melbourne and Naval Air Station (NAS) Nowra, as well as five Minesweepers and two search and rescue boats were dispatched from the shore establishment HMAS Creswell, moving to the scene to pick up survivors.

HMAS Voyager Crest

Sadly, of the 314 crew on board HMAS Voyager, 82 were killed, most of whom died immediately or were trapped in the bow section, which sank after 10 minutes. HMAS Melbourne was damaged, but suffered no fatalities.

CPO Rogers GC DSM

One particular crew member of HMAS Voyager showed great bravery and sadly lost his life as a result. Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rogers DSM, a Welshman and Second World War Royal Navy  veteran, along with 50 other men, was trapped in the sinking forward part of the stricken destroyer.

Recognising that he was too large to fit through the escape hatch, he organised the evacuation of those that could escape, then led his trapped comrades in a prayer and hymn as they met their fate. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross (GC), which is now held by the Australian War Memorial.

CPO Rogers GC DSM Medal Collection

Following the disaster two Royal Commissions were held in 1964 and 1968. The first Royal Commission ruled that the collision was the fault of HMAS Voyager’s bridge crew and also blamed the Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne, Captain John Robertson and two other officers on that ship. Robertson resigned after the first Royal Commission, rather than accept a shore posting to HMAS Watson (in effect a demotion) and was widely seen in the media as a scapegoat for the incident.

In 1967 a second Royal Commission was announced following increasing pressure from the public and the media, including claims made that the Commanding Officer of HMAS Voyager, Captain Duncan Stevens (who had died in the tragedy), was a heavy drinker and unfit for command. The second Royal Commission came to that finding and absolved Captain Robertson and the two other officers from HMAS Melbourne, of any blame.

You can find out more about HMAS Voyager (II) here: http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-voyager-ii

Naval News – RFA Mounts Bay (L3008) the ‘RFA Ship of the Year 2017’

RFA Mounts Bay

The Royal Navy announced on 10 January 2018 that RFA Mounts Bay (L3008) has been awarded the title of ‘RFA Ship of the Year’ for 2017, the second year in a row that she has won the award.

RFA Mounts Bay Ships Crest

Commissioned in 2006, RFA Mounts Bay is one of three 16,000 tonne Bay-class auxiliary landing ship dock (LSD(A)) of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She is named after Mount’s Bay in Cornwall.

RFA Mounts Bay was the first British naval vessel to arrive in the Caribbean following Hurricane Irma, which devastated Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands. She remained on station for almost a month delivering aid and materials ashore.

The award allows the ship to fly the Fleet Efficiency Flag for another year.

RFA Mounts Bay Ship of the Year 2017

You can find out more about RFA Mounts Bay here: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/royal-fleet-auxiliary/landing-ships/rfa-mounts-bay

 

 

 

Naval News – HMS Ocean (L12) sold to Brazilian Navy for £84 million ($145 million)

HMS Ocean

The current flagship of the Royal Navy (RN), HMS Ocean, has been sold to Brazil for £84 million.

The 22,000-tonne Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) carrier will be formally decommissioned from the RN in spring this year. Whilst it was well known that HMS Ocean was up for sale, with interest from Brazil and Turkey, reference to the sale was contained in the Brazilian Navy’s end of year statement published on Christmas Eve. To date, no official statement confirming the sale has been released by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) or the Royal Navy.

HMS Ocean was built for £150 million and was commissioned in September 1998. She underwent a £65 million refit in 2012, extending her life by three years.

Six RN ships have borne the name HMS Ocean.

HMS Ocean Badge

Motto: Ex undis surgit victoria (‘From the waves rises victory’)

Battle Honours:  Al Faw 2003

You can find out more about HMS Ocean here: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/surface-fleet/assault-ships/hms-oceanhttps://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/surface-fleet/assault-ships/hms-ocean

 

Naval News – New interim Canadian Replenishment Ship MV Asterix completes maiden voyage to Halifax

Federal Fleet Services Inc-Media Advisory - Arrival in Halifax o

MV Asterix, a Resolve Class Naval Support Ship, arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Wednesday 27 December 2017, after completing its conversion from a civilian container ship.

Resolve Badge

Owned by Federal Fleet Services, Asterix will be leased to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and commence service from 1 January 2018. She will be operated by a mixed crew and remain in service until HMCS Protecteur, the first of two new AORs based on the Berlin Class replenishment ship, commissions in 2021.

You can find out more about MV Asterix here: http://federalfleet.ca/2016/06/02/resolve-class-aor/

You can find out more about the new Protecteur class AORs here: http://www.navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/en/fleet-units/jss-home.page

Naval News – Missing Australian World War 1 Submarine AE1 found off the coast of New Guinea after 103 years

AE!

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) announced today that they have discovered the wreck of the Australian WW1 submarine AE1, which had been missing for over a century.

AE1

HMAS AE1 (originally known as just AE1) was an E-class submarine and the first to serve in the RAN. She was lost at sea with all hands near East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, on 14 September 1914, after less than seven months in service.

AE1 was discovered by a team led by the Submarine Institute of Australia on board the specialist Dutch survey ship the MV Fugro Equator. With $1 million in funding from the Australian Government and a private consortium they had commenced their search last Sunday.

Fugro Equator.jpg

They discovered that the boat suffered a catastrophic failure, probably during a practice dive, and struck a hard rocky bottom southeast of the Duke of York islands group.

AE1 Mao

The precise location of the wreck, and even details of the time it was discovered, are being kept secret to protect it from unauthorised salvage attempts.

It is understood there is no intention of attempting to retrieve the submarine, resting at a depth of more than 300 metres, which is regarded as a war grave.

AE1 Memorial Plaque

There had been several previous attempts over the years to locate the vessel, all unsuccessful. MV Fugro Equator is a specially designed offshore survey ship, that was involved in the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

You can find out more about AE1 here: http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-ae1

Naval News – HMNZS Endeavour (A11) de-commissions. To be replaced by HMNZS Aotearoa (A12) in 2020

HMNZS Endeavour

HMNZS Endeavour (A11), the Royal New Zealand Navy’s only replenishment ship, decommissioned in Auckland on Friday 15 December 2017 following almost 30 years in service.

Commissioned in 1988, she was the third RNZN ship to bear the name and saw operational service during Operation BIG TALK in Bougainville in 1990, Operation BEL ISI again in Bougainville in 1998 and Operation STABILISE in East Timor in 1999-2000.

HMNZS Endeavour Badge

Motto: ‘Nil Intentatum’ (Nothing unattempted)

Battle Honours: Cadiz 1596

Endeavour will be replaced by a new fleet tanker, the 24,000 tonne HMNZS Aotearoa* (A12), which will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea over 2018-2019. The new ship is scheduled to be delivered in 2020 and is the largest ship ever built for the Royal New Zealand Navy.

HMNZS Aotearoa

Aotearoa will have twice the displacement of her predecessor, carry 30 per cent more fuel and boast state of the art design and capability features including ice-strengthening and ‘winterisation’ for operations in Antarctica.

As she is the first RNZN ship of that name, during 2017 a public competition was held to design the ship’s badge. The winner will be unveiled on Waitangi Day on 6 February 2018 with the ten (10) shortlisted designs shown below.

HMNZS Aotearoa Shortlisted Badge Designs

You can find out more about both ships here:

HMNZS Endeavour – http://navy.mil.nz/mtf/endeavour/default.htm

HMNZS Aotearoa – https://www.aotearoa.mil.nz/about-the-ship

* = The Maori name for New Zealand – the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’