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 – 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 – New additions to the RN and RAN Surface Fleets

HMS Queen Elizabeth conducts vital system tests off the coast of Scotland

There have been two recent significant additions to the Surface Fleets of both the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

On Thursday 7 December 2017 HMS Queen Elizabeth (R09), the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers, was commissioned in front of Her Majesty The Queen.

At almost 70,000 tons, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy as is based in Portsmouth. She begins Operational Sea Trials (OST) in January 2018 before conducting integrated flight trials with F-35Bs from 617 Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF) later in the year in the US.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Ships Crest

The ship’s motto is ‘Semper eadem‘ which means ‘Always the same‘ and she inherits five (5) battle honours from the two previous RN ships of the same name:

DARDANELLES 1915

CRETE 1941

SABANG 1944

BURMA 1944-45

EAST INDIES 1945

You can find out more about her here: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/queenelizabeth

On Saturday 23 September 2017, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) welcomed HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) to the fleet.

HMAS Hobart Commissioning

HMAS Hobart is the first of three Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers (DDGs) based on the Spanish F100 class Frigate, and equipped with the Aegis Baseline 7.1 Combat System from the United States.

HMAS Hobart III Crest

The ship’s motto is ‘Grow with Strength’ which is taken from the coat of arms of the City of Hobart. She inherits nine (9) battle honours from the two previous RAN ships of the same name:

MEDITERRANEAN 1941

INDIAN OCEAN 1941

CORAL SEA 1942

SAVO ISLAND 1942

GUADALCANAL 1942

PACIFIC 1942–45

EAST INDIES 1940

BORNEO 1945

VIETNAM 1967-70

HMAS Hobart Battle Honours Board

You can find out more about her here:  http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-hobart-iii

 

 

 

Naval News – Australia names new RAN Replenishment Ships

The Spanish Replenishment Oiler ESPS Cantabria leads Division five into Sydney Harbour for the International Fleet Review 2013.jpg

The Australian Minister for Defence, Marise Payne has announced the names of the two new Support Ships that will be built by Navantia based on the SPS Cantabria (A15) Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) currently in service with the Spanish Navy.

They are:

HMAS Supply

HMAS Supply Ships Crest

The last RAN ship of that name was a Tide-class Fleet Tanker (AO 195) in RAN service from 1962 until 1985.

HMAS Supply AO195

HMAS Stalwart

HMAS Stalwart Ships Crest

The last RAN ship of that name was a Destroyer Tender (D215) in RAN service from 1968 until 1990.

HMAS Stalwart D215

Both ships should enter service from 2020 and reach Full Operating Capability (FOC) by 2022. They replace the existing HMAS Success (OR304), which has been in service since 1986, and HMAS Sirius (O266) which is a converted commercial tanker in service since 2006.