On this day:

1960-1975 > Vietnam era

08 Aug 1973

HMAS BETANO, (landing ship heavy), was commissioned.

10 Aug 1973

The landing craft heavy HMAS WEWAK, was commissioned. WEWAK was laid down in Walker’s Yard, Maryborough, QLD, in March 1972, and launched on 18 May 1972.

17 Oct 1973

HMPNGS SALAMAUA, (landing craft heavy), was commissioned into the PNGDF. She was a sister ship to the RAN LCH’s, and was a gift from Australia to Papua New Guinea.

18 Oct 1973

UPI and AP issued a press release quoting: General Brown, US Air Force Chief-of-Staff; ‘Early in the summer of 1968 near the Demilitarised Zone, [Vietnam], there was a series of [UFO] sightings which set off quite a battle, with an Australian destroyer taking a hit’. The destroyer was HMAS HOBART, hit by US aircraft missiles.

19 Oct 1973

The landing craft heavy HMAS SALAMAUA, was commissioned. SALAMAUA was laid down in Walker’s Yard, Maryborough, Queensland.

13 Nov 1973

HMAS SYDNEY, (aircraft carrier), was sold for scrapping.

16 Nov 1973

HMAS BANDOLIER, (patrol boat), was transferred to the Indonesian Navy and renamed SIBARAU.

23 Nov 1973

VADM Sir Hugh David Stevenson, AC, KBE, was appointed Chief of Naval Staff.

29 Nov 1973

The Department of the Navy ceased to exist. It was merged with the Departments of Army and Air to form the Department of Defence.

07 Dec 1973

HMPNGS BUNA, (landing craft heavy), was commissioned into the PNGDF. She was a sister ship to the RAN LCH vessels, and was a gift from Australia to Papua New Guinea.

04 Jan 1974

RADM D. C. Wells, CBE, was appointed Flag Officer Commanding Her Majesty’s Australian Fleet.

01 Feb 1974

HMAS CAIRNS, (Shore Establishment in Cairns), was commissioned.

04 Feb 1974

RADM D. C. Wells, CBE, was appointed Flag Officer Commanding Her Majesty’s Australian Fleet.

08 Feb 1974

The landing craft heavy HMAS BETANO, was commissioned. BETANO was laid down in Walkers Yard, Maryborough, QLD, in September 1972, and launched on 5 December 1972.

10 Feb 1974

HMAS TORRENS escorted the royal yacht BRITANNIA on the Royal Tour of the Pacific.

06 Mar 1974

HMAS VENDETTA, (Daring class destroyer), picked up a boat containing survivors from the merchant ship WARAWI, which had foundered in the Arafura Sea.

13 May 1974

The rank of Commodore was established as a one-star rank in the RAN.

25 May 1974

HMAS SWAN, (destroyer escort), rescued the crew of the disabled yacht CUTTY SARK, in 95 knot winds south of Norah Head, NSW. PO D. Krietling, AB R. Lindsay, and AB D. Ruhl, leapt into the sea to rescue the yacht’s crew.

17 Jun 1974

LEUT K. Frank, RAN, of Samarai, Papua-New Guinea, was appointed to command HMAS LADAVA, (patrol boat). LEUT Frank was the first New Guinea native to command a ship of the RAN.

19 Jun 1974

HMAS BUNA, (landing craft heavy), lost her bow ramp in heavy seas off the NSW coast. She was taken in tow and brought safely into port by HMAS PARRAMATTA, (destroyer escort).

11 Jul 1974

Damage was minimal when the Greek cruise liner AUSTRALIS, collided with HMAS MELBOURNE, (aircraft carrier), off Garden Island, Sydney. MELBOURNE was berthed at the time, and AUSTRALIS was approaching her berth.

11 Aug 1974

HMAS ANZAC, (Battle class destroyer), was paid off for disposal at Sydney.

28 Aug 1974

Iroquois helicopters of the RAN Fleet Air Arm rescued 112 people when the Shoalhaven River broke its banks. Another 240 people were rescued by Navy personnel in ground operations.

07 Sep 1974

HMAS BOMBARD, (LEUT R. Cook, RAN), completed the first circumnavigation of Australia by a patrol boat.

27 Sep 1974

The landing craft heavy HMAS BALIKPAPAN, (LEUT M. D. Otter, RAN), was commissioned. BALIKPAPAN was laid down in Walker’s Yard, Maryborough, QLD, and completed in 1972. Mrs Peacock, (Wife of the Minister for the Army), performed the launching ceremony for the Army. Although BALIKPAPAN was the first LCH built, she was the last to commission into the RAN. All eight craft under construction in 1972-1973 were originally planned for the Australian Army.

04 Oct 1974

HMAS ANZAC, (Battle class destroyer), was paid off at Sydney.

18 Oct 1974

RAN Clearance Divers completed the disposal of 5,096 pieces of WWII ordnance in Papua-New Guinea.

14 Nov 1974

The Australian White Ensign was lowered for the last time in Papua New Guinea. The RAN base, HMAS TARANGAU, and HMA Ships BUNA, SALAMAUA, AITAPE, LAE, and MADANG were transferred to the Papua New Guinea Self-Defence Force.

HMAS BASILISK, (shore establishment at Port Moresby), was re-commissioned under CMDR P. Paffard, RAN.

22 Nov 1974

HRH Queen Elizabeth II approved the immediate award of the AFC to LEUT A. Baker, RAN, for ‘great skill, coolness and initiative in the rescue of survivors from the Danish freighter MARC ENTERPRISE, off Plymouth, England. LEUT Baker piloted a Sea King helicopter in a gale which exceeded 70 knots. He hovered over 15 metre waves to effect the rescues.

25 Dec 1974

Cyclone Tracy struck and leveled the city of Darwin.

The Naval Headquarters building was destroyed, and the Naval Officer Commanding Northern Australia, (CAPT E. E. Johnston, OBE, RAN), and two of his staff, were trapped in the rubble, and had to dig their way out.

In the harbour the patrol boats HMAS ARROW, (LEUT R. G. Dagworthy, RAN), and HMAS ATTACK, (LEUT P. Degraaff, RAN), attempted to sail and ride out the storm as sea. Neither vessel made it out of the harbour. ATTACK was blown ashore and damaged, and ARROW was driven under Stokes Hill Wharf, and sank with the loss of two of her crew, (PO Leslie Catton and AB Ian Rennie). HMA Ships ADVANCE and ASSAIL, (patrol boats), also suffered some damage, but remained afloat.

Later that day CAPT Johnston was able to re-establish communications with Fleet Headquarters, and advise them of the total destruction of Darwin, and loss of vessels and life. He later wrote;

The scene at first light was beyond belief, the harbour empty, every building within eyesight destroyed with the exception of Government House. Soon after dawn the crew of the patrol boat ARROW arrived outside my wrecked headquarters to report that their vessel had been driven under Stokes Hill Wharf, losing two crew in the process‘.

26 Dec 1974

Operation Navy Help, to assist with the clean up and re-establishment of services in the shattered city of Darwin, commenced.

The first RAN asset to arrive was an HS748 aircraft, on 26 December, carrying blood transfusion equipment and a team of Red Cross workers. Shortly after a second HS 748 arrived carrying personnel from CDT1. HMAS MELBOURNE, (aircraft carrier), and HMAS BRISBANE, (guided missile destroyer), sailed from Sydney. HMA Ships STUART, STALWART, SUPPLY, HOBART, and VENDETTA, sailed two days later.

HMA Ships BALIKPAPAN, BETANO, BRUNEI, TARAKAN, and WEWAK, (landing craft heavy), also sailed from Queensland ports, in what was to become the largest peace-time mission mounted by the RAN.

The first ships arrived on 31 December, and over the next 4 weeks the RAN provided over 18,000 man days of effort to clean up Darwin, create temporary accommodation, restore some services, and bring in supplies and material to help the civilian population.

31 Dec 1974

HMA Ships BRISBANE and FLINDERS were the first ships to arrive in Darwin, to commence work as part of Operation Navy Help, the cleanup and rebuilding of Darwin following the devastating effects of Cyclone Tracy. FLINDERS surveyed the entrance to Darwin Harbour to ensure the safe passage of the RAN Task Group, and BRISBANE landed work parties to commence the massive job of cleaning up the devastated city.

01 Jan 1975

HMAS MELBOURNE, (aircraft carrier), and HMAS STUART, (destroyer escort), arrived in the cyclone destroyed city of Darwin. Over the following days they were joined by HMA Ships STALWART, HOBART, SUPPLY, VENDETTA, BALIKPAPAN, BETANO, TARAKAN, and WEWAK. CDT1 also arrived to recover the wreck of HMAS ARROW from underneath Stokes Hill Wharf. During the period 1 to 30 January 1975 the RAN contributed 17,979 man-days of effort in cleaning up the city. The peak was 1200 personnel ashore at the height of the clean up operation. Wessex helicopters from the Task Group carried some 7832 passengers and delivered over 110,000kg of cargo ashore. RAN HS 748 aircraft from HMAS ALBATROSS, Nowra, NSW, made 14 return flights into the city and carried 485 passengers, and delivered nearly 23,000kg of cargo.

07 Jan 1975

RAN Clearance Diving Team 2 recovered bodies from vehicles under the collapsed span of the Tasman Bridge at Hobart. The divers worked under difficult conditions in murky water.

13 Jan 1975

RAN Clearance Diving Team 1, under LEUT D. Ramsden, RAN, salvaged the patrol boat HMAS ARROW at Darwin. The patrol boat sank during Cyclone Tracy.

30 Jan 1975

Operation Navy Help, the support to the clean up and rebuilding of Darwin following Cyclone Tracy, was completed. Over a dozen RAN warships, and thousands of sailors had been involved in the operation, and contributed greatly to getting Darwin cleaned up, and restoring essential services. The next day the last two warships, (HMA Ships STALWART and BRISBANE), departed. BRISBANE had the distinction of being one of the first ships to arrive in Darwin on 31 December, and being one the last to leave.

13 Mar 1975

The patrol boat HMAS ASSAIL, (LEUT C. Cleveland, RAN) intercepted three Indonesian fishing boats poaching in Australian territorial waters in Admiralty Gulf, WA. The subsequent court case was the precedent for prosecutions under the Australian Fisheries Act, 1975. In the pursuit of the Indonesian vessels, ASSAIL discovered an uncharted passage between North Eclipse and Jones Islands.

24 Mar 1975

The destroyer escort HMAS PARRAMATTA, (CMDR J. D. Foster, RAN), became the first RAN warship to visit the scene of the killing of CAPT James Cook, RN, at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii.

20 Apr 1975

The patrol boat HMAS AWARE, (LEUT G. Sproule, RAN), apprehended four Taiwanese vessels, and one Indonesian vessel, that were fishing in Australian territorial waters near Dampier, WA.

12 May 1975

HMAS QUEENBOROUGH, the last of the five ‘Q’ class destroyers presented to the RAN as a gift by Great Britain, was towed out of Sydney, bound for Hong Kong and breaking up.

'On This Day' is based on the book "Navy Day by Day: Historic Naval Events in Australia and Abroad" written by the late Lew Lind. More information.

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