On This Day
1960-1975 > Vietnam era
On This Day - 1960-1975
- December 26, 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.
- December 25, 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‘.
- November 22, 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.
- November 14, 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.
- October 18, 1974
RAN Clearance Divers completed the disposal of 5,096 pieces of WWII ordnance in Papua-New Guinea.
- October 4, 1974
HMAS ANZAC, (Battle class destroyer), was paid off at Sydney.
- September 27, 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.
- September 7, 1974
HMAS BOMBARD, (LEUT R. Cook, RAN), completed the first circumnavigation of Australia by a patrol boat.
- August 28, 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.
- August 11, 1974
HMAS ANZAC, (Battle class destroyer), was paid off for disposal at Sydney.