- Ramsay, George
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Nepal, HMAS Westralia II
- March 1990 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
It was interesting recently, when the ex RFA APPLELEAF was acquired and joined the ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY, to be renamed WESTRALIA, (the Second Ship of that name in the RAN after the AMC later LSI WESTRALIA). This APPLELEAF served the fleet during the Falklands conflict.
She will join HMAS SUCCESS as a fleet fuel replenishment ship, with WESTRALIA to be based on HMAS STIRLING at Garden Island in Western Australia, and will mainly serve the requirements of the Two Ocean Navy, in the Western area of our vast continent It was one of the most essential of the ‘Shopping List Needs’ of Commodore R.M. (Malcolm) BAIRD, when he was here in WA as NOCWA, to service the operations of the Two Ocean Navy in the Indian Ocean.
Under her first Commanding Officer, Commander John MOORE, WESTRALIA is 171 metres long with a beam of 26 metres, displacement tonnage (full) over 40,000 tonnes, and carries some 20,000 tonnes of fuel — diesel/aviation needs, with three fuelling positions, one of each on both beams and one astern. With a ship’s complement of about eighty, she will be the largest ship in the RAN. She was launched in 1975, and commissioned as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 1979, in the UK.
The name APPLELEAF is very familiar to the sailors of the ‘N’ class destroyers — Napier, Norman, Nestor, Nizam and Nepal, as the previous APPLELEAF was a constant fleet member in the 1940s, and all those ‘N’ boats were fuelled many times by her, both at sea and in harbour. One ‘N’ destroyer, NEPAL, especially had a very big ‘thank you’ for her services, and this is the reason.
After being drafted to England early in 1941, I originally commissioned NORMAN in John Thomycroft’s yard at Southampton, in September, 1941, and served happily in her till one day — February 23, 1943. In the African (Kenya) Port of Mombasa, at the ungodly hour of 0430 am I received a ‘crash draft’ to join NEPAL At 0600 am, with bag and hammock hurriedly packed up, I left NORMAN with several other shipmates, and in NEPAL’s motor boat travelled across the harbour to join NEPAL That Sunday was really a ‘Shuffle around’ day as sailors from NEPAL and NIZAM crossed over to NORMAN and other ‘N’ class men who had been overseas a considerable time, most over three years, were also being transferred to NEPAL — for as the ‘buz’ had it, it seemed NEPAL was the first ‘N’ boat to sail ‘home’ to Australia.
In NEPAL, now with almost a new crew — (though they were very experienced indeed), a certain amount of ‘working up’ was required, but this was no great problem, and the ship carried out the fleet’s requirements as though no changes had taken place.
On March 11, NEPAL, in company with HM Ships QUILLIAM and FOXHOUND departed Mombasa, then to join HMS WARSPITE and escorted her south to Durban. On arrival at Durban, again a transfer of sailors, now from NAPIER to NEPAL, and on Friday, March 19, NEPAL departed from Durban with a very happy complement now, as it was soon confirmed we were Australia bound.
Our course first was to the island of Mauritius, and it seemed the gods may not have liked us leaving the area, as conditions rapidly deteriorated and the ship encountered gale force winds and mountainous seas which slowed the progress unmercifully. At 0800 on Tuesday, 23, we arrived Mauritius, to secure (Mediterranean mooring style) between our anchor and a stern buoy, to fuel from a floating pipeline installation. In pretty smart time, we were on our way again at 1300 and on a north easterly course headed for our next destination — Diego Garcia, at 18 knots. But another anti cyclone engulfed NEPAL and again it was mountainous seas and gale force winds. There now seemed certain, we had a Jonah aboard. The next day we were all but hove to just maintaining a heading into the seas, and staying somewhere near our course, the upper deck was almost demolished, both the motor boat and the jolly boat were smashed up, ammo lockers torn away, guard rail stanchions and structures amidships all bent and twisted. The captain and watchkeeping officers who were up for’d were victualled and slept up there, and the depth charge crew and other sailors down aft stayed in the officers’ cabins and dined from the officers’ galley. On Thursday we ran out of that cyclone, and all hands turned to, to try and clear up the mess on the upper deck, and to bail out some of the lower decks. And I might add, many lost their ‘green’ colour and almost — very thankfully — returned to somewhat normal.