Rear Admiral Geoffrey Francis Smith

Deputy Chief of Navy (1999 - 2000)

Commander Australian Fleet (2000 - 2002)

RADM Smith

Geoffrey Francis ‘Geoff’ Smith was born in Sydney on 16 May 1950 and entered the Royal Australian Naval College (HMAS Creswell) in January 1968 as a senior entry Cadet Midshipman. In late 1969 he undertook training in the fast troop transport HMAS Sydney which included a deployment to Vung Tau, in South Vietnam, to disembark troops of the 8th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment and the return to Australia of soldiers of the 9th Battalion. On graduation in December 1970 he was promoted Acting Sub Lieutenant and proceeded to the United Kingdom for warfare officer courses.

On return to Australia he was confirmed in the rank of Sub Lieutenant and joined the destroyer HMAS Vampire, in November 1971, for training as a seaman officer. Vampire deployed to Southeast Asian waters in early 1972 and Smith was awarded his watch keeping certificate while serving in her. He was afterwards appointed Executive Officer of the patrol boat HMAS Ladava in October 1972. Smith was promoted Lieutenant in March 1973.

Lieutenant Smith was appointed in command of Ladava on 25 June 1973. Ladava was one of five RAN patrol boats based at HMAS Tarangau (Manus Island) which provided maritime support to what was the Australian controlled territory of Papua and New Guinea.  In mid-1974 he served briefly at the Marine Support Section at Creswell. In October 1974 Lieutenant Smith was appointed flag lieutenant to the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Sir David Stevenson AC, KBE, RAN. He fulfilled this high profile role until May 1975 when he became the staff officer to the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Geoffrey Gladstone.

In December 1975, Smith joined the destroyer escort HMAS Yarra as a bridge watch-keeping officer. During his service in Yarra the ship operated in Australian waters and undertook the installation and trials of the Mulloka anti-submarine warfare system. Smith then served at the Navigation School at HMAS Watson (October 1976-April 1977) before joining the guided missile destroyer HMAS Hobart while the ship was in a major refit at Garden Island. 

In October 1977, Lieutenant Smith again proceeded to the United Kingdom this time to undertake the Principal Warfare Officers course; specialising in gunnery. On completion he served on exchange with the Royal Navy both at sea and ashore. He then undertook additional warfare courses in the United States before promotion to Lieutenant Commander in December 1980.

Smith was posted to HMAS Cerberus in February 1981, for service at the gunnery school. In December of that year he joined the guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth as the gunnery officer. During his time on board, Perth deployed to the North West Indian Ocean in 1982, as part of the independent Australian response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

In May 1983 he returned to Watson as training staff at the RAN Tactical School. He was promoted commander in December 1984 and joined the destroyer HMAS Brisbane as Executive Officer. The ship operated in Australian, New Zealand and South West Pacific waters during the early part of 1985. On 26 August 1985 Commander Smith took command of Brisbane just before the ship entered a major capability upgrade at Garden Island, which lasted until November 1987. He relinquished command of Brisbane on 16 December 1986 and returned to Cerberus as officer in charge of the gunnery school. 

In May 1988 he was appointed in command of the east coast based destroyer escort HMAS Parramatta. In July-August Parramatta took part in Exercise RIMPAC 88 in Hawaiian waters, before returning to Sydney via Samoa, to participate in the Bicentennial Naval Review in October. During April-July 1989 Parramatta deployed to Southeast Asia as part of the Government’s program of rolling deployment to that region. The ship visited Surabaya (Indonesia), Lumut (Malaysia), Singapore, Sattahip (Thailand), Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), Manila (The Philippines), Hong Kong, and Jakarta (Indonesia) and conducted various exercises with regional navies.  Parramatta then took part in Exercise KANGAROO 89 in northern Australian waters, during August before returning to Sydney.  

Commander Smith relinquished command of Parramatta on 21 November 1989 and was promoted Captain in December 1989. He was then appointed to Navy Office, in Canberra, as the Director of Naval Training and Education. In August 1990 he was loaned to the Force Structure Review Team for six months before taking up the role as the Director Combat Force Development (Sea) in April 1991 where among other projects, he was closely involved in finalising the design for the new Anzac class frigate. Captain Smith proceeded to the United States in August 1993 and completed the US Navy Command Course, for senior foreign officers, at the US Naval War College, Rhode Island. He also completed a Master of Science degree at Salve Regina University.

Following his return to Australia in January 1995 he took command of HMAS Perth. During his time in command the destroyer operated in South East Asia on multi-national exercises and deployed to Hawaii for Exercise RIMPAC 96. Smith was promoted Commodore on 31 March 1996, but retained command of Perth and did not assume the new rank until July 1996. In June 1996, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for exceptional service to the Australian Defence Force, particularly as the commanding officer of Perth.

As a Commodore, Smith was afterwards appointed Director General Naval Policy and Warfare (1996-97) at Navy Office, Commandant of the ADF Warfare Centre (1997-99), at RAAF Base Williamtown, and Commander Northern Command, in Darwin, in early 1999. He was promoted Rear Admiral in July 1999; becoming the Deputy Chief of Navy. A year later, in July 2000, he was appointed Maritime Commander. 

During his tenure as the Maritime Commander the RAN was exceptionally busy, with ships routinely deployed to the Solomon Islands for Operation TREK, undertaking border protection patrols as part of Operations RELEX and RELEX II, providing logistics support for Operation BELISI in Bougainville and deployed to the Middle East Area of Operations for Operation DAMASK X. The RAN also committed a task group of three ships to the Middle East as part of Operation SLIPPER following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. 

In January 2002 Rear Admiral Smith was appointed as an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for his services as the Deputy Chief of Navy and as the Maritime Commander. Rear Admiral Geoff Smith retired from the RAN in July 2002 after 34 years’ service.