Rear Admiral Rothesay Cathcart Swan

RADM Rothesay Cathcart Swan

Rothesay 'Ross' Cathcart Swan was born at Orange, NSW on 1 June 1926 and educated at Corowa. He entered the RAN College as a Cadet Midshipman in January 1940. He gained his colours for hockey, and on graduation in 1943 was awarded the prize for French and the Otto Albert Memorial Prize for Seamanship.

Swan became a Midshipman on 1 September 1943, and at the conclusion of hostilities was a Sub Lieutenant. His first ship was the heavy cruiser HMAS Shropshire, which he joined in October 1943. He saw service in her at the actions at Cape Gloucester, the Admiralty Islands and Hollandia. He then undertook four months service in the destroyer HMAS Arunta (May-September 1944) and was present during her operations at Biak. Swan returned to Shropshire in September 1944, and was present at the Leyte Gulf, Surigao Straits and Lingayen Gulf actions in 1944-45.

He left Shropshire in February 1945 and flew to Sydney. On arrival he was dispatched to the United Kingdom for his Sub Lieutenant's training courses, which he was still undertaking at the cessation of hostilities. On completion of these courses he was appointed to the Royal Navy base HMS St Angelo at Malta, for service with the Royal Navy. In December 1945 he became navigator in the minesweeper HMS Octavia, which operated in Tunisian waters and the Central Mediterranean during 1946, clearing World War II mines. Swan was promoted to Lieutenant in January 1947.

Upon return to Australia in May 1947 he served in the light cruiser HMAS Hobart, the motor refrigeration lighter (MRL) 251 and the sloop HMAS Swan until May 1949. He was then sent to England to undertake communications officer training at the Royal Navy Signal School at HMS Mercury. After qualifying as a communications officer he served on the staff of the Commander in Chief of the Home Fleet (embarked in the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable), during 1951-52, and then served on the staff at Mercury during 1952-53.

After returning to Australia he served briefly in the destroyer HMAS Anzac before being appointed to Navy Office in Melbourne, where he served in the Directorate of Communications during 1953-56. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in January 1955. Swan then served in the UK during 1956-59 as the staff officer communications for the RAN Liaison Officer, in the High Commission in London, and also completed the Royal Navy Staff College course in 1958-59.

Upon return to Australia in June 1959 he became the Fleet Communications Officer, serving in the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. In January 1960 he was posted as the Executive Officer of the destroyer HMAS Voyager, during which time the ship conducted a number of deployments to South East Asia on Far East Strategic Reserve (FESR), and South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) exercises. Swan was promoted to Commander in December 1960, but remained as Executive Officer of Voyager.

In August 1961 Commander Swan became the Naval Member of the Military Planning Office in SEATO Headquarters in Bangkok. He returned to Australia in late 1963, and was appointed to become the commissioning Commanding Officer of the frigate HMAS Derwent. He oversaw the last few months of the ship's construction and commissioned her in April 1964. During his time in command the frigate conducted a number of deployments to Southeast Asia, and was also involved in active service during the Indonesian Confrontation. He handed over command of Derwent in May 1965, and was posted to Navy Office into the Service Projects Office (Department of Defence).

He was promoted to Captain in December 1966, and became the Director of Manning and Training for the RAN in early 1967. In April 1969, Captain Swan became the Commanding Officer of the destroyer HMAS Hobart. During his period in command, Hobart served with the US 7th Fleet on operational duties in Vietnamese waters for six months, conducting naval gunfire support missions. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1971 for his service in command of Hobart during her deployment to Vietnam.

Captain Swan became the Director of Naval Communications in early 1971, and in March that year was elevated to the rank of Commodore. During 1971-74 he was the Director of Joint Services Communications, and then attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in London in 1975. Upon his return to Australia he became the Chief of Staff at Fleet Headquarters in 1976.

Commodore Swan was appointed as the Commanding Officer of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne in January 1977. During his time in command, the carrier took part in the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee celebrations and Fleet Review in England during June 1977, and Exercise RIMPAC 78 in Hawaii during April 1978. He relinquished command of Melbourne in late May 1978.

Swan was promoted to Rear Admiral in June 1978, and posted as the Director-General of the Natural Disasters Organisation. In 1981 he became the Controller of Establishments within the Department of Defence. He was subsequently appointed as an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) in 1982 for services as the Director-General of the Natural Disasters Organisation, and as Controller of Establishments in the Department of Defence.

Rear Admiral Swan retired from the RAN in 1983, and the following year became the Director Tall Ships - Australia (Bicentennial Authority). He has also been deeply involved in the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme.

Royal Australian Navy senior officers at a mess dinner in Canberra, ACT on 9 March 1981. L-R: Rear Admiral Stevens, Rear Admiral Lynam, Rear Admiral Rourke, Rear Admiral Swan, Vice Admiral Willis, Rear Admiral Loosli, Rear Admiral Leach, Rear Admiral Doyle and Rear Admiral Robertson.
Royal Australian Navy senior officers at a mess dinner in Canberra, ACT on 9 March 1981. L-R: Rear Admiral Stevens, Rear Admiral Lynam, Rear Admiral Rourke, Rear Admiral Swan, Vice Admiral Willis, Rear Admiral Loosli, Rear Admiral Leach, Rear Admiral Doyle and Rear Admiral Robertson.