Otranto Shields

 

 

At the end of each year the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Proficiency Awards are announced. One of the oldest of these is the Otranto Shield which is awarded annually in December to the fleet unit which, in the opinion of the Commander of the Australian Fleet, has achieved the best and most consistent gunnery and surface-to-air missile results during the year.

This, however, has not always been the case. Originally there were two Otranto Shields, one being for gunnery and the other being for torpedo gunnery.  The provenance of the shields can be traced to 1910 when Australian sailors were taking passage in the Orient passenger liner Otranto on their way to pick up the new torpedo boat destroyers Parramatta and Yarra. Recognising the uniqueness of the occasion, passengers in the Otranto donated a generous amount of money to fund two ornate presentation shields to be competed for by the men of the Australian Navy.

The shields were manufactured by a leading London firm and each contained 200 ounces of silver. The cost was £132 each which today equates to a staggering $18,000. Once made, the shields were conveyed to Melbourne by the Otranto which had the pleasure of catching up with the two destroyers in Colombo during their passage to Australia.


A rare photograph of the original Otranto Shield for torpedo gunnery seen here onboard HMAS Yarra (I).

Lost with HMAS Voyager (II) was the Otranto Shield for torpedo gunnery which she had won in 1963. On 10 February 1984, 20 years after Voyager’s sinking, the RAN instituted the HMAS Voyager (II) Trophy for anti-submarine warfare proficiency, to be awarded annually to the "...escort which in the opinion of the Fleet Commander has achieved the best and most consistent anti-submarine sensor and weapon performance during the year." The inaugural winner was the guided missile frigate HMAS Canberra (II) for the year ended 1983. The most prolific winners have been HMAS Darwin, with five awards, and HMAS Perth (II) with four.

Rear Admiral William Dovers presents the Otranto Shield to HMAS Duchess' Commanding Officer, Commander J. More. c. 1972. The appearance of the shield changed slightly in the years following to accommodate the names of the many ships that had won it.

HMAS Darwin crew members pose with the Otranto Shield in 1987.

A search for records of all recipients of both Otranto shields is underway and this will be added when located. The table below records those ships awarded the surviving Otranto Shield since 1980:

YEAR SHIP YEAR SHIP
1980 HMAS HOBART 2010 HMAS WARRAMUNGA
1981 HMAS PERTH 2011 HMAS TOOWOOMBA 
1982 HMAS PARRAMATTA 2012 HMAS PERTH
1983 HMAS TORRENS 2013 HMAS PARRAMATTA
1984 HMAS ADELAIDE 2014 HMAS ARUNTA
1985 HMAS CANBERRA 2015 HMAS PERTH
1986 HMAS PERTH 2016 HMAS BALLARAT
1987 HMAS DARWIN 2017 HMAS TOOWOOMBA
1988 HMAS HOBART    
1989 HMAS SYDNEY    
1990 HMAS SYDNEY    
1991 HMAS DARWIN    
1992 HMAS HOBART    
1993 HMAS MELBOURNE    
1994 HMAS PERTH    
1995 HMAS BRISBANE    
1996 HMAS PERTH    
1997 HMAS BRISBANE    
1998 HMAS ANZAC    
1999 HMAS ARUNTA    
2000 HMAS ARUNTA    
2001 HMAS MELBOURNE     
2002 HMAS ARUNTA    
2003 HMAS STUART    
2004 HMAS ARUNTA    
2005 HMAS WARRAMUNGA    
2006 HMAS ARUNTA    
2007 HMAS TOOWOOMBA    
2008 HMAS ANZAC    
2009 HMAS ANZAC    

Petty Officer Electronics Technician David Jackson accepts the Otranto Shield on behalf of HMAS Arunta from the Commander Surface Force, Commodore Lee Goddard, CSC, RAN. 4th June 2015