HMAS Platypus History

On 22 January 1963, with the Royal Navy (RN) intending to withdraw its Fourth Submarine Squadron from its base in Sydney, the Minister for the Navy, Senator John Gorton, announced Cabinet approval for the purchase of eight Oberon class submarines for the RAN, though the order was later reduced to six. Although the first of the new submarines, HMAS Oxley (II), would not commission until March 1967, consideration necessarily turned to where the submarines might be based.

Since World War II HMAS Penguin at Balmoral in Sydney had been used by the submarines of the Fourth Submarine Squadron but it was deemed unsuitable as a permanent establishment due to its exposed position. Neutral Bay, further inside Sydney Harbour, had, for many years, been used as a protected anchorage when weather conditions proved unsuitable at Penguin, and it was also home to the existing RAN torpedo maintenance facility. The availability of land close to an existing site, on a bay well-protected from the weather, made it an ideal location for a naval establishment and in November 1964 an announcement was made that Neutral Bay had been selected as the preferred site for the RAN’s new submarine base.

Construction of the main submarine wharf, July 1966
Construction of the main submarine wharf, July 1966
Support facilities under construction in July 1966
Support facilities under construction in July 1966

The new facility was formally named HMAS Platypus in a commissioning ceremony held on 18 August 1967. The selection of the name Platypus perpetuated a long association between the on-again-off-again RAN submarine service and two previous submarine tenders named Platypus which had sustained the former ‘J’ class submarines based at Corio Bay, Geelong, during the 1920s. Further details concerning the commissioning of Platypus may be found in the 18 August 1967 edition of Navy News:

Navy News - 18 Aug 1967
Navy News - 18 Aug 1967
pdf : 9.66 MB

Over the next 32 years, nine submarines operated from Platypus; six Australian Oberon class: Oxley (II), Otway (II), Ovens, Onslow, Orion and Otama, as well as HM Submarines Trump, Tabard and Odin.

An aerial view of HMAS Platypus c.1990
An aerial view of HMAS Platypus c.1990

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of her commissioning Platypus and the Australian Submarine Squadron were granted the right of Freedom of Entry by the Municipality of North Sydney. Special commemorations were held during ‘submarine week’ which took place in Sydney between 23-29 November. Read more on pages 10-11 of the December 1992 edition of Navy News:

Navy News - 4 Dec 1992
Navy News - 4 Dec 1992
pdf : 15.1 MB

In 1994 the headquarters of the Commander Australian Submarine Squadron (COMAUSUBRON) was relocated to HMAS Stirling. This foreshadowed the introduction into service of the new Collins class submarines and a strategic decision to relocate the RAN submarine squadron to Fleet Base West, Garden Island, WA in support of a ‘two ocean’ navy basing policy.

Five of the six Oberon class submarines nested at Platypus in the mid 1990s.
Five of the six Oberon class submarines nested at Platypus.

On 29 March 1999, Platypus bid farewell to the last of the operational Oberon class submarines. Onslow decommissioned on that day at Platypus while Otama departed Sydney for the last time on her way to her new homeport in Western Australia.

Ceremonial divisions at Platypus with one of the six Oberon class submarine visible in the background
Ceremonial divisions at Platypus with one of the six Oberon class submarine visible in the background

HMAS Platypus decommissioned on 14 May 1999 signifying the end of an era in Australian naval history.

Read more on page 3 of the April 1999 edition of Navy News:

Navy News - 19 Apr 1999
Navy News - 19 Apr 1999
pdf : 6.7 MB

 

Commanding Officers

Captain W.L. Owen, RAN, the first commanding officer of HMAS Platypus.
Captain W.L. Owen, RAN, the first commanding officer of HMAS Platypus.
Assumed Command Commanding Officer
18/08/1967 CMDR WL Owen, RAN
02/01/1970 CMDR GP Dalrymple, RAN
07/01/1973 CMDR TR Duchesne, RAN
03/02/1976 CAPT WL Owen, RAN
03/01/1979 CAPT B Nobes, RAN
22/01/1982 CAPT TR Duchesne, RAN
08/01/1985 CAPT IDG MacDougall, RAN
13/01/1986 CAPT PD Briggs, RAN
25/05/1988 CAPT KF Pitt, RAN
14/12/1989 CAPT GJ Dikkenberg, RAN
20/01/1993 CAPT DW Mole, RAN
07/12/1993 CMDR JI O’Brien, RAN
04/08/1994 LCDR SG Lloyd, RAN
01/09/1994 CMDR JC Stanbury, RAN
21/02/1997 CMDR GJ McCormack, RAN
02/11/1998 CMDR PCP Ong, RAN