HMAS
Brisbane
(II)

HMAS Brisbane (II)
Class
Charles F Adams (Modified Perth) Class
Type
Guided Missile Destroyer
Pennant
D41
Builder
Defoe Shipbuilding, Bay City Michigan, USA
Laid Down
15 February 1965
Launched
5 May 1966
Launched by
Mrs FC Chaney, Wife of Minister for the Navy
Commissioned
16 December 1967
Decommissioned
19 October 2001
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 4850 tonnes
Length 133.2 metres
Beam 14.3 metres
Draught 6.1 metres
Performance
Speed 36 knots
Complement
Crew 311
Propulsion
Machinery Two General Electric geared steam turbines driving two shafts
Horsepower 70,000
Armament
Missiles SM-1 surface-to-air missiles
Guns 2 x 5-inch 54 calibre rapid fire guns
Torpedoes 2 x Mk 32 triple torpedo tubes
Awards
Inherited Battle Honours INDIAN OCEAN 1917
Battle Honours
HMAS Brisbane (II) Badge

HMAS Brisbane (II) was the third of three improved Charles F Adams class guided missile destroyers (DDG) built in the United States for the RAN; her sister ships were HMA Ships Perth (II) and Hobart (II). The destroyers were referred to in the RAN as Perth class DDGs and their primary role was air defence. Seen by many as one of the most successful acquisitions in the post-World War II era, the ships had vastly increased capabilities in all warfare areas, but particularly air defence, and command and control.

With the decision to cease fixed wing naval aviation in the early 1960s, a need arose to replace the capability previously provided by the carrier, HMAS Melbourne (II). The River class frigates, which were at the time still under construction, were expected to address anti-submarine capability, but air defence capability still needed to be addressed. For naval planners, the choice came down to the Royal Navy’s (RN) County class destroyers, designed around the Sea Slug surface-to-air missile system, and the United States Navy’s (USN) Charles F Adams class destroyers designed around the Tartar missile system. The Tartar system was a superior weapons platform to the Sea Slug and offered the added bonus of being compact enough to be retrofitted into the RAN’s existing Daring and Battle class destroyers, but any decision to acquire an American design still bore considerable risk. As the Chief of Naval Staff at the time, Vice Admiral Sir Henry M Burrell, KBE, CB, RAN, stated “It was not the ships and equipment that worried me but the practicability of dealing with logistics, problems resulting from different types, sizes and nomenclature of equipment.”

Brisbane taking shape at the Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Bay City, Michigan.
Brisbane taking shape at the Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Bay City, Michigan.

As it was, the Admiralty was unable to meet the RAN’s design specifications and the American option was accepted. On 29 June 1961, the Minister for Defence, Mr Athol Townley, announced the decision to acquire two DDGs, to be built in American shipyards. A third DDG, which became Brisbane, was later ordered in lieu of modifying the existing Battle and, later, Daring classes.

Brisbane takes to the water for the first time in spectacular fashion.
Brisbane takes to the water for the first time in spectacular fashion.
 

Construction of Brisbane began at the Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Bay City, Michigan, on 15 February 1965. She was the 27th DDG to be built in the United States and the third for Australia. She was launched on 5 May 1966 by the wife of the Minister for the Navy, Mrs Mavis Mary Chaney, in front of a crowd of approximately 5000 people. After receiving a telegram from her sister ship, Hobart, stating “Come on in, the water’s fine", Brisbane slid down the 70-foot slipway and into the Saginaw River.

HMAS Brisbane in dry dock in the Boston Naval Shipyard. Her commissioning day was declared 'Brisbane Day' throughout the 'Commonwealth' of Massachusetts.
HMAS Brisbane in dry dock in the Boston Naval Shipyard. Her commissioning day was declared 'Brisbane Day' throughout the 'Commonwealth' of Massachusetts.

She was commissioned in the RAN under the command of Captain Alan Willis, RAN, on 16 December 1967 at Number One Pier, Boston Naval Shipyard. In honour of the occasion, the day had been declared Brisbane Day throughout the ‘Commonwealth’ of Massachusetts by the Governor, Mr John A Volpe.

A comprehensive internal training program began on 18 December as the final fit-out of the ship continued. Colours were half-masted from 20 to 22 December, and a memorial service conducted on board, as a mark of respect to the late Prime Minister Harold Holt who had disappeared while swimming at Cheviot Beach on Port Philip Bay the day after Brisbane had commissioned. Other USN ships in Boston at the time joined Brisbane in half-masting their colours. The following May, Captain Willis attended an informal ceremony for the keel-laying of the USN destroyer escort named in Mr Holt’s honour at the Todd Shipyard in San Pedro, California.

The ship’s company had been in Boston for some months prior to the commissioning and had developed an excellent rapport with the local community. Many Boston families hosted crew members to Christmas lunch in their own homes and their generosity was reciprocated early in January 1968 when many members of the crew answered an emergency call for blood donations from the Red Cross when inclement weather had caused a blood shortage in Boston hospitals. More than half of Brisbane’s complement donated some 80 pints of blood. On 1 February 1968, the President of the United States of America, Mr Lyndon B Johnson, penned the following commissioning letter:

 

Dear Captain Willis,

The firm bond of friendly cooperation between the United States and the Commonwealth of Australia, brought home to me by my recent visit to your country, is further strengthened by the remarkable spirit of the members of the crew of HMAS Brisbane in response to an emergency request for blood from Boston hospitals.

I have been told that the crew found Boston a pleasant and hospitable town during their stay of several months there while the Brisbane was being commissioned in Boston Navy Yard.

That hospitality was more than amply repaid when, nearly 300-strong, the Brisbane’s crew answered this appeal despite hazardous wintry conditions that almost paralyzed the city, and curtailed activity of blood collections causing a dangerous shortage of blood in Boston hospitals.

I know the people of America join me in thanking them and in expressing to you and your crew our hope for health, well-being and long life as you put to sea on your maiden cruise.

Trials and exercises continued and Brisbane put to sea for the first time on 17 January 1968 for consolidated operability tests in the Boston Operating Areas. She returned to Boston the following day. The final fit-out was completed on 24 January and she departed Boston the next day. She remained in North American waters until September conducting sea trials and exercises primarily off the US west coast. She underwent a final maintenance period in San Diego from June to September.

On 19 August 1968, the crew welcomed aboard the world bantam weight boxing champion and future Australian of the Year, Lionel Rose. One hundred members of the crew were lucky enough to see the Australian boxing great defeat Mexican Joe Medel in a non-title fight in Los Angeles on 28 August. Six crew members formed a guard of honour for Mr Rose as he entered the ring and another performed the Australian National Anthem before the bout.

Left: HMAS Brisbane II's ship's badge. Right: Chief Petty Officer Ray Surridge with the scroll authorising Freedom of Entry to the City of Brisbane for the crew of HMAS Brisbane.
Left: HMAS Brisbane II's ship's badge. Right: Chief Petty Officer Ray Surridge with the scroll authorising Freedom of Entry to the City of Brisbane for the crew of HMAS Brisbane.
 

Brisbane departed Los Angeles for Australia on 28 September. She arrived in her namesake port, Brisbane, via Pearl Harbor and Suva, on 17 October, and the following day, at a ceremony conducted in the Botanical Gardens, the Freedom of the City of Brisbane was conferred on HMAS Brisbane. She arrived in her home port of Sydney for the first time on 22 October. By then she had already steamed more than 30,341nm since commissioning.

In January 1969 Brisbane’s crew began preparing for the ship’s first deployment to the Vietnam War. She departed Sydney for Vietnamese waters on 20 March 1969 and arrived at Subic Bay, Philippines, on 31 March. After a brief work-up, she arrived in Vung Tau, South Vietnam, on 15 April and conducted her first naval gunfire support (NGS) mission that evening; a night harassment mission in the Vinh Binh province 70 miles south of Saigon.

Brisbane’s NGS missions typically involved conducting one or more spotted missions during the day followed by a harassment fire mission of about four hours duration at night. She remained in the area south of Saigon until 8 May when she was assigned to support an operation on the island of Phu Quoc near the Cambodian border. She departed Vung Tau on 18 May to return to Subic Bay for maintenance followed by rest and relaxation visits to Manila, Philippines, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

She returned to the area of operations (AO) on 10 June where she joined USS Rowan in support of Task Force South. Over the course of four days the two destroyers conducted 189 NGS missions mostly aimed at intelligence targets or Viet Cong base camps. Brisbane then conducted operations south of the Demilitarized Zone in company with the cruiser USS St Paul, and later in an area northeast of Phan Thiet before departing the AO on 29 June for a maintenance period in Singapore.

 
Brisbane arrives in her home port of Sydney for the first time.
Brisbane arrives in her home port of Sydney for the first time.
HMAS Brisbane undergoing work-ups in the Eastern Australian Exercise Area, circa February 1969.
HMAS Brisbane undergoing work-ups in the Eastern Australian Exercise Area, circa February 1969.

On the morning of 30 June, while enroute to Singapore, Brisbane encountered a burning merchant ship, MV Sincere. A firefighting party was despatched but, in spite of their efforts over the course of the day, which involved 71 officers and sailors, the blaze could not be contained and Sincere was abandoned. Her crew was evacuated to Brisbane for passage to Singapore. Brisbane stood by the burning vessel until 3 July when the salvage tug Salvana arrived and took Sincere in tow but the ship later sank some 80nm north east of Pulau Tioman.

The crippled MV Sincere as seen from HMAS Brisbane when she went to her assistance on 30 June 1969.
The crippled MV Sincere as seen from HMAS Brisbane when she went to her assistance on 30 June 1969.

Brisbane returned to the gunline on 15 July operating off Phu Yen and Binh Dinh provinces. On 22 July she suffered a premature explosion in the barrel of Mount 51 injuring Leading Seaman Lenton Benfield and rendering the gun unserviceable. Benfield was landed ashore and returned to Australia for medical treatment.

While firing on enemy postions on 22 July 1969, HMAS Brisbane suffered a premature explosion of a 5-inch shell in Mount 51.
While firing on enemy postions on 22 July 1969, HMAS Brisbane suffered a premature explosion of a 5-inch shell in Mount 51.

She returned to Vung Tau at the beginning of August to continue NGS operations before undergoing maintenance at Subic Bay where Mount 51 was removed. Following a brief visit to Hong Kong, she returned to Vietnamese waters to form part of the destroyer screen for the USN carriers Oriskany and Constellation. She departed the AO on 14 September and was relieved by HMAS Vendetta (II) in Subic Bay on 28 September, where her replacement Mount 51 was also installed. Brisbane returned to Sydney on 13 October where she began preparations for refit during which she was fitted with the Ikara anti-submarine guided missile system.

HMAS Brisbane alongside in Hong Kong. Note the absence of Mount 51 which was removed in Subic Bay to effect repairs. (George Hicks)
HMAS Brisbane alongside in Hong Kong. Note the absence of Mount 51 which was removed in Subic Bay to effect repairs. (George Hicks)
HMAS Brisbane receiving her replacement gun mount in Subic Bay.
HMAS Brisbane receiving her replacement gun mount in Subic Bay.
Vietnam Deployment March - October 1969.
Vietnam Deployment March - October 1969.

Brisbane returned to sea on 3 August 1970 for post-refit sea trials and work-up exercises. She visited Brisbane in October before returning to Sydney later that month to participate in Exercise SWAN LAKE, which saw her proceed to Western Australian waters in company with HMA Ships Melbourne (II), Stalwart (II), Supply and Swan (III), and HM Ships Charybdis and Minerva. They arrived in Fremantle on 5 November. SWAN LAKE continued off the Western Australian coast until 15 November and Brisbane returned to Sydney, via Adelaide, Melbourne and Port Kembla, on 7 December.

HMAS Brisbane at sea.
HMAS Brisbane at sea.

The destroyer maintained a routine program of exercises, training and maintenance until early 1971 when she departed for her second deployment to Vietnam on 16 March. This proved to be the RAN’s last gunline deployment. She arrived in Subic Bay, via Manus Island, on 28 March and arrived in the AO on 5 April. Her first period on the gunline was comparatively quiet conducting multiple NGS missions in the regions known as Military Regions 3 and 4, south of Phan Thiet.

HMAS Brisbane participating in fleet exercises.
HMAS Brisbane participating in fleet exercises.
HMAS Brisbane leads RAN fleet units into Sydney prior to her deployment to Vietnam in 1971.
HMAS Brisbane leads RAN fleet units into Sydney prior to her deployment to Vietnam in 1971.

She visited Singapore, Subic Bay and Cebu City in late April and early May before returning to the gunline on 15 May to relieve USS Floyd B Parks as the commander of TU 70.8.9, marking the first time an RAN officer held the position of Gunline Commander. She operated just south of the Demilitarized Zone until joining the destroyer screen for the aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk, on 31 May. She departed the AO on 12 June for Hong Kong where her stay was interrupted by Typhoon Freda. She returned to the gunline on 24 June once again operating in Military Regions 3 and 4, and visited Subic Bay and Hong Kong before returning to the gunline for her final stint in Vietnamese waters on 15 August. This period was spent near the Demilitarized Zone where there was a marked increase in enemy activity and a commensurate increase in NGS missions.


HMAS Brisbane rendezvousing with her sister ship, USS Roark, on 25 May 1971. Roark had suffered a radar defect and Brisbane was in possesion of a part required to conduct repairs. The part is being transferred from Brisbane to Roark by light jackstay in image 3. Images courtesy of Ronald Reese.

Brisbane breaking away from Roark following their rendezvous. Images courtesy of Ronald Reese.

Brisbane departed the gunline for the last time on 5 September for Hong Kong and, later, Subic Bay. Following a brief period of maintenance and exercises in Subic Bay, she arrived back in Sydney, via Manus Island and Brisbane, on 15 October marking the end of the RAN’s combat role in the Vietnam War. Over the course of her two deployments to Vietnam, Brisbane had steamed nearly 70,000nm and fired over 15,000 rounds of 5-inch ammunition. The ship earned high praise from the Commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet who said that that the ship’s crew had attained ‘a most enviable reputation for extreme dedication and true professionalism, which was in keeping with the fine tradition established by a long series of predecessors’. Her performance during the year was recognised with the awarding of the Duke of Gloucester’s Cup for 1971.


Brisbane and Roark once again crossed paths when they visited Hong Kong at the same time in June 1971. Image courtesy of Ronald Reese.

With the RAN’s involvement in the Vietnam War over, Brisbane adopted a more routine program of exercises, training and maintenance. She began 1972 conducting exercises off the coast of New South Wales before proceeding to Western Australian waters in April. She returned to Sydney at the end of the month.

She participated in a search for a missing fishing boat on 5 July; the boat and her two man crew were located by HMAS Melbourne (II) the following day. On 11 July, Brisbane and her sister ship HMAS Perth (II) successfully conducted the first multi-ship high profile missile firing in Australia. A Jindivik target drone towed two targets with Perth firing first and Brisbane hitting her target at a range of some 12,000 yards. The following day she embarked the Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia, Major General Sir Rohan Delacombe, KCMG, KBE, CB, DSO, who inspected the ship and observed various exercises.

Brisbane departed Sydney on 17 August in company with Melbourne and Perth, later joined by HMA Ships Supply and Stuart (II), bound for Pearl Harbor to participate in the second RIMPAC exercise. The five ships arrived in Hawaii on 30 August. RIMPAC 72 began on 5 September and included navy and air force units from Australia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand. On completion of RIMPAC on 20 September, BrisbaneMelbourneSupply and Perth proceeded to Yokosuka, Japan, before participating in the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) Exercise SEA SCORPION off Corregidor Island in the Philippines. Eleven RAN vessels took part in SEA SCORPION along with naval and air force units from five other SEATO nations between 16 and 29 October.

SEA SCORPION was immediately followed by Exercise GROUNDWORK, an ANZUK exercise which simulated the opposed passage of a carrier force from Manila to Singapore. GROUNDWORK came to an end upon arrival in Singapore on 3 November. Brisbane and HMAS Derwent then went on to visit Surabaya, Indonesia, where they participated in Exercise CAKRAWALA BARU with units of the TNI-AL, the first ever exercises between the Australian and Indonesian navies. They departed Bali on 20 November 1972 and arrived back home in Sydney on 28 November, bringing a busy Pacific and South East Asian deployment to an end. That December the ship was formally presented with her new Replenishment at Sea (RAS) flag, depicting the infamous 'Steel Cat.'


TO 'Dinger' Bell and LTO Bob Mildren with Brisbane's new RAS flag depicting 'The Steel Cat.' Centre is Mr John Gayler, Marketing Manager for Uniroyal, makers of the 'Steel Cat' radial tyre, who sponsored the creation of the flag.

Brisbane resumed a routine program of exercises, training and maintenance in the new year in waters off the coast of New South Wales. She visited her namesake city in February 1973 before undergoing an Intermediate Docking from late June to early August.

She put to sea again on 6 August and immediately began preparations for her second consecutive deployment to Pearl Harbor for the RIMPAC exercises. A contingent of 96 Brisbane sailors joined some 1,200 officers and sailors of the RAN for a parade in Hyde Park and a march through the streets of Sydney on marking the granting of the Freedom of Entry to the City of Sydney to the Australian Fleet on 16 August. Deployment preparations resumed the following day and she departed for Hawaii on 24 August in company with HMA Ships Melbourne (II) and Stuart (II), and HMNZS Taranaki. She arrived in Pearl Harbor via Fiji on 7 September and departed harbour for the commencement of RIMPAC three days later; one of 24 ships participating in the exercise involving some 14,000 sailors and airmen from Australia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

RIMPAC concluded on 21 September and Brisbane, once again in company with MelbourneStuart and Taranaki, steamed for home on 26 September. She arrived back in Sydney, via Fiji, on 12 October and conducted a fleet entry into Sydney Harbour in company with HMA Ships MelbourneStuartSupplyVendetta (II), Torrens (II) and Derwent, and the submarine Onslow. The ship was dressed overall as part of the celebrations marking the opening of the Sydney Opera House on 20 October.

Brisbane departed Sydney on 22 October to participate in Exercise WESTWARD HO enroute to Bunbury, Western Australia, along with other naval units from Australia, Great Britain and the Netherlands. She arrived in Bunbury on 29 October and departed two days later bound for Singapore conducting Exercises SUNDA BALL and LEADLINE enroute with other Australian and British ships. Brisbane arrived in Singapore on 14 November. She departed Singapore five days later in company with Melbourne and Stuart, taking part in Exercise SANDGROPER serials before arriving in Fremantle on 26 November. She departed two days later to participate in Exercise OWNBACK, which was severely curtailed due to inclement weather. She arrived back in Sydney, via Hobart, on 7 December.

After a brief period of exercises in January and February, Brisbane spent most of 1974 in refit beginning on 11 March. While the ship was in refit, members of her crew, including her commanding officer, Captain Michael Hudson, participated in the major interservice exercise KANGAROO ONE embedded in shore based units such as the Joint Operations Centre, Joint Communications Centre and various Army units.

 

The refit concluded one day ahead of schedule on 10 October and Brisbane put to sea on 21 October for shakedown exercises and post-refit trials. Late on Christmas Day 1974, Brisbane's ship’s company was recalled from Christmas leave and ordered to steam to Darwin in response to the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy. Shortfalls caused by crew members that were unable to return to the ship before she sailed were made up by volunteers from other ships and shore establishments. Dockyard staff at Garden Island also answered the call reinstalling vital equipment in the early hours of Boxing Day that had been removed for maintenance. Stores and equipment were embarked during the forenoon of Boxing Day and Brisbane, in company with Melbourne and Stuart, departed for what became known as Operation NAVY HELP DARWIN later that afternoon.

Sailors from HMAS Brisbane cleaning up the remains of a house after Cyclone Tracy, circa December 1974.
Sailors from HMAS Brisbane cleaning up the remains of a house after Cyclone Tracy, circa December 1974.
 

Brisbane arrived in Darwin Harbour on 31 December and her ship’s company immediately began clean up operations. Having landed ashore, Captain Hudson reported: “As we drove from suburb to suburb my heart sank at the enormity of the problem facing not only the Navy but all public authorities and private individuals. Although I had been listening to the various news reports whilst on passage, I was not prepared for the overall picture of destruction that unfolded as I drove around. I was surprised the death toll was so low.” Brisbane departed Darwin on 31 January 1975 following HMAS Stalwart out of harbour making her the first to arrive and the last to leave. Darwin's mayor, Harry 'Tiger' Brennan, later said "We owe the Navy the greatest debt of all".

Brisbane then resumed the normal pattern of routine exercises, training and maintenance in the Eastern Australia Exercise Area (EAXA) before departing Sydney on 16 July 1975 bound for South East Asia via Darwin. Upon arrival in Darwin on 21 July, many members of the ship’s company took the opportunity to tour the city to view the reconstruction that had taken place since the end of Operation NAVY HELP DARWIN. She departed Darwin that afternoon and during the course of her three month deployment visited ports in; Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong where the ship’s diving team dived on the wreckage of a helicopter which had crashed into the harbour, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand; she also conducted exercises with Navy and Air Force units from Australia, the United Kingdom, the USA, Indonesia and Malaysia. She took part in Exercise SWIFT SWING enroute back to Australia at the end of October before arriving back in Sydney on 5 November, bringing to a close a busy year.

HMAS Brisbane gun exchange, circa 1976.
HMAS Brisbane gun exchange, circa 1976.

The new year saw Brisbane undergoing an Intermediate Docking, which included the installation of new gun mounts. Unfortunately industrial action saw her work schedule blow out and she remained alongside in Sydney until 26 October 1976. A frustrating period alongside ended on that date and, following a period of shakedown exercises and trials, Brisbane was again deemed mission ready.

HMAS Brisbane alongside Garden Island, Sydney, circa 1976.
HMAS Brisbane alongside Garden Island, Sydney, circa 1976.

Following the frustrations of the previous year, 1977 proved to be more rewarding for Brisbane’s crew as the ship undertook deployments to Hawaii for RIMPAC 77, and to the United Kingdom for HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee Fleet Review. Brisbane departed Sydney for Pearl Harbor on 11 February in company with HMA Ships Melbourne (II), SupplyPerth (II) and Parramatta (III), and HMNZS Otago.

HMAS Brisbane enroute to Hawaii and the RIMPAC exercises, February 1977.
HMAS Brisbane enroute to Hawaii and the RIMPAC exercises, February 1977.
 

RIMPAC exercises, involving 38 ships, 225 aircraft and about 20,000 personnel from four countries, began on 18 February as the task group crossed the Pacific towards Hawaii. RIMPAC 77 concluded on 11 March off the island of Lahaina. The task group departed Pearl Harbor for Australia on 16 March but Brisbane was forced to turn back towards Hawaii shortly after leaving to transfer a sailor with a suspected case of appendicitis to a shore based hospital. The sailor was transferred to a US Coast Guard helicopter for evacuation back to Hawaii and Brisbane rejoined the task group the following day. A second case of appendicitis was confirmed that day and the patient was transferred to Supply where a successful appendectomy was performed.

Brisbane arrived back in Sydney, via Fiji, on 2 April and soon began preparations for her deployment to the UK. She departed for the five month deployment on 28 April in company with Melbourne and HMNZS Canterbury.

At the end of May, the task group conducted exercises with French naval units in the Northern Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden prior to transiting the Suez Canal on 31 May. The group conducted exercises with RN and USN units in the Mediterranean, during which they were shadowed by a Soviet Riga class destroyer and a surveillance vessel.

 

The review was conducted on 28 June in the Spithead anchorage located in the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Brisbane and Melbourne were just two of 175 ships from 18 nations with 30,000 sailors embarked for the occasion. The task group participated in Exercise HIGH WOOD in July which took them from Plymouth on the English south coast, north along the west coast of Ireland to the Faeroe Islands north of Scotland. On the morning of 13 July a Wessex helicopter crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from MelbourneBrisbane recovered the three crew members uninjured while Melbourne recovered the aircraft. Brisbane continued on to London at the conclusion of the exercise.

HMAS Brisbane steams under Tower Bridge as she departs London.
HMAS Brisbane steams under Tower Bridge as she departs London.

The task group again conducted exercises with RN, USN, French and Indian naval units enroute back to Australia arriving back in Sydney on 4 October.

Brisbane steamed more than 36,000 nm during the deployment visiting Fremantle, Colombo, Gibraltar, Portsmouth, Plymouth, London, Antwerp, Toulon, Port Said, Bombay, Singapore, Fremantle and Melbourne. On 9 May, two days out of Fremantle, one of Melbourne’s Sea King helicopters crashed into the sea near Cocos Island about 500 yards ahead of Brisbane. The destroyer rescued the two man crew and recovered part of the Sea King’s undercarriage, but the remainder of the aircraft was lost.

HMAS Brisbane in the Mediterranean Sea off Gibraltar.
HMAS Brisbane in the Mediterranean Sea off Gibraltar.
 

Following her return, Brisbane’s crew began preparing for a major refit, which commenced on 24 October and kept the ship alongside for most of 1978 excepting a week of sea trials at the end of November.

She returned to sea for further trials on 30 January 1979 spending most of February at sea undergoing evaluations before her refit officially concluded on 31 March. Post-refit trials and exercises continued on 3 April before visiting Brisbane at the end of May where the crew conducted a march through the city streets exercising the ship’s right to Freedom of Entry.

Brisbane participated in Exercise TASMANEX in New Zealand waters in August, Exercise SEA EAGLE in September before a brief visit to Melbourne, and finally the UNZUS exercise KANGAROO III in Queensland waters in October.

January 1980 saw Brisbane visit Melbourne and Geelong before departing Sydney on 4 February for her third deployment to Hawaii to take part in RIMPAC 80. Enroute she rendezvoused with HMA Ships Supply and Hobart (II) off the coast of Queensland, and HMA Ships Melbourne (III) and Yarra (III) off Vanuatu. The task group then arrived in Pearl Harbor on 25 February and the exercises commenced the following day, involving 47 ships, 215 aircraft and some 20,000 service people from Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Canada and Japan.

 

The exercises were suspended in the early hours of 13 March when Able Seaman DB Westwood was reported missing from Brisbane. A search was initiated off the small island of Niihau, coordinated from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre at Honolulu, while the residents of Niihau searched the island itself. The destroyer USS Joseph Strauss spotted Westwood, clinging to an inflated plastic garbage bag, just before midday. A crewman from a USN SH3 Sea King helicopter entered the water to support Westwood as Strauss moved into position to affect the rescue. The recovery became more dramatic in the final stages when a large shark was observed swimming towards the two men. Westwood had fallen overboard just before midnight on 12 March, spending some twelve hours in the water. He was in good health though exhausted and suffering the effects of exposure. He remained a guest in Strauss until returning to Pearl Harbor.

Left: Brisbane at sea. Right: HMAS Brisbane in Sydney Harbour, circa 1980.
Left: Brisbane at sea. Right: HMAS Brisbane in Sydney Harbour, circa 1980.

After a brief visit to Kauai, Brisbane departed Hawaii on 28 March arriving back in Sydney on 21 April, via Tarawa, Rabaul and Lae. She became the first major fleet unit to be temporarily home-ported to Western Australia when she arrived at HMAS Stirling on 24 June. There she conducted regular exercises during her eleven weeks in Western Australia, including participation in Exercise SANDGROPER. She also visited Bunbury, Exmouth and Port Hedland followed by a brief visit to Singapore. She departed Stirling on 3 September and arrived back in Sydney one week later.

At the end of September Brisbane was in Queensland waters conducting trials in company with HMA Submarines Oxley (II) and Onslow, and HMAS Yarra(III), before heading to New Zealand to participate in Exercise AUCKEX in October. She arrived back in Sydney on 7 November where she was docked for routine maintenance. Brisbane’s performance during the year earned her the Duke of Gloucester’s Cup as the most proficient unit in the RAN.

Brisbane returned to sea on 17 February 1981 for shakedown and workup exercises and, following a brief visit to Melbourne, she departed Sydney in company with HMAS Stalwart (II) for a South East Asian and Indian Ocean deployment on 23 March. After a brief visit to Darwin she went on to visit Singapore, Trincomalee, Bombay, the Seychelles, Mombasa and Columbo, before conducting patrols and exercises with the USS Independence and USS America battle groups in the north west Indian Ocean, and participating in Exercise GONZO. She  returned to Sydney, via Fremantle and Adelaide, on 20 August. The deployment was marred by the tragic accidental death of Seaman David Tracey who was killed in a car accident in Mombasa on 6 June. At just 18 years of age, he was the youngest member of Brisbane’s crew.

That October, Brisbane participated in Australia’s largest multi-national, tri-service exercise, KANGAROO, off the Queensland coast and included some 20,000 personnel, 100 aircraft and 25 ships from four nations. On conclusion of the exercise she visited Brisbane before returning to Sydney on 11 November.

Garden Island, Sydney, circa 1981.
Garden Island, Sydney, circa 1981.

Early 1982 saw Brisbane participating in Exercises EUREKA and SEA EAGLE in February and March before once again departing for RIMPAC on 19 March in company with HMA Ships Hobart (II), Yarra (III) and Swan (III), and HMNZS Canterbury. HMAS Stalwart (II) also participated in in-company exercises for the first three days of the voyage in the Tasman Sea. The task group arrived in Pearl Harbor, via Suva, on 4 April.

RIMPAC exercises were conducted throughout April and included some 60 ships, 120 aircraft and 29,000 personnel from Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Canada and Japan. Brisbane departed Hawaiian waters on 30 April and visited Hong Kong, Singapore where she participated in the Five Power Defence Agreement Exercise STARFISH, and Manila. She returned to Sydney via Darwin on 7 July. She participated in Exercises BLACK ORCHID and PITCH BLACK in July before commencing a refit which, affected by industrial action, kept her alongside in Sydney for the ensuing 12 months.

Refit progress was also hampered when a short but intense fire broke out in the ship’s main galley on 12 May 1983. Though the fire was completely extinguished in little more than half an hour, and there were no injuries, it did cause damage to insulation, wiring, galley fittings, ventilation and the expansion joint in the superstructure, as well as internal cabling.

Brisbane returned to sea on 19 July 1983 to undertake post-refit trials and exercises. She participated in the Fleet Concentration Period in August, Exercise SHARK BAIT at the end of October, and visited Melbourne in November at short notice to conduct exercises with the HMS Invincible task group as the carrier made her way to the East Australian Exercise Areas for Exercise KANGAROO.

In early 1984 Brisbane was engaged in the routine program of exercises, training and maintenance. The remainder of the year, however, proved to be a busy one for the destroyer. She participated in a Fleet Concentration Period in February during which she sunk so many targets she received a signal from the Commander of the Target and Services Group with the Biblical reference Job Chapter 16 verses 12-14, which reads; “I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces and set me up for his mark he breaketh me with breach upon breach, he runneth upon me like a giant".

Brisbane then took part in Exercise SEA EAGLE in March which included a port visit to Brisbane where the ship’s company again exercised the right to Freedom of Entry with a march through the city streets. Exercise PITCH BLACK, in northern Australian waters, followed in May before deploying on an Indian Ocean deployment. There she conducted exercises with the USS America Battle Group and visited Singapore and Sri Lanka (twice), the Maldives, the Seychelles and Kenya before returning home to Sydney, via Darwin, on 2 August. She later participated in the second Fleet Concentration Period of the year in September before visiting Western Australian waters to participate in Exercise SANDGROPER in October and November.

Left: HMAS Brisbane II. Right: HMAS Brisbane in dry dock, Sydney, circa October 1985.
Left: HMAS Brisbane II. Right: HMAS Brisbane in dry dock, Sydney, circa October 1985.

Brisbane’s program of exercises, training and maintenance continued in to 1985 as she took part in a Fleet Concentration Period in February; Exercise FLYING FISH in March which saw her lead a formation departure of RAN and USN ships from Sydney Harbour and also took her north to Brisbane where the ship’s company held a ‘working bee’ at the ship’s charity, the Tufnell Home for Displaced Children. Later in the month she participated in Exercise TASMAN LINK.

 

After conducting exercises with HMNZ Ships CanterburySouthland and Waikato in the EAXA in June and July, Brisbane departed Sydney in company with her sister ship HMAS Hobart (II) on 17 July for the South Pacific. They arrived in Suva on 22 July, their visit coinciding with the 10th Anniversary of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Naval Division and the commissioning of the shore establishment, HMFS Viti. Crew members assisted with community aid projects ashore consisting mainly of repairs and refurbishments to school buildings. As had happened four years earlier in Kenya, however, the visit was marred by the tragic death of a shipmate; Seaman Bradley Wine was killed in a motor vehicle accident near Lautoka on 23 July. Brisbane went on to visit Auckland and Lyttelton in New Zealand arriving back in Sydney, via Hobart, on 22 August.

Upon her return to Sydney, Brisbane commenced preparations for a major half-life refit and modernisation that kept her alongside for more than two years. The objectives of the modernisation project had been defined in November 1978. It was intended to maintain the class at the highest possible capability through to the end of the century at a fraction of their replacement cost. The refit officially commenced on 30 September and included improvements to command and control systems, weapons systems, communications and habitability, as well as extensive mechanical, electrical and hull maintenance. It provided for the future installation of new weapons platforms including the Harpoon surface-to-surface missile system. Brisbane was the first of the three DDGs to undergo the modernisation in what was one of the largest projects ever undertaken at Garden Island Dockyard.

Removal of missile launcher from HMAS Brisbane, circa October 1985.
Removal of missile launcher from HMAS Brisbane, circa October 1985.

In March 1986, members of the ship's company travelled to Brisbane at their own expense to undertake work at the Tufnell Home for Displaced Children building a BMX track and carrying out extensive landscaping. Their week of work culminated with a tree planting ceremony attended by the children, staff and local media. Another group of crew members also undertook maintenance work at Stanmore Public School. The crew continued to make them selves available to various charities and community organisations over the course of the refit including the restoration of the Tufnell Home’s 100-year-old chapel and participation in the Channel 7 Telethon in 1986 raising money for the Camperdown Children’s Hospital.

HMAS Brisbane in refit, circa September 1986.
HMAS Brisbane in refit, circa September 1986.

A pall was cast over a week of charitable work at the Tufnell Home when Able Seaman Anthony van Veen was killed when he was hit by car when cycling home after a days work at the home on 7 August 1987.

After some 957 thousand man-hours of work, Brisbane returned to sea on 11 November 1987. After observing two minutes silence for Remembrance Day, the ship slipped from 3A buoy in Sydney and proceeded to sea in heavy rain and high winds for post-refit sea trials. The refit officially concluded on 4 December and that month, Brisbane was awarded the Navy League of Australia Community Award for 1987.

Much of Brisbane’s post-refit defect rectification work was conducted in Newcastle and she visited that city in January, March, May and July in 1988 with the crew participating in Bicentenary celebrations there in January, and in May participating in a march commemorating the Battle of the Coral Sea. She also visited Melbourne for defect rectification while participating in the Moomba Festival in March where a detachment from the crew took part in the RAN Freedom of Entry parade. She commenced workup exercises in May and again visited Brisbane in August where she participated in Exercise TASMANEX.

A detachment of the ship’s company took part in the Bicentennial Naval Salute March through the streets of Sydney on 29 September and the ship was berthed at Garden Island for the Bicentennial Naval Review on 1 October. Brisbane resumed a program of exercises, training and maintenance on 4 October. She departed Sydney on 14 October for a 15 week south east Asian deployment taking the opportunity to conduct a patrol of the Australian Fishing Zone enroute to Darwin. She departed Darwin on 24 October conducting exercises with RAAF aircraft; however, exercises with Indonesian naval units were subsequently cancelled.

Left: Map of Brisbane's south-east Asian deployment (from the HMAS Brisbane South East Asian Deployment Oct 88 - Jan 89 Cruise Book).
Left: Map of Brisbane's south-east Asian deployment (from the HMAS Brisbane South East Asian Deployment Oct 88 - Jan 89 Cruise Book). Right: HMAS Brisbane II.

Brisbane rendezvoused with HMAS Swan (III) on 28 October with the duo remaining in company for the duration of the deployment. They arrived in Singapore on 30 October and went on to visit Subic Bay, Manila, Bangkok, Penang before returning to Singapore. The ships then joined the USS Carl Vinson Battle Group exercising with naval forces from the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

On 27 November Brisbane entertained a group of Filipino children from St Joseph's Community Centre in Olongapo City, raising nearly $US1,000 for the orphanage. Brisbane’s Commanding Officer, Captain Robert Walls, AM, RAN, noted that it was “the first time in the memory of the Filipino and USN personnel present that a visiting ship had welcomed such a community or disadvantaged group on board".

Brisbane returned to Sydney on 20 January 1989, via Darwin and Brisbane, having celebrated the Christmas and New Year period in Singapore.

There was little respite for Brisbane’s crew and she was soon back at sea participating in a Fleet Concentration Period and Exercise TASMAN RULER during January and February, before visiting Port Arthur and Hobart in April after Exercise SWALLOW DIVE in Bass Strait was cancelled due to inclement weather. A visit to Newcastle followed in May where her crew took part in the annual Battle of the Coral Sea commemorations before taking part in the international, tri-service exercise VALIANT USHER in Queensland later in the month.

On 20 June Brisbane departed Jervis Bay for a Pacific Ocean deployment that saw her conduct port visits to  Auckland, Vila, Kira Kira, where almost the entire population of the town toured the ship, and Honiara where the crew participated in Solomon Islands National Day celebrations. Throughout the various visits her ship’s company was involved in numerous assistance activities to the local communities including the provision of technical and maintenance expertise.

Brisbane then proceeded to Darwin on 14 July where she conducted a two week maintenance period before participating in Exercise KANGAROO 89 in August. A visit to her namesake city at the end of August followed where the ship’s company exercised its right to Freedom of Entry to the City of Brisbane on 5 September. Members of the crew also visited the Tufnell Home for Underprivileged Children where they built a chicken coop and several acted as 'Dad for a day'. The ship departed Brisbane on 11 September and arrived back in Sydney two days later.

On 15 October, while anchored in Jervis Bay during a break from exercises in the EAXA, 85 members of her ship’s company proceeded ashore to the Havenlee Handicapped Children’s School, Bomaderry, where they carried out a considerable amount of maintenance work. The ship then steamed to Newcastle on 5 November where she underwent an intermediate docking at the Forgacs shipyard before returning to Sydney the following month.

HMAS Brisbane (II) - Part 2