HMAS Brunei
Balikpapan Class
Landing Craft Heavy (LCH)
L 127
Attempt To Attain
Walker Ltd, Maryborough, Queensland
Laid Down
1 July 1971
15 October 1971
5 January 1973
20 November 2014
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 364 tonnes (loaded, 517 tonnes)
Length 44.5 metres
Beam 10.1 metres
Draught 2 metres
Speed 10 knots
Range 3000 nautical miles
Crew Two officers, 11 sailors
Machinery 2 x GM diesel engines two shafts
Guns 2 x .50calibre (12.7mm) Bowning machine guns
Radars Racal Decca Bridgemaster
Battle Honours EAST TIMOR 1999–2000
HMAS Brunei Badge

HMAS Brunei (L127) was named after the amphibious landing of 20 Brigade troops at Brunei from HMAS Kanimbla (I) on 10 June 1945.

The eight vessels of the 311-503 ton full load Balikpapan Class Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) were initially ordered for the Army Water Transport Unit, until a Department of Defence decision in the early 1970s brought all ADF sea-going vessels under the Navy's control.

All of the Australian-designed ships were built by Walkers Ltd at Maryborough in Queensland. The eight craft formed the First Australian Landing Craft Squadron based at HMAS Moreton situated on the Brisbane River. On 18 November 1974, two of the squadron, HMAS Buna (L132) and HMAS Salamaua (L131) were transferred to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

HMAS Brunei commissioned on 5 January 1973 at the Walkers Shipyard at Maryborough, Queensland under the command of Lieutenant Denis Sando, RAN. She was the first of the eight LCHs to be commissioned into the RAN, though not the first to become operational. The prototype LCH, and name ship of the class, HMAS Balikpapan had already been in operation with the Army Water Transport Unit.

HMAS Brunei in Sydney for trials and exercises, 19 January 1973

HMAS Brunei in Sydney for trials and exercises, 19 January 1973.

Following a short period of trials and familiarisation that took the ship to Bundaberg, Brunei arrived in her home port of Brisbane for the first time on 12 January 1973 before continuing south for Sydney to continue trials and exercises. She embarked an eight-berth caravan for extra accommodation for trainees on 13 February and later that month provided familiarisation training for sailors posted to Brunei’s sister ship, HMAS Labuan. She conducted her first joint exercise with an Army unit in March conducting a joint communications exercise with 139 Signal Squadron.

A birds eye view of HMAS Brunei's tank deck
A bird's eye view of HMAS Brunei's tank deck.

Brunei quickly settled into a routine of exercises, maintenance and support tasks for both Army and Navy units off the east coast of Australia, as well as providing training for Australian Naval clearance divers, reservists and cadets, a routine which became very familiar. She participated in Exercise BRUNEI SANDS and provided sea-lift for the Commonwealth Departments of Works and Primary Industries in March, and the following month provided transport, accommodation and communications for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and a Ministerial party of fourteen, visiting islands in the Torres Strait.

Brunei visited Papua New Guinea for the first time in July 1973 transporting heavy vehicles to Palm and Saibai Islands for the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs en route. She arrived in Port Moresby on 26 July. Brunei’s main task during her visit to Papua New Guinea was to provide a sea-lift capability in support of Operation PLASTIC FLAGON, a surveying operation in the Great North East Channel and Torres Strait. She completed her survey operations on 17 October and returned to Australian waters at the end of the month to participate in the Army exercise TEMPLE TOWER.

She participated in Exercise KENTIA PALM from February to June and again in August and September 1974 transporting Army equipment and vehicles between Sydney and Lord Howe Island where an airstrip was being constructed. She resumed routine operations along the Australian east coast following KENTIA PALM.

In May and June 1975 she supported hydrographic survey operations off the northern Western Australian coast in company with HMAS Moresby, and on 28 May she came to the assistance of the fishing vessel Old Ugly which had beached on Traverse Island.

On 29 October Brunei embarked two new, crated Sea King helicopters from SS Wellington Star for the final leg of their delivery journey to HMAS Albatross. Ironically just a few days later, on 1 November, she embarked a detachment from Clearance Diving Team 1 and assisted in the recovery of Sea King helicopter Shark 06, which had ditched in Shoalhaven Bight in October. After visiting Melbourne and Hobart where she conducted army support tasks, she returned to her homeport of Brisbane at the end of the month.

Raising the White Ensign on HMAS Brunei
Raising the Australian White Ensign on HMAS Brunei.

She continued to provide army support through the second half of the decade participating in, or providing support for, Exercises BIG COUNTRY and SEA HOUND in 1976, MINI LORD and LONG VIGIL in 1977, and INTREPID GUNNER and TRAINED TERMITE in 1979.

In August 1976 Brunei embarked HRH the Crown Prince of Thailand, Captain Maha Vajiralongkorn Mahidol, RTA, for beaching demonstrations and that October participated in Exercise KANGAROO II during which she was visited by the Governor-General, His Excellency the Honourable Sir John Kerr, AC, KCMG, KStJ, QC. The following month she visited Indonesia for the first time to provide support for Operation CENDERAWASIH, a series of mapping and charting operations conducted in the Province of Irian Jaya.

She paid her first visit to Adelaide in March 1977 to act as the ‘Official Vessel’ for the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia’s inaugural regatta on 6 March. She went on to visit Hobart and dressed overall from 14 to 16 March for the Royal visit to Tasmania. She then proceeded to Bell Bay where she embarked the unusual cargo of a 50-ton steam locomotive, its tender and carriage for the Geelong Steam Preservation Society, and shipped it to Melbourne. Brunei also gave intermittent support to the Weapons Research Establishment, Salisbury, by testing Night Vision Equipment at sea during the year.

Brunei visited South East Asia in June 1978 to conduct Logistics over the Shore (LOTS) tasks in Indonesia. During the course of the deployment she visited Semarang, Singapore, Tanjung Pinang, Jakarta and Surabaya before arriving back in Darwin on 3 July.

She participated in Operation CAPRICORN AFFAIR in March through to May 1979, transporting army equipment and cargo between Brisbane and Townshend Island and later took part in Exercise KANGAROO III in October.

HMAS Brunei's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Terry Feltham supervising the loading of APCs at Tin Can Bay, March 1980
HMAS Brunei's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Terry Feltham supervising the loading of APCs at Tin Can Bay, March 1980.

The first half of the 1980s saw Brunei continuing her operations in much the same manner as the previous decade, maintaining a routine of exercises, maintenance and support tasks for both the Australian Army and Navy as well as providing training for Australian Naval clearance divers, reservists and cadets. She participated in Amphibious Squadron exercises in December 1980 and December 1982. She also participated in, or provided support for, the Army exercises WATER TERMITE, SHARK FIN, BLUE WATER, SEA STRIKE, DIAMOND DOLLAR and DYED GOAT in 1982; El ALAMEIN, DUSTY SAFARI, TERMITE SPRAY and DIAMOND DOLLAR in 1983; GAELIC TRIAL and LIVELY LANCER in 1984; and DEEP DIVE, INITIAL LANDING, TERMITE SPRAY, BAY RUN and DIAMOND DOLLAR in 1985.

Brunei was involved in Operation CAPRICORN AFFAIR II in June and July 1980 and finished the year by being awarded the Australian Amphibious Squadron Proficiency Shield at a function held at HMAS Moreton on 12 December. In February the following year she acted as flagship for the Strahan Regatta before sailing for the Solomon Islands in April with Clearance Diving Team 1 embarked to conduct channel clearing operations. She departed Cairns on 12 April and arrived in Honiara on 20 April. The first clearance charges were detonated near Koliali on 24 April with members of the ship’s company ashore to inform villagers of what to expect. Operations continued around the Islands until the end of May and Brunei departed Honiara for home, via Port Moresby, on 1 June.

In October and November 1985, Brunei participated in Operation BEACHCOMBER, a series of major cross-service surveying operations the aim of which was to gather information on the beaches and hinterland of Australia’s northern coastline. At the conclusion of BEACHCOMBER operations she was officially retasked as an Interim Survey Ship and conducted her first survey in that capacity in the Freshwater Bay area. The following month, she moved to her new home-port of Cairns. Upon departing Brisbane on 9 December in company with HMAS Betano, operational control transferred to the Naval Officer-in-Charge Cairns, and the RAN Amphibious Squadron ceased to exist.

HMAS Brunei providing survey support at Manam Island, PNG, July 1988
HMAS Brunei providing survey support at Manam Island, PNG, July 1988.

Survey operations in the Cape Flattery area in January 1986 were interrupted by Tropical Cyclone Winifred. Brunei was assigned to Task Group 628.9 on 1 February for possible disaster relief operations but was released the following morning to continue survey operations.

On 23 May, while en route to a survey area in the vicinity of the Wessel Islands, Brunei was directed to proceed to the Solomon Islands, via Thursday Island, to provide humanitarian relief in the wake of Cyclone Namu. She arrived at Honiara on 1 June joining HMA Ships Stalwart, Flinders and Betano under the auspices of Operation NAVY HELP SOLOMONS. Brunei remained on station for eight days transporting water, food, clothing and other supplies around the islands. She departed Honiara in company with Betano on 8 June and arrived back in Cairns two days later. She recommenced survey operations at the end of the month.

Participation in Army exercises: INITIAL LANDING and DIAMOND DOLLAR followed in July and August, culminating in the major amphibious exercise KANGAROO 86 in November.

Brunei underwent refit in July 1987 and during that time her ship’s company was called into action while alongside in Cairns on 22 July when the vessel MV Poseidon, docked nearby, caught fire and her master requested assistance. A fire party went aboard Poseidon, took control of the situation and quickly extinguished the fire drawing praise from the Cairns Fire Department for their quick and professional action and their method in fighting the fire. The ship came out of refit at the end of September and participated in Exercise DIAMOND DOLLAR the following month.

She again participated in Exercise INITIAL LANDING in March 1988, and in May through to July visited Papua New Guinea in company with HMAS Flinders to conduct survey operations in the waters north of PNG. This was Brunei’s last survey operation as an Interim Survey Ship. She departed Madang for Australia on 31 July and returned to Cairns on 7 August whereupon she officially ceased her Interim Survey Ship role. She had spent 79 of the previous 112 days at sea and steamed some 10,500 nautical miles. She was slipped later that month and began conversion to a diving, training and amphibious support ship. She departed Cairns on 17 October 1988 for her new home port of Sydney where she arrived on 27 October. She quickly settled into a routine of exercises, training and maintenance, as well as performing the Fleet and Army support duties to which she had previously become accustomed.

In April and May 1989, Brunei returned to the Solomon Islands, via Port Moresby, with a detachment from Clearance Diving Team 1 embarked to conduct channel clearance operations. She again visited Port Moresby en route back to Australia arriving back in Sydney on 25 May. She participated in Exercise KANGAROO 89 in August before proceeding south to conduct a series of Army support tasks between Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Melbourne in October and November.

HMAS Brunei disembarking explosives for channel clearing operations in the Solomon Islands

HMAS Brunei disembarking explosives for channel clearing operations in the Solomon Islands.

Brunei returned to the Solomon Islands again in July 1990, on that occasion to deliver cargo as part of the Defence Cooperation Program. She participated in the Army exercise SCORPION STING later that month after returning to Australia.

Squadron exercises followed in February 1991 before taking part in Exercise TERMITE SPRAY in May, and Exercise TASMAN LINK in June. Between July and September she underwent a minor refit.

In October 1991 Brunei was granted the honour of Freedom of Entry to the City of Grafton before participating in Exercises SOLERNO SHRIKE, DUGONG and a Task Unit Exercise in November and December.

HMAS Brunei conducting beaching exercises, 8 December 1991

HMAS Brunei conducting beaching exercises, 8 December 1991.

The following year began with participation in Exercises KANGAROO 92 in March and April 1992 followed by involvement in DUGONG in November, though her program through the second half of the year was interrupted as she underwent asbestos removal from September to November.

Brunei participated in Exercise TASMAN LINK in May and June 1993, and in October, she participated in a Ceremonial Fleet Entry into Sydney Harbour commemorating 80 years since the arrival of the RAN Fleet Unit.

Brunei spent most of the next few years maintaining a program of exercises, training and maintenance. She participated in squadron exercises annually from in 1994 to 1996 as well as Exercises INITIAL LANDING in 1994; KANGAROO and INITIAL LANDING in 1995; and GOWAN BRAE and INITIAL LANDING in 1996. She provided sea-lift support for the major Australian/US exercise TANDEM THRUST in 1997 and later that year participated in Exercise TASMAN EAGLE.

HMAS Brunei departing Sydney to assist in HMAS Betano's workup exercises, 25 March 1996

HMAS Brunei departing Sydney to assist in HMAS Betano's workup exercises, 25 March 1996.

The next few years were notable in Brunei's commission for the high tempo of operational deployments to provide logistics support, transporting stores, equipment and personnel as required. She deployed to Bougainville Island under the auspices of Operations BEL ISI and BEL ISI II in February, May/June and October/November 1998, and February/March 1999; and she deployed to East Timor under the auspices of Operations WARDEN, STABILISE and TANAGER in September/October 1999, December 1999/January 2000, February/March, May/June and September to November 2000. In January 2001 Brunei received a Meritorious Unit Citation for her operational service in East Timor.

AB Michael Reed, LS Andrew Bryant and AB Forrest Russo aboard HMAS Brunei during Operation BEL ISI

AB Michael Reed, LS Andrew Bryant and AB Forrest Russo aboard HMAS Brunei during Operation BEL ISI.

The ship arrived in her new homeport of Cairns on 10 November 2000 having spent a year operating from Darwin in support of operations in East Timor. She then participated in Exercise TANDEM THRUST 01 in April and May 2001 before returning to East Timor in support of Operation TANAGER in June and July. She continued to operate out of Darwin upon her return from East Timor and conducted resupply tasks in support of Operation RELEX in September and October.

Brunei was slipped at the Tropical Reef Shipyard in Cairns in January 2002 to undergo Life of Type Extension; an extensive refit designed to extend the life of the ship to the end of 2014. She returned to sea in September when she participated in Exercise SWIFT EAGLE.

She returned to Bougainville in support of Operation BEL ISI II from October to December 2002, participated in squadron exercises and Exercise SEA EAGLE in March 2003, and again returned to Bougainville in July and August. She deployed to the Solomon Islands in October and November in support of Operation ANODE.

HMAS Brunei's ship's company at Loloho wharf, Bougainville, 2003

HMAS Brunei's ship's company at Loloho wharf, Bougainville, 2003.

In June 2005, Brunei participated in the major combined US-Australian amphibious Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 05 before conducting scientific trials in the Torres Strait in August.

Brunei had her main engines changed out in February 2006 before seeking shelter from the incoming Tropical Cyclone Larry in Wahday Creek in March. In April she made her first visit to Lord Howe Island in 32 years to support the 75th anniversary of the landing of Sir Francis Chichester in his float plane during his solo trans-Tasman flight in 1931, and in July visited Papua New Guinea in support of Exercise PUK PUK. Brunei underwent a minor refit from September to end of November 2006.

 Seaman Nicolas Love paints the back of the ten inch light with the RAMSI logo during HMAS Brunei's deployment in the Solomon Islands in 2010
Seaman Nicolas Love paints the back of a 10-inch signaling projector with the RAMSI logo during HMAS Brunei's deployment in the Solomon Islands in 2010.

She participated in squadron exercises in February 2007 before supporting Australian Quarantine Inspection Services (AQIS) operations in Far North Queensland later that month and in March transporting an AQIS team and its equipment to 22 islands and 12 mainland sites. She participated in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 07 in June, and in September and October deployed to the Solomon Islands with a detachment from Clearance Diving Team 4 for Explosive Ordnance Disposal tasks and to conduct training for the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. While there the ship’s company conducted maintenance and refurbishment work at Nazareth Apostolic Centre at Tenaru and donated thousands of books for distribution to local schools.

Brunei again took part in squadron exercises in February 2008, as well as Exercise Sea Lion. She continued to participate in these annual exercises in 2009, 2010.

After returning to Far North Queensland waters in March 2008 in support of AQIS operations in Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria, Brunei provided support to a detachment from 51 Far North Queensland Regiment conducting Operation RESOLUTE patrols in April and May, a commitment she repeated in October 2011. She was back in Far North Queensland again in September and October 2008 to provide support for the Army Aboriginal Civil Aid Program.

In July 2009 Brunei took part in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE, later deploying to the Solomon Islands from July to September 2010 in support of Operations ANODE and RENDER SAFE. Operation RENDER SAFE is the Australian Defence Force's enduring explosive ordnance disposal contribution to the south-west Pacific region. The aim of RENDER SAFE is to reduce the threat of unexploded ordnance throughout the south-west Pacific, foster goodwill and support bilateral relations. Upon her return, she entered the Tropical Reef Shipyard in Cairns in October to undergo a refit. She was back in the water before Christmas.

HMAS Brunei conducting beaching operations during Operation RENDER SAFE in the Soloman Islands, 2010

HMAS Brunei unloading equipment during Operation RENDER SAFE in the Soloman Islands, 2010.

Brunei was placed on standby to provide humanitarian assistance to the Queensland flood crises in January 2011 but was stood down before the end of the month. However, Tropical Cyclone Yasi struck the north Queensland coast the following month with devastating results and, after putting to sea to avoid the cyclone herself, Brunei participated in Operation YASI ASSIST. Brunei, and her sister ship HMAS Tarakan, were tasked to support the worst cyclone affected areas south of Cairns. As well as providing a sea-lift capability, personnel from both ships volunteered to form working parties to assist with the clean-up of debris ashore.

She participated in the Minor War Vessel Concentration Period in May and June 2011 and provided support for the Army’s foundation war-fighting exercise, HAMEL, in June and July 2012.

Brunei maintained an active program of exercises, training, maintenance and support tasks during 2013 and in April 2014 her involvement in Exercise SEA DAWN was cut short when she was forced to seek shelter from Tropical Cyclone Ita. In June 2014 she participated in the ADF Careers Expo in Townsville before preparing for decommissioning.

The decommissioning guard from HMAS Brunei marching ashore

The decommissioning guard from HMAS Brunei marching ashore.

HMAS Brunei's decommissioning crew gathers on her tank deck for the final time.

HMAS Brunei's decommissioning crew gathers on her tank deck for the final time.
HMAS Brunei launching a LARC V (Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo) during Navy Week 1989
HMAS Brunei launching a LARC V (Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo) during Navy Week 1989.

Commanding Officers

5/1/1973 LEUT DN Sando, RAN
19/8/1974 LEUT JH Durrant, RAN
24/10/1975 LEUT NHV Cobb, RAN
24/8/1976 LEUT PJ Purnell-Webb, RAN
21/11/1977 LEUT AJ Mapson, RAN
7/12/1977 LEUT JA Jacobi, RAN
4/5/1979 LEUT TR Feltham, RAN
7/5/1980 LEUT WG Fitness, RAN
11/9/1981 LEUT K Lascelles, RAN
10/1/1983 LEUT RJ Phillips, RAN
12/12/1984 LEUT GB Pedley, RAN
16/8/1985 LEUT GH Altham, RAN
4/9/1985 LEUT MR Purdy, RAN
7/9/1985 LEUT GH Altham, RAN
2/10/1985 LCDR LJ Gee, RAN
19/12/1986 LCDR JW Paterson, RAN
14/4/1988 LEUT MJ Sinclair, RAN
30/9/1988 LEUT CM Curtis, RAN
4/5/1990 LEUT SR McCarey, RAN
12/12/1991 LEUT MD Hill, RAN
11/4/1992 LEUT I Parker, CSM, RAN
14/10/1993 LEUT JM Byrne, RAN
21/4/1995 LEUT PW Koerber, RAN
11/10/1996 LEUT PJ Smith, RAN
23/9/1998 LEUT RC Stevenson, RAN
14/5/2000 LEUT AM Papp, RAN
22/9/2001 LEUT JS Dick, RAN
12/10/2001 LEUT AM Papp, RAN
27/11/2001 LEUT MJF McNeil, RAN
18/2/2002 LCDR JJ Williams, RAN
12/12/2003 LCDR B Williamson, RAN
5/6/2005 LCDR CEM Bourne, RAN
8/12/2006 LEUT SA Dixon, RAN
1/1/2008 LCDR SA Dixon, RAN
20/6/2008 LCDR AP Staker, RAN
21/6/2010 LEUT CM Jordan, RAN
25/5/2012 LEUT KM Whatling, RAN
1/1/2013 LCDR KM Whatling, RAN
22/2/2013 LCDR TA Stecum, RAN
27/3/2013 LCDR KM Whatling, RAN
19/6/2013 LCDR AR Garven, RAN
29/7/2013 LEUT BJA Glover, RAN
6/8/2013 LEUT CA Cockerill, RAN
2/9/2013 LEUT BJA Glover, RAN
2/12/2013 LCDR WC Hooper, RAN
18/12/2013 LCDR L Weston, RAN
17/1/2014 LCDR S Taragel, RAN
2/6/2014 LCDR MS Richardson, RAN