HMAS
Supply

Type
Tide Class Fleet Tanker
Pennant
0195, A195, AO195
International Callsign
VKCX
Motto
Strengthen the Shield
Builder
Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast
Laid Down
5 August 1952
Launched
1 September 1954
Launched by
Mrs Foley, wife of Captain JB Foley, RAN, the liaison officer for the RAN in the United Kingdom
Commissioned
15/08/1962 as HMAS Tide Austral
Decommissioned
16/09/1985
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 25,941 tons
Length 583ft 1 7/8in
Beam 71ft 3 3/4in
Draught 32ft 1in
Performance
Speed 17.5 knots
Complement
Crew 205
Capacity 17,957 tons Oil and Spirit
Propulsion
Machinery Single Screw Gear Turbines
Horsepower 15,000
Armament
Guns
  • 2 x Twin 40/60 Mountings
  • 2 x Single 40/60 Mounting

The ship that would serve in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as HMAS Supply was built by Harland & Wolf Ltd, Belfast, Northern Ireland. She was ordered as a war operations measure for the RAN as a result of a Government direction in 1951 requiring the armed services to prepare for mobilisation by 1953. Her keel was laid on 5 August 1952 and she was launched on 1 September 1954 by Mrs Foley, wife of Captain JB Foley, RAN, the liaison officer for the RAN in the United Kingdom. A bottle of Australian wine was used to christen the vessel Tide Austral.

 

The subsequent easing of international tensions rendered her employment as a unit of the RAN unnecessary at the time of her completion in March 1955 and she was subsequently leased to the British Admiralty which operated her as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) between 1955 and 1962.

 


RFA Tide Austral in service with the Royal Navy c. 1960.

In 1962 the Australian Naval Board decided to add Tide Austral to the Australian Fleet and she commissioned in the RAN at Southampton on 15 August 1962 under the command of Captain GV Gladstone, DSC*, RAN.

Captain GV Gladstone, DSC*, RAN, Supply's commissioning commanding officer.
Left: HMAS Supply ship's bell. Right: Captain GV Gladstone, DSC*, RAN, Supply's commissioning commanding officer.

HMAS Tide Austral only enjoyed a brief time as a commissioned ship of the RAN for on 7 September 1962 the ship was renamed HMAS Supply by Mrs Becher, wife of Rear Admiral Otto H Becher, CBE, DSO, DSC*, RAN. The name Supply was selected to commemorate the ship of the same name that accompanied the First Fleet to Sydney in 1788.

To ready Supply for her voyage to Australia several contingents of RAN personnel were flown to the UK to learn how to operate the tanker and acquaint themselves with the vessel. Following a brief period of workups, Supply sailed from Portsmouth on 1 October 1962 bound for Sydney where she arrived on 6 December in time for Christmas.


HMAS Supply shortly after her arrival in Sydney Harbour. She is yet to be equipped with her forward twin 40/60 Bofors guns.

As a unit of the RAN fleet, Supply’s role was to replenish other naval vessels at sea, thus giving the Fleet far greater range, mobility and flexibility. Replenishments at sea, or ‘RAS’ as they are known, are carried out almost anywhere at sea, day and night and in a wide range of weather conditions while ships are underway. The particular role of Supply was to provide fuel, aviation gasoline, diesoline and water to fleet units.


Supply burries her bows into a swell during an underway replenishment with the then RAN Flagship HMAS Melbourne (II).

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970’s Supply participated in a broad range of Commonwealth and SEATO exercises during which time she visited numerous South East Asian ports. These visits proved popular with her crew following many weeks at sea exercising and on passage.


Supply refuelling the Daring class destroyer HMAS Duchess and the Fast Troop Transport HMAS Sydney (III) en-route to South Vietnam c. May 1968.

In 1969, in a first for an RAN replenishment ship, Supply was awarded the prestigious Duke of Gloucester Cup for being deemed the RAN unit displaying the highest level of overall proficiency. http://www.navy.gov.au/history/tradition/duke-gloucester%E2%80%99s-cup


Supply at sea in the Eastern Australia Exercise Area c. 1970. Note the bold pennant number introduced in 1969.

On 25 June 1973 Supply sailed from Sydney having received orders to support HMNZS Otago on a protest mission to observe French nuclear atmospheric tests taking place at Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific. The two ships rendezvoused on 29 June when Otago was received alongside Supply for the first of several replenishment serials in connection with the operation. Later HMNZS Canterbury joined the protest action and she too was supported by Supply. Further details, and an expression of thanks to the crew of Supply from the New Zealand government, may be found in the 14 September 1973 edition of Navy News on the following link:http://www.navy.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Navy_News-September-14-1973.pdf

During her long and diverse career, Supply visited the African continent, took part in the American bicentenary celebrations in 1976, visiting Hawaii the US mainland and Canada and was one of the many RAN ships that steamed at short notice to Darwin in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Tracy on Boxing Day 1974. http://www.navy.gov.au/history/videos/operation-navy-help

The scene of destruction that met the RAN fleet on its arrival in Darwin following Cyclone Tracy
The scene of destruction that met the RAN fleet on its arrival in Darwin following Cyclone Tracy

As part of the Darwin relief operation she was loaded with generators, tents, medical supplies and building repair stores to assist the cyclone-stricken city. Many of her crew forged long-lasting friendships with those they helped in Darwin.

Captain JB Snow hands over the 'bowser' to Captain DJ Martin on rescinding command of Supply on 7 August 1978.
Captain JB Snow ceremonially hands over the 'bowser' to Captain DJ Martin on relinquishing command of Supply on 4 August 1978.

By the 1980s Supply was fast approaching the end of her useful life and although she was tired and old, those who served in her did so with and enduring affection for their ship. By 1985 a decision had been made to decommission Supply to make way for the new fast underway replenishment ship HMAS Success which was nearing completion at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney.


Supply in heavy weather during a replenishment serial with HMAS Stalwart c. 1980

During her career Supply steamed 667,421 miles at an average speed of 12.84 knots and completed 3401 underway replenishments at sea. Her sea time ended on 11 November 1985, Remembrance Day, when she entered Port Jackson, Sydney for the last time. She decommissioned on 16 December 1985.

Supply steams into Port Jackson, Sydney for the final time flying her paying off pendant suspended by helium filled balloons. It is a custom in the Navy for ships decommissioning to fly a paying off pendant from the main truck when they leave the fleet to decommission.
Supply steams into Port Jackson, Sydney for the final time flying her paying off pendant suspended by helium filled balloons. It is a custom in the Navy for ships decommissioning to fly a paying off pendant from the main truck when they leave the fleet to decommission.