HMAS
Westralia
(II)

HMAS Westralia (II)
Type
Support Ship
Pennant
AO 195
Builder
Cammell Laird & Co Ltd, Birkenhead, England
Launched
24 July 1975
Commissioned
9 October 1989
Decommissioned
16 September 2006
Dimensions & Displacement
Length 171 meters
Beam 25 meters
Draught 12.03 meters
Performance
Speed 17 knots
Complement
Crew 96
Capacity 25,000 tonnes of fuel, including several thousand tonnes of aviation fuel
Propulsion
Machinery Two Crossley-Peilstick 14 PC2-2 V400 diesel engines
Horsepower 14,000
Armament
Guns 3 x .50 cal Browning machine guns
Awards
Inherited Battle Honours
Battle Honours KUWAIT 1991
HMAS Westralia (II) Badge

HMAS Westralia was originally built in 1976 by Cammell Laird Shipbuilders in Birkenhead, United Kingdom, as the Stat 32 class petroleum products tanker, Hudson Cavalier. In 1979 she was acquired by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) for use as a Support Oiler. Renamed RFA Appleleaf, she was modified for underway replenishment. Appleleaf deployed to the South Atlantic Ocean from 2 April to 14 June 1982 for active service in the Falklands War.

The Australian Government leased Appleleaf in 1989 for five years with the provision to purchase the vessel outright at the end of the lease term. On 9 October 1989, after completion of a refit at Humber Ship Repairers, England, she was commissioned as HMAS Westralia, under the command of Commander John Moore, RAN.

HMAS Westralia
HMAS Westralia

Westralia arrived in Australian waters on 19 December 1989 and, on that day, HMAS Derwent became the first ship to conduct a Replenishment at Sea (RAS) with Westralia. The Army’s Special Air Service Regiment utilised Westralia as a training platform during Exercise ANCHOR CHAIN in January 1990 before the ship began preparations for her first Royal Australian Navy (RAN) deployment. An official renaming ceremony took place at HMAS Stirling on 12 March 1990, where the ship was officially renamed HMAS Westralia by Mrs Delys Gration, wife of the Chief of the Defence Force, General Peter Gration, AC, OBE.

HMAS Westralia
HMAS Westralia

Westralia departed Stirling on 15 March 1990 for her first overseas deployment during which she visited Singapore, Hong Kong, Sattahip, Kelang, Penang, Kuantan and Jakarta, and conducted exercises with Australian, British, French, New Zealand, Malaysian and Singaporean ships. From 16 to 21 May, she participated in the Royal Malaysian Navy’s 55th Anniversary celebrations and International Royal Fleet Review, following which she also participated in the Five Power Defence Agreement Exercise PASSEX 90-1. From 22 June to 10 October she underwent a refit at Keppel Dockyard in Singapore and arrived back at Stirling on 23 October 1990 after a seven month deployment.

HMAS Westralia conducts her first RAS in the RAN with HMAS Derwent on 19 December 1989.
HMAS Westralia conducts her first RAS in the RAN with HMAS Derwent on 19 December 1989.

A ‘role enhancement’ package was immediately commenced to ensure she would be able to deploy to the Middle East and included the installation of an RBS70 self defence missile system, 0.50 calibre machine guns and a new flight deck aft of the superstructure, making her capable of Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP). She also took on the new roles of naval and victualling stores replenishment.

On 2 January 1991, Westralia departed Stirling for the Arabian Gulf, relieving HMAS Success in the Operation DAMASK Area of Operations on 26 January, nine days after the commencement of military action by multi-national forces against Iraq. Westralia’s deployment in the Arabian Gulf was busy and demanding. During her 120-day deployment she conducted 90 replenishments with naval units from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. Westralia departed the Arabian Gulf on 25 May 1991 and arrived home on 9 June.

HMAS Westralia conducting a RAS with HMAS Tobruk in 1990.
HMAS Westralia conducting a RAS with HMAS Tobruk in 1990.

Westralia commenced a two-month Assisted Maintenance Period on 11 June prior to deploying to the Far East on 26 August. Westralia, in company with HMAS Swan (III), arrived in Manila on 5 September and set about providing assistance to the inhabitants of the island of Luzon following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June. Medical teams treated displaced people living in appalling conditions in evacuation centres while other ships’ teams worked on repairs to the Olongapo City Hospital and Olongapo National High School. Later that month, Westralia participated in exercise ADEX 91-4 with naval units from Singapore and Malaysia, and, in October, participated in Exercise NEW HORIZON with naval units from Indonesia. Upon returning to Australia, she participated in the Fleet Concentration Period off the east coast of Australia before arriving back at Stirling on 29 November.

Westralia operated Australian waters until May 1992, including participation in Exercise KANGAROO 92 in March. She once again deployed north, in company with Swan, on a four and a half month Asian deployment which took in eleven ports in nine countries and included participation in exercises AUSINA 2-92, STARFISH and AUSTHAI. The two ships’ crews were also able to see first-hand how their efforts of the previous year had assisted the people of Luzon in the wake of the Mount Pinatubo eruption. Westralia arrived back at Stirling on 2 October. She was only alongside for a weekend, however, before departing once again to assist HMAS Canberra in preparations for the frigate’s Operation DAMASK deployment, and to participate in Exercise VALIANT USHER 92.

HMAS Westralia at sea.
HMAS Westralia at sea.

Westralia commenced refit in Newcastle on 14 January 1993, emerging some 23 weeks later on 19 June. Following a brief operational visit to Auckland, she continued her work up in Australian waters and participated in the Fleet Concentration Period 93-2 during which Success and Westralia conducted the first consolidation replenishment-at-sea between two RAN tankers. On 16 September she deployed to Asian waters in company with HMA Ships Perth, Swan and Canberra, and conducted exercises with naval units from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan. Westralia arrived back at Stirling on 2 December.

Westralia again participated in the Fleet Concentration Period in east Australian waters in February 1994 before conducting two more Asian deployments during the year. She departed Stirling for South East Asian waters on 26 March participating in AUSINA 1-94, the Five Power Defence Agreement Exercise IADS 2-94 and Exercise LUMUTEX. She returned to Stirling on 4 June and participated in another Fleet Concentration Period, this time in West Australian waters, in August before departing for Asian waters on 29 August. There she participated in Exercises AUSTHAI and STARFISH, as well as the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Philippines. She returned to Stirling on 17 November.

HMAS Westralia circa 1994. This image offers an excellent view of the aft flight deck constructed in 1990.
HMAS Westralia circa 1994. This image offers an excellent view of the aft flight deck constructed in 1990.

A very busy year finished with Westralia as runner-up for the Gloucester Cup in the 1994 Fleet Awards. In addition, she was awarded the Afloat/Support Group Efficiency Award, and received special mentions for both hydrography (the Hydrographic Excellence Shield) and damage control and fire fighting (the Wormald Shield).

Westralia operated predominantly in Australian waters during 1995, including Exercise KAKADU in March, and Exercise KANGAROO in July/ August. She also deployed to New Zealand in April to participate in Exercise TASMANEX. On 25 August, Westralia departed Australia for South East Asian waters, this time in company with HMAS Perth (II), and participated in Exercises STARFISH and MARITIME GUARD. She arrived back at Stirling on 13 November.

HMAS Westralia replenishing an RAN Destroyer.
HMAS Westralia replenishing an RAN Destroyer.

Westralia began a four-month refit in Newcastle on 22 January 1996, emerging on 22 May. She participated in the Fleet Concentration Period that August before again deploying to South East Asia at the end of the month to participate in Exercise STARFISH, and returning to Darwin in October to participate in Exercise SINGAROO. She arrived back at Stirling on 24 October.

In January 1997, Westralia assisted HMAS Adelaide in the rescue of solo around-the-world yachtsmen Thierry Dubois and Tony Bullimore when their respective vessels capsized in the Southern Ocean around 1350 nautical miles south-west of Fremantle. Westralia replenished Adelaide on 11 January enabling the frigate to affect a successful rescue.

HMAS Westralia in the Southern Ocean in company with an RAN Frigate.
HMAS Westralia in the Southern Ocean in company with an RAN Frigate.

Westralia departed Stirling for eastern Australian waters on 26 January 1997 for the Fleet Concentration Period in February, and Exercise TANDEM THRUST in March. At the beginning of April, she made her way north for yet another Asian deployment and participation in Exercise FLYING FISH. The deployment was made somewhat more interesting due to the presence of Typhoons Opal and Peter in Japanese and Korean waters. Westralia arrived back at Stirling on 14 June and began a maintenance and leave period. During October she provided logistical support to Operation DIRK, which involved illegal fisheries patrols in the Southern Ocean, before finishing the year participating in exercises in the West Australian Exercise Area.

In February 1998, Westralia was once again in the Southern Ocean supporting operations to apprehend illegal foreign fishing vessels in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. This was to be followed by a South East Asian deployment, however, during her departure on 5 May a major fire broke out in the main machinery space. Tragically, Midshipman Megan Pelly, Petty Officer Shaun Smith, Leading Seaman Bradley Meek and Able Seaman Phillip Carroll all lost their lives. Westralia returned to Stirling while a Board of Inquiry was convened and remained alongside for almost the entirety of 1999 undergoing a refit.

HMAS Westralia looking forward from the bridge.
HMAS Westralia looking forward from the bridge.

Following trials in December 1999, Westralia put to sea on 31 January 2000 to conduct a shakedown and Operational Readiness Evaluation. She departed West Australian waters for the fist time since her refit on 14 February for exercises in the East Australian Exercise Area and a brief visit to Hobart. She arrived back at Stirling on 13 March to prepare for a South East Asian deployment. The deployment was cancelled, however, due to ongoing fuel pump problems. Finally, on 24 July 2000, Westralia, in company with Canberra, took passage to Darwin to participate in Exercise NORTHERN ENCOUNTER and Fleet Concentration Period 2/00. She deployed to the South West Pacific in early October where she conducted her 1000th RAS as a commissioned RAN vessel. She returned to Australian waters in late November and exercised with combined Australian and United States naval vessels.

Westralia berthed at Newcastle on 5 February 2001 for a refit, emerging on 10 April to conduct harbour and sea acceptance trials. She departed Newcastle for Brisbane on 5 May to participate in Exercise TANDEM THRUST before arriving back in her home port at Stirling on 1 June. She departed on 16 July for Darwin and participation in Exercise KAKADU in the first week of August. She departed for a South East Asian deployment on 13 August, however, the deployment was cut short on 28 August when she was re-tasked in support of Operation RELEX to intercept and deter unauthorised arrivals in Australia’s north-west approaches. She remained on RELEX duties intermittently until the end of the year.

In January 2002, Westralia sailed in company with HMAS Canberra in support of Operation SUTTON, which was initiated following a request by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority for RAN support in the arrest of an illegal foreign fishing vessel operating in the Southern Ocean. The vessels Lena and Volga were apprehended in Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone and six Spanish nationals were charged with poaching $A2.5 million worth of fish. Another 37 crew-members from the two vessels were sent home.

HMAS Westralia prepares to conduct a RAS with HMAS Adelaide.
HMAS Westralia prepares to conduct a RAS with HMAS Adelaide.

On 7 March 2002, Westralia departed Stirling and, interspersed with Operation RELEX duties in the vicinity of Christmas Island, conducted a series of goodwill visits to South East Asian ports including Penang, Singapore and Phuket before arriving back at Stirling on 14 May. She underwent an Assisted Maintenance Period before putting to sea on 26 July for Operation RELEX duties, a four-day visit to Phuket at the end of August, and three weeks in Singapore undergoing maintenance in November. She arrived back at Stirling on 3 December.

On 13 January 2003 Westralia sailed for a logistics support deployment which would see her circumnavigate Australia, however, a catastrophic failure of a cylinder in her starboard main engine required the ship to return to Stirling for repairs. Westralia proceeded to sea again the following evening. Embarked were a number of Loggerhead Turtles from the Western Australian Aquarium for release south of Broome Harbour and an ABC film crew who were filming a segment for George Negus’ New Horizons program. The ship continued on for Operation RELEX duties at the end of January, participation in Exercise TASMANEX in February, and hosting a number of homeless and itinerant youths to a tour and lunch on board in Adelaide as part of the ship’s ongoing commitment to the Lions Club International Charity. During the deployment, Westralia’s Marine Engineering Department was presented with the Australia Shield for Engineering Excellence.

A bow view of HMAS Westralia.
A bow view of HMAS Westralia.

Westralia arrived back at Stirling on 7 March for an Assisted Maintenance Period before deploying again for Operation RELEX duties on 24 April. She was forced to return to Stirling in May, however, experiencing difficulties with her main engines which resulted in a main engine rebuild that kept her in port until June 2004. Members of the ship’s company took advantage of the time alongside by participating in a charity ride from Perth to Albany, and back to Rockingham in October and November. Ten cyclists, and their support team, cycled 1200 kilometres in seven days, raising over $13,000 in support of several charities, including the Malibu School for Children with Special Needs and the Lions Foundation for children’s mobility, cancer, sight and hearing research.

That November the Defence Capability Review was made public and confirmed that Westralia would be replaced by the acquisition of an environmentally sustainable oiler expected to be in service in 2006. Westralia put to sea on 7 June 2004 and proceeded to Brisbane for a programmed intermediate docking. She emerged in mid-July and proceeded north to take part in Exercise SINGAROO in August at the conclusion of which, she continued north into Asian waters where she participated in the Five Power Defence Agreement Exercise BERSAMA LIMA. In October Westralia participated in Exercise GOODWILL with the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force and participated in the commemoration activities for the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. She returned to Stirling on 6 November 2004 after an absence of 5 months.

HMAS Westralia preparing to replenish HMA Ships Manoora and Anzac.
HMAS Westralia preparing to replenish HMA Ships Manoora and Anzac.

Westralia spent the first half of 2005 alternating between exercising in the West Australian Exercise Area and undergoing periodic maintenance at Stirling. On 23 may, Westralia departed Stirling for a busy deployment which included participation in Exercise TALISMAN SABRE in June and Exercise KAKADU in July/ August in Australian waters before proceeding further north into Asian waters for Exercises DEEP SABRE in August and BERSAMA LIMA in September. She returned to Stirling on 9 October and entered a period of leave and maintenance.

On 23 January 2006, Westralia sailed for her final deployment during which she visited Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide, and participated in Exercises OCEAN PROTECTOR and TASMANEX in February. In March, Westralia participated in Operation ACOLYTE, the Australian Defence Force’s support operation for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. During this operation, on 24 March 2006, HMAS Warramunga had the honour of being Westralia’s last replenishment customer (RAS number 1269). Westralia returned home to Stirling for the last time on 6 April 2006.

HMAS Westralia replenishing HMA Ships Manoora and Anzac.
HMAS Westralia replenishing HMA Ships Manoora and Anzac.

HMAS Westralia was decommissioned on 16 September 2006 after 17 years of RAN service. The ceremony included the Last Post, which was followed by a minute’s silence in memory of the lives lost aboard HMA Ships Westralia (I) and (II) in the course of their service. Since commissioning, Westralia II had steamed more than 457 908 nautical miles and transferred more than 400 million dollars worth of diesel.

Following her decommissioning she was jointly acquired by the AGR and Helix Energy Solutions groups with the intention she be converted into a Floating Production, Storage and Offloading vessel.