HMAS
Wewak

HMAS Wewak
Class
Balikpapan Class
Type
Landing Craft Heavy (LCH)
Role Amphibious Warfare
Pennant
L 130
Motto
Do Not Yield
Home Port
Builder
Walkers Ltd, Maryborough Queensland
Laid Down
1 March 1972
Launched
18 May 1972
Commissioned
10 August 1973
Decommissioned
11 December 2012
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 364 tonnes (loaded, 517 tonnes)
Length 44.5 metres
Beam 10.1 metres
Draught 2 metres
Performance
Speed 10 knots
Range 3000 nautical miles
Complement
Crew 13
Propulsion
Machinery 2 x GM diesel engines driving two shafts
Armament
Guns 2 x 12.7mm Bowning machinge guns
Radars Racal Decca Bridgemaster
HMAS Wewak ships badge

HMAS Wewak was named after the amphibious assault on Wewak, Papua New Guinea, that took place on 11 May 1945.  Eleven Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships and motor launches were involved in the landing as was HMS Newfoundland and a number of other amphibious vessels.

HMAS Wewak commissioned into the RAN on 10 August 1973, the fourth of six Land Craft Heavy (LCH) vessels to join the First Australian Landing Craft Squadron based at HMAS Moreton in Brisbane.  After an intensive workup programme, Wewak participated in her first exercise that November, Exercise PRODIGAL SON, working alongside her sister ship, the Australian Army vessel AV Balikpapan, and the Army’s 1st Terminal Group in the Clarence River.  At the end of November, she made her first visit to southern waters for exercises in Melbourne

On 21 January 1974 Wewak departed Brisbane for her first overseas deployment to Papua New Guinea.  There the ship undertook sea-lift support tasks delivering stores and equipment to remote areas of the country. She also visited Port Moresby, Lae, Lombrum, Madang and Wewak – her namesake locality before returning to Australia in June.  The ship returned to Papua New Guinea in September and October assisting Australian Clearance Diving Team One with civil aid and Explosive Ordinance Disposal tasks. While there she also carried out civil aid tasks on islands around Manus to improve access to remote villages.

The versatility of RAN's LCH squadron saw them participate in a broad range of activities and operations. Wewak routinely provided civil aid throughout her long commission in the RAN.
The versatility of RAN's LCH squadron saw them participate in a broad range of activities and operations. Wewak routinely provided civil aid throughout her long commission in the RAN.

Wewak was one of the many RAN ships called upon to offer humanitarian relief as part of Operation NAVY HELP: DARWIN, the RAN’s assistance mission to Darwin in the wake of Cyclone Tracy which devastated the Northern Territory’s capital city on Christmas Day, 1974.  The ship’s company was recalled from leave and on 30 December was placed on standby.  She departed Brisbane for Darwin on New Years Day 1975 carrying building materials and electronic equipment.  She arrived on 13 January and for the

next four days performed sea-lift and personnel transfer duties, landing and retrieving shore parties daily.

Following the deployment to Darwin, Wewak settled into a routine of exercising and carrying out Army support tasks off the east coast of Australia, as well as providing training for RAN sailors of both the permanent and reserve forces.  Most of her commitments for the remainder of the 1970’s involved a busy schedule of sea-lift support for both the RAN and the Australian Army.  She participated in the Army exercises WAGON TRAIN II and WATER WHEEL in 1975 and Exercise KANGAROO in 1976.  In April 1975 she conducted trials to test the LCH’s capability to transport the RAN’s new Seaking helicopter.  She made her first deployment to South East Asia in August to support Army survey operations in Sumatra visiting various ports in Indonesia and Singapore. 

Wewak departing Brisbane c.1976
Wewak departing Brisbane c.1976

In July 1976, Wewak participated in Operation CENDERAWASIH, a series of mapping and charting operations conducted in the Province of Irian Jaya, Indonesia, transporting stores and fuel to several Irian ports.  She returned to Indonesia in July and August 1977 delivering two 16 meter patrol boats for the Indonesian Navy, and in September 1978, she was again back in Indonesian waters supporting the ongoing Operation CENDERAWASIH.

In March 1979 Wewak participated in Operation CAPRICORN AFFAIR ferrying men and equipment between Port Clinton and Townsend Island, and the following month she deployed to the Solomon Islands with members of Clearance Diving Team 1 embarked to clear a channel through the reef to Noro Harbour.  Over the course of four days, 111 mortar bombs were dropped to clear a channel 45 meters long, 30 meters wide and 4 meters deep.  Similar channel clearing operations were conducted in the approaches to Munda, Nusa Banga, Paradise and Njela.  Wewak returned to Indonesian waters in July 1979 supporting Operation PATTIMURA, the follow up to Operation CENDERAWASIH where she conducted survey operations in the Maluku province west of Irian Jaya.

Wewak's ship's company with the LCH Proficiency Shield, March 1979. Back row; POCOXN Chris Edes, ABMTP John McMahon, ABUW Graham Dennien, ABRO John Breen, LSMTP Brenton Rule, LEUT Bernie Neville (CO), CPOMTP Bob Price, ABMTP Mick Bulger, SBLT Stewart Dietrich (XO). Front row; ABMTP Leon Auciello, ABFC Charlie Pigram, LSCK Lindsay Smith, ABQMG Dene Travis, LSETC David Lutton.
Wewak's ship's company with the LCH Proficiency Shield, March 1979. Back row; POCOXN Chris Edes, ABMTP John McMahon, ABUW Graham Dennien, ABRO John Breen, LSMTP Brenton Rule, LEUT Bernie Neville (CO), CPOMTP Bob Price, ABMTP Mick Bulger, SBLT Stewart Dietrich (XO). Front row; ABMTP Leon Auciello, ABFC Charlie Pigram, LSCK Lindsay Smith, ABQMG Dene Travis, LSETC David Lutton.

The new decade began with a four-month refit before resuming a busy program of exercising, training, maintenance and support tasks. Over the next few years Wewak participated in numerous exercises including:  Exercise GOLDEN STRAND (1980), Exercise HARBOUR CRANE (1981) Exercises EL ALAMEIN and SAND CRAB (1982), Exercises TERMITE SPRAY and KANGAROO (1983) Exercise TRIDENT LOVE and DIAMOND DOLLAR (1984 &1985).

Captain W L Owen, RAN, Naval Officer in Charge Queensland observing beaching operations from Wewak in January 1981. HMAS Tarakan is visible in the background.
Captain W L Owen, RAN, Naval Officer in Charge Queensland observing beaching operations from Wewak in January 1981. HMAS Tarakan is visible in the background.

Most of the early eighties were spent in Australian waters training and providing sea-lift support, primarily for the Army.   In April 1982 Wewak departed Australian waters, with members of Clearance Diving Team 1 embarked, to participate in the Defence Co-Operation Program in the Solomon Islands, delivering stores and supplies around the

islands and conducting channel clearing operations in May.  Wewak was back in the Solomon Islands with Clearance Diving Team 1 in April and May 1985 conducting further channel clearance operations.

On 16 August 1985 Wewak decommissioned at HMAS Moreton and the following day departed for Cairns for refit and operational lay-up.

Following a fifteen year interregnum, Wewak recommissioned on 2 April 2000. She immediately began a Life of Type Extension (LOTE) refit which was to serve her well for ensuing operations.  The ship proceeded to sea for the first time in her second commission on 13 June 2000.

In July and August 2000 Wewak conducted her first deployment to East Timor in support of Operation TANAGER, reaching Dili Harbour on 18 July.  There the LCH provided logistic sea-lift support for the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).  She completed three more deployments to East Timor over the next few months in September-October 2000, December 2000-January 2001, and March-April 2001. 

Wewak participated in Exercise TANDEM THRUST in May 2001, before again deploying overseas in July in support of Operation BELISI II, providing sea-lift and other logistic support to the Multi-National Truce Monitoring Group on Bougainville Island.  She assisted in the peace signing ceremony on 30 August and the following day began the return voyage to Australia after being relieved by HMAS Tarakan.  She completed three more deployments to Bougainville in support of Operation BELISI II in January-February 2002, March-April 2002, and January-February 2003.

In September 2001 Wewak participated in Exercise SWIFT EAGLE before deploying to Noumea in November for the inaugural Exercise CROIX DU SUD, a French-led multinational humanitarian assistance/disaster relief exercise.

Wewak again departed Australian waters in July 2003 for the first of three deployments in support of Operation ANODE, the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to the Government’s strengthened assistance program to the Solomon Islands.  Wewak provided sea-lift support for Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands (RAMSI) forces and assisted with the weapon hand-back amnesty, collecting and destroying weapons from around the islands. Her crew also participated in a weapons destruction ceremony at Noro before returning to Australia in September 2003. She again deployed for the Solomons in November-December 2003, and March-April 2004.

Wewak provided support for Australian Quarantine and Inspection Services patrols, the Australian Army and participated in a number of major exercises and operations in Australian waters throughout the second half of the decade including; Exercise TALISMAN SABRE  (2005), Exercises SQUADEX and DUGONG (2006), Exercise SEA LION (2007), and Exercises SQUADEX and SEA LION in 2008, 2009 and 2010.  Much of that period was also spent in fleet training, assisting other RAN ships during work-ups and readiness evaluations.

Wewak
Wewak 'dried out' on Triangular Island in October 2006.

In 2005 Wewak participated in a Minor War Vessel Fleet Concentration Period in March and in April participated in Operation CRANBERRY in northern Australian waters.  She visited Port Moresby in September back loading equipment which had been used here during Exercise PUK PUK.

Wewak was an active participant in Operation RELEX II during January and February 2006 conducting patrols in the Torres Strait and providing much needed logistic support.  On 19 March Wewak was forced to leave Cairns and seek shelter in Wahday Creek as Tropical Cyclone Larry approached the Queensland coast.  She subsequently participated in Operation LARRY ASSIST conducting a survey of navigation aids in Mourilyan Harbour before returning to Cairns to remain on standby.  Wewak deployed overseas again in June 2006 ferrying stores and equipment between Darwin and Dili, East Timor, in support of Operation ASTUTE.

The versatility of the RAN's LCHs during Operation ASTUTE was vital to the success of it. A wide variety of military and humanitarian relief cargo was carried by the LCH squadron.
The versatility of the RAN's LCHs during Operation ASTUTE was vital to the success of it. A wide variety of military and humanitarian relief cargo was carried by the LCH squadron.

In August 2007 Wewak conducted Operation RESOLUTE patrols in the Joint Offshore Petroleum Development Area.  On 22 November she departed Cairns for Papua New Guinea to participate in Operation PNG ASSIST, the Australian Government’s assistance mission to Papua New Guinea in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Guba.  Wewak transported humanitarian aid, consisting of food, medical supplies and building materials, to Gona in the Oro Province.  She departed for home on 4 December.

HMAS Wewak, sits off the coast at Gona Beach in Papua New Guinea, with a load of food, water and medical aid assistance to be moved out by small craft During Operation PNG Assist.
HMAS Wewak, sits off the coast at Gona Beach in Papua New Guinea, with a load of food, water and medical aid assistance to be moved out by small craft During Operation PNG Assist.
A local Papua New Guinean man who helped load aid for villages affected by floods after Cyclone Guba waves goodbye to Royal Australian Navy Landing Craft Heavy HMAS Wewak from Lae port, in Papua New Guinea during Operation PNG Assist.
A local Papua New Guinean man who helped load aid for villages affected by floods after Cyclone Guba waves goodbye to HMAS Wewak from Lae port, in Papua New Guinea during Operation PNG Assist.

In June 2008 Wewak participated in the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program delivering construction equipment and vehicles to the remote Western Australian community of Kalumburu, and back-loading vehicles for return to Darwin.

July and August 2009 saw Wewak participate in the US led humanitarian aid mission, Operation PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP, in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Tonga.  Wewak provided sea-lift support for Medical Civic Action Program and Veterinary Civic Action Program teams while the ship’s crew provided ship-to-shore transport for personnel and equipment.  They also completed minor engineering projects such as the construction of a medical incinerator hut at Pangai Hospital in Tonga and painted a local primary school on Malaita Island.

Wewak was placed on standby in October to deploy to Samoa and Tonga for Operation SAMOA ASSIST, the Australian tsunami relief effort in the Pacific, however, she was not required and instead deployed to Papua New Guinea to participate in Exercise PARADISE.

HMAS WEWAK's crew prepare the zodiac for night boat evolutions, in the Solomon Islands during Operation ANODE, 2010
HMAS Wewak's crew prepare the zodiac for night boat evolutions, in the Solomon Islands during Operation ANODE, 2010.
Left: HMAS Wewak prepares to conduct a beach landing in Maliata provence in the Solomon Islands to pick up Australian military vehicles and Australian and Tongan soldiers. Right: Australian Army vehicles secured on the tank deck of HMAS Wewak during the transit from Malaita to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
Left: HMAS Wewak prepares to conduct a beach landing in Maliata provence in the Solomon Islands to pick up Australian military vehicles and Australian and Tongan soldiers. Right: Australian Army vehicles secured on the tank deck of HMAS Wewak during the transit from Malaita to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Operation ANODE 2010.

Further overseas commitments followed which saw Wewak participate in Operation ANODE between July and September 2010 where she provided sea-lift capabilities and transport for RAMSI personnel.

The final years of Wewak’s commission were spent in Australian waters primarily exercising with other RAN units.  In 2011 she participated in Exercises SQUADEX and TALISMAN SABRE, she also participated in the Minor War Vessel Concentration Period and provided support for Army units as part of Operation RESOLUTE.  In 2012 she participated in Exercise SEA LION and supported Defence Science and Technology Organisation scientists with trials off the Queensland coast.

HMAS Wewak decommissioned in Cairns on 11 December 2012, bringing to an end nearly four decades of essential logistic support not only to the Australian Defence Force, but also to the broader civilian communities of Australia and the South Pacific, the high tempo of her commitments reflecting the ship’s motto, Do Not Yield.

Left: Commanding Officer of HMAS Wewak, Lieutenant Luke Weston makes his address to dignitaries and invited guests at HMAS Wewak's Decommissioning Ceremony at HMAS Cairns Naval Base, North Queensland. Right: Ships Company of HMAS Wewak march off at the completion of her Decommissioning Ceremony at HMAS Cairns Naval Base, Queensland.
Left: Commanding Officer of HMAS Wewak, Lieutenant Luke Weston makes his address at HMAS Wewak's Decommissioning Ceremony. Right: Ships Company of HMAS Wewak march off at the completion of her Decommissioning Ceremony at Cairns Naval Base, Queensland.
Ships Company of HMAS Wewak salute during the Decommissioning Ceremony at HMAS Cairns Naval Base, North Queensland.
Ships Company of HMAS Wewak salute during the Decommissioning Ceremony at HMAS Cairns Naval Base, North Queensland.

HMAS Wewak – Commanding Officers

10/8/1973 LEUT G.W. Scown, RAN
16/8/1974 LEUT S.N. Howlett, RAN
31/3/1975 LEUT J. Young, RAN
5/1/1976 LEUT J.F. Cooper RAN
17/6/1977 LEUT B.E. Neville RAN
21/5/1979 LEUT P.R. Hateley, RAN
23/3/1981 LEUT K. Lascelles, RAN
3/4/1981 LEUT P.R. Hateley, RAN
17/4/1981 LEUT J.A. Boase, RAN
18/9/1981 LEUT R. Tucker, RAN
20/12/1982 LEUT P.C. Metcalf, RAN
14/4/1984 LEUT D.J. Trudgian, RAN
16/8/1985 Decommissioned
2/4/2000 LEUT S.A. Martinsen, RAN
11/12/2001 LCDR M. Edwards, RAN
8/7/2003 LCDR E.S.M. Mulder, RAN
11/1/2005 LCDR J.J. Williams, RAN
11/12/2006 LEUT C. Flynn, RAN
12/12/2008 LEUT R.W. Smilie, RAN
10/12/2010 LEUT L. Weston, RAN