First Lady of the Fleet Trophy

The First Lady of the Fleet trophy is presented to the longest-serving commissioned vessel in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) fleet.

The trophy itself is an amalgamation of several pieces from decommissioned HMA ships. The voice pipe and wooden base were acquired from HMAS Sydney (IV), the border from HMAS Gladstone and the corners from HMAS Duchess. The image affixed to the trophy is of Nancy Bentley, the first female to be ‘enlisted’ in the RAN.

In 1920, six-year-old Nancy suffered a snake bite on the shores of Port Arthur, Tasmania. The nearest medical help was many miles away and, in desperation, Nancy’s father rowed her to HMAS Sydney (I) anchored in Carnarvon Bay.

At the time, regulations did not allow civilians to receive medical treatment on board one of His Majesty’s warships. The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Henry Cayley, ordered Nancy’s enlistment into the Royal Australian Navy.  The crewman noted Nancy's official rating as 'mascot' and annotated her period of service as 'until fed up'.

Following the delivery of first aid, Sydney transported Nancy to Hobart for further treatment. The warship later returned to Port Arthur, where Nancy was ‘discharged’ from the Navy after eight days’ service. ‘Being required by her parents’ was the reason for discharge.

The trophy was first presented to HMAS Darwin in 2017, which had served continuously for 33 years. HMAS Darwin handed the First Lady of The Fleet trophy to HMAS Success (II) during Darwin’s decommissioning ceremony on 9 December 2017. A practice of handing the trophy over to the youngest person on board the receiving ship was established.