Otranto Shields

At the end of each year the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Proficiency Awards are announced. One of the oldest of these is the Otranto Shield which is awarded annually in December to the fleet unit which, in the opinion of the Commander of the Australian Fleet, has achieved the best and most consistent gunnery and surface-to-air missile results during the year.

This, however, has not always been the case. Originally there were two Otranto Shields, one being for gunnery and the other being for torpedo gunnery. The provenance of the shields can be traced to 1910 when Australian sailors were taking passage in the Orient passenger liner Otranto on their way to pick up the new torpedo boat destroyers HMA Ships Parramatta (I) and Yarra (I). Recognising the uniqueness of the occasion, passengers in the Otranto donated a generous amount of money to fund two ornate presentation shields to be competed for by the men of the Australian Navy.

The shields were manufactured by a leading London firm and each contained 200 ounces of silver. The cost was £132 each which today equates to a staggering $18,000. Once made, the shields were conveyed to Melbourne by the Otranto, which had the pleasure of catching up with the two destroyers in Colombo during their passage to Australia.


The original Otranto Shield for torpedo gunnery seen here onboard HMAS Yarra (I).
A rare photograph of both original Otranto Shields, seen here onboard HMAS Stalwart (I) in 1924. (Cant collection)
A rare photograph of both original Otranto Shields, seen here onboard HMAS Stalwart (I) in 1924. (Cant collection)

Lost with HMAS Voyager (II) was the Otranto Shield for torpedo gunnery which she had won in 1963. On 10 February 1984, 20 years after Voyager’s sinking, the RAN instituted the HMAS Voyager (II) Trophy for anti-submarine warfare proficiency, to be awarded annually to the “...escort which in the opinion of the Fleet Commander has achieved the best and most consistent anti-submarine sensor and weapon performance during the year.” The inaugural winner was the guided missile frigate HMAS Canberra (II) for the year ended 1983. The most prolific winners have been HMAS Darwin, with five awards, and HMAS Perth (II) with four.

Rear Admiral William Dovers presents the Otranto Shield to HMAS Duchess' Commanding Officer, Commander J More, circa 1972. The appearance of the shield changed slightly in the years following to accommodate the names of the many ships that had won it.
HMAS Perth (II) was awarded the Otranto Shield in 1981. A proud moment for members of the gunnery department.
HMAS Perth (II) was awarded the Otranto Shield in 1981. A proud moment for members of the gunnery department.
HMAS Darwin crew members pose with the Otranto Shield in 1987.
HMAS Darwin crew members pose with the Otranto Shield in 1987.

A search for records of all recipients of both Otranto shields is underway and this will be added when located. The table below records those ships awarded the surviving Otranto Shield since 1980.

Year Ship Year Ship
1980 HMAS Hobart (II) 2010 HMAS Warramunga (II)
1981 HMAS Perth (II) 2011 HMAS Toowoomba (II)
1982 HMAS Parramatta (III) 2012 HMAS Perth (III)
1983 HMAS Torrens (II) 2013 HMAS Parramatta (IV)
1984 HMAS Adelaide (II) 2014 HMAS Arunta (II)
1985 HMAS Canberra (II) 2015 HMAS Perth (III)
1986 HMAS Perth (II) 2016 HMAS Ballarat (II)
1987 HMAS Darwin 2017 HMAS Toowoomba (II)
1988 HMAS Hobart (II) 2018 HMAS Hobart (III)
1989 HMAS Sydney (IV) 2019 HMAS Toowoomba (II)
1990 HMAS Sydney (IV) 2020 HMAS Arunta (II)
1991 HMAS Darwin    
1992 HMAS Hobart (II)    
1993 HMAS Melbourne (III)    
1994 HMAS Perth (II)    
1995 HMAS Brisbane (II)    
1996 HMAS Perth (II)    
1997 HMAS Brisbane (II)    
1998 HMAS Anzac (III)    
1999 HMAS Arunta (II)    
2000 HMAS Arunta (II)    
2001 HMAS Melbourne (III)    
2002 HMAS Arunta (II)    
2003 HMAS Stuart (III)    
2004 HMAS Arunta (II)    
2005 HMAS Warramunga (II)    
2006 HMAS Arunta (II)    
2007 HMAS Toowoomba (II)    
2008 HMAS Anzac (III)    
2009 HMAS Anzac (III)    

Petty Officer Electronics Technician David Jackson accepts the Otranto Shield on behalf of HMAS Arunta (II) from the Commander Surface Force, Commodore Lee Goddard, CSC, RAN, 4 June 2015.