River Class
Destroyer Escort (formerly designated as Anti-submarine Frigate Type 12)
International Callsign
Semper Paratus - Be Prepared
Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company, Sydney
Laid Down
20 March 1959
8 April 1961
Launched by
Mrs JG Gorton, wife of Minister for the Navy
28 June 1963
26 July 1991
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 2700 tons, full load
Length 112.8 metres
Beam 12.5 metres
Draught 5.5 metres
Speed 30 knots
Crew 234
Machinery Remote controlled steam boilers and geared steam turbines (two shafts)
Horsepower 30,000
  • Seacat guided-missile system
  • Ikara anti-submarine system
Guns Turret of two 4.5-inch guns controlled by an M22 Fire Control Radar
Torpedoes Two triple barrel anti-submarine torpedo tubes
Inherited Battle Honours

The type 12 Anti-Submarine Frigate, HMAS Stuart, was the second ship to carry the name in the Royal Australian Navy. She was constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, and was launched on 8 April 1961 by Mrs JG Gorton, wife of the then Minister for the Navy. On the day of her launching Sydney Harbour was graced with a warm sunny day and a large crowd of over 4000 people was in attendance. She commissioned at Garden Island, Sydney on 28 June 1963 under the command of Commander Maurice L Molony, RAN.


Stuart fitting out at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney.
HMAS Stuart fitting out at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney.
HMAS Stuart (II) undergoing sea trials, circa 1963. Note the red ensign flying from her quarterdeck.
HMAS Stuart (II) undergoing sea trials, circa 1963. Note the red ensign flying from her quarterdeck.

After working up, Stuart commenced a series of tests and trials of the Australian developed Ikara missile system. Stuart was the first ship to be fitted with the weapon. This task continued to occupy the ship during 1964 and the first half of 1965. A refit followed from August to December 1965.

Following a series of post-refit trials, Stuart departed Sydney 30 May 1966 for Pearl Harbor, where she participated in exercises with the United States Navy. She then proceeded to the Far East, returning to Sydney on 17 January 1967.

A fine profile of HMAS Stuart (II) wearing her original pennant number - F21
A fine profile of Stuart wearing her original pennant number - F21.

In May 1967 Stuart rendezvoused with the troop carrier Sydney and escorted her into Vung Tau, South Vietnam. The ships returned to Australia together.

On 4 September 1967 Stuart departed Sydney for a tour of duty with the Far East Strategic Reserve. During this tour she again escorted Sydney into Vung Tau in February 1968.

Stuart returned to Sydney on 1 April 1968 and a week later proceeded to Melbourne to refit at Williamstown Dockyard. Following the refit she returned to Sydney on 2 October 1968 and during the next five months was mainly engaged in exercises and trials.

Departing Sydney on 22 March 1969, Stuart began another tour of duty with the Far East Strategic Reserve. It was during this tour that the ship was one of the Australian vessels participating in a SEATO exercise in the South China Sea, in the course of which the destroyer USS Frank E Evans sank with heavy loss of life after a collision with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. Stuart returned to Sydney on 13 October 1969.

HMAS Stuart (II) conducting a replenishment at sea. In 1969 she adopted a the new style pennant number '48' seen here.
HMAS Stuart (II) conducting a replenishment at sea. In 1969 she adopted a new style pennant number '48' seen here.

A period of exercises followed. In April 1970 Stuart acted as escort to the Royal Yacht Britannia during the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Australia.

A further tour of duty with the Far East Strategic Reserve began with Stuart's departure from Sydney on 11 May 1970 and ended with her return on 15 October 1970. Further exercises and trials followed.

HMAS Stuart (II) received an unexpected welcome when she arrived in Singapore on 2 May 1972 to relieve Torrens. As she steamed into the ANZUK Naval Basin with her Piper playing atop the gun turret, the pipes and drums of 6 Bn Royal Australian Regiment on Torrens' upper deck broke into a medley of Scottish tunes.

On 19 April 1972 Stuart departed Sydney for deployment with the ANZUK Forces in the Far East, followed by a visit to Pearl Harbor in August/September 1972 for exercises with US, Canadian and other Australian Ships. She returned to Sydney on 6 October 1972.

HMAS Stuart (II) at sea during exercises, circa 1972.

Stuart remained in the Sydney area until August 1973 when she took part in RIMPAC exercises, returning in October 1973. In November 1973 she again left Australian waters, this time for Singapore to take part in Exercise SANDGROPER. She deployed to South East Asia in June 1974 and remained within the area until November that year. In December 1974 and January 1975 she participated in the relief of Darwin following Cyclone Tracy. Most of 1975 was spent in refit.

In June 1976 Stuart deployed in company with HMAS Vampire to the west coast of the United States and Canada as part of the American bicentenary celebrations. Ports visited included Pago Pago, Pearl Harbor, San Diego, San Francisco and Esquimalt. On her return to Australia she participated in Exercise KANGAROO II before carrying out a circumnavigation of Australia in company with HMA Ships Supply, Stalwart and Torrens.

Your INR performance was absolutely superb. The smartness of ships, the appearance and demeanour of crew were a matter of great personal pride to all. The enthusiasm, spirit, and total professionalism of all hands efforts made this observance one of those proud moments in our Navy - Marine Corps and Nation's history - Well done.

CINCLANTFLT Admiral Isaac Kidd, JR, USN

Commander Chris Hole, RAN, front right, with his ship's company, 1976. Photo courtesy of the Hole Collection with permission from Mrs Ginni Hole.

Seated (L-R) LEUT JS O'Hara, LEUT GD Kennedy, LEUT RRP Spencer, LCDR KW Scanlon, LCDR RT Derbidge (XO), CMDR CMG Hole (CO), LEUT RE Hughes, LEUT K Fanker, LEUT JP De La Perrelle RN (exchange officer handing over to LEUT Spencer), LEUT MJ Stock, LEUT WL King.

Standing Front Row (L-R) CPO ?, CPOUC W (Bill) Parker, SBLT AW Flint, SBLT RH Crane, SBLT ?, SBLT JA Diercks, PO ?, CPOET Tony Dibetta, next 8 POs (?), SBLT ?, SBLT CE Constance, SBLT WMcL Gately.

The period to July 1977 saw Stuart operating mainly in the Eastern Australia Exercise Area before deploying to South East Asia during the second half of the year. During this deployment she visited Surabaya, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Manila and Penang before venturing west to Christmas Island to take part in Territories day celebrations. She returned to Sydney on 17 December in time for Christmas.

HMAS Stuart (II) alongside Pearl Harbor with HMAS Brisbane (II). Right: Commander WE Rothwell, RAN, who assumed command of HMAS Stuart (II) in January 1977.

In contrast, 1978 saw Stuart confined mainly to Australian waters with the exception of a brief visit to Fiji in May. On Friday 2 March 1979 Stuart was decommissioned in preparation for an extensive 28 month, half life, modernisation at Williamstown Naval Dockyard. The aim of the refit was to improve the ship's operational effectiveness and life. It transpired that the modernisation dragged out to over four years and it was not until 29 July 1983 that she recommissioned under the command of Commander CA Barrie, RAN.

HMAS Stuart (II) at sea following her mid-life refit that saw her LWO radar aerial removed from the foremast and situated on the aft superstructure.
HMAS Stuart (II) at sea following her mid-life refit that saw her LWO radar aerial removed from the foremast and situated on the aft superstructure.

Stuart remained in Australian waters working up and exercising until May 1984 when she commenced the first of three South East Asian deployments, returning from the last in September 1986.

Commander MJ Stock is rowed ashore 23 April 1986.
Commander MJ Stock, RAN is rowed ashore on relinquishing command to Commander J Parsons, RAN, 23 April 1986.

On 19 January 1987, Stuart shaped course for Albany, conducting a full power trial en route and achieving more than 30 knots.

In late January, in preparation for a scheduled refit in Sydney, the crews of Stuart and Derwent were 'swapped out' - a first for RAN ships of this size. Derwent had only recently been home ported in the 'West' and the change-over meant that Stuart's crew, most of whom were Western Australians, could remain in WA with their families while their ship returned to the eastern states for refit.

Stuart arrived in Sydney on 16 February and having been defuelled and destored was cold-moved to Cockatoo Island Dockyard. With the ship uninhabitable, her crew was accommodated ashore in motels and at HMAS Kuttabul.

Stuart's refit officially completed on Friday 23 October 1987, some 35 days later than scheduled, due mainly to industrial disputes. The next few weeks proved busy for her ship's company as they worked hard to bring the ship back to operational efficiency. At the end of the year Stuart's Commanding Officer, Commander J Parsons, RAN, relinquished command to Commander JS O'Hara, on 22 December.

Left: Commander JS O'Hara, RAN accepts command of Stuart from Commander J Parsons, RAN.

1988 proved to be a busy and eventful year for the 'Tartan Terror' and her ship's company. Having been temporarily transferred to the eastern states, she became the first RAN ship to officially berth at the recently refurbished Fleet Base East on 22 January.

HMAS Stuart (II) berths at the recently completed Fleet Base East following the 1988 Australia Bicentenary Fleet Entry into Sydney Harbour and circumnavigation of Cockatoo Island. (Courtesy J.S O'Hara)
HMAS Stuart (II) berths at the recently completed Fleet Base East following the 1988 Australia Bicentenary Fleet Entry into Sydney Harbour and circumnavigation of Cockatoo Island. (Courtesy J.S O'Hara)

Stuart's operational year started quickly with participation in a Fleet Concentration Period (FCP) and Divisions in Jervis Bay on 18 February. The poor weather experienced during the FCP saw the majority of the ships ordered into Jervis Bay but Stuart and Parramatta, both of which were holding a strong submarine contact, elected to continue with the exercise. This saw both ships subjected to heavy weather as they rode out the storm before also being ordered to seek shelter.

Left: HMAS Stuart (II) as viewed from Parramatta during FCP 1-88. Right: Lieutenant G Priestnall conning HMAS Stuart (II) during the violent weather. (Courtesy JS O'Hara)

One of HMAS Stuart's signalmen communicating with HMAS Parramatta in spite of the gale and heavy swell. (Courtesy JS O'Hara)

Later in the month, Stuart took part in Exercise FLYING FISH 88 in company with HMA Ships Hobart, Success, Darwin, Adelaide, Parramatta, Canberra, Torrens, Otama, Onslow and two French naval ships. On 17 March the Sea Training Group joined Stuart to assess her operational readiness. Some 32 eventful and exhausting hours later the ship was awarded a 'standard achieved'.

A families day at sea was held in mid-April, when, with over 140 guests embarked the ship sailed from Sydney north to Broken Bay, in glorious sunshine and calm seas.

Stuart was than assigned for duties as part of a three ship training squadron along with Stalwart and Jervis Bay. In early May, Stuart joined her two consorts for Training Cruise 88-4. With an Advanced Seamanship class embarked, Stuart's first task saw her involved in Exercise TASMAN LINK, a brigade level offensive support exercise in the Shoalwater Bay area. The Tartan Terror's main role during the exercise was Naval Gunfire Support, and her final fire mission in the exercise saw her expend an impressive 120 4.5-inch rounds. This saw her record firing over a thousand rounds since her 1987 refit.

The training cruise saw the squadron visit Mackay and Townsville before berthing in Brisbane during the World Expo 88. During the passage back to Sydney, several of Stuart's ship's company hosted their fathers onboard for the return passage to Sydney.

Signalmen conducting flag drills onboard HMAS Stuart's flagdeck. L-R: ABSIG M Coleman, ABSIG C Jones, ABSIG L Marshall, LSSIG J Argoon, POSY M Burton, LSSIG D Russell. (DJ Perryman)

Tuesday 28 June 1988 saw Stuart celebrate the 25th anniversary of her Commissioning into the RAN. This event was conducted alongside Garden Island's Cruiser Wharf and was attended by the Fleet Commander, Rear Admiral PR Sinclair, RAN and a small group of navy veterans who had served in HMAS Stuart (I) as part of the famous Scrap Iron Flotilla during World War II.

In mid-July, Stuart, in company with Stalwart and Jervis Bay, deployed on a nine-week training cruise to South East Asia. The squadron's passage north was briefly interrupted on 11 July, when Stalwart's helicopter sighted a life raft containing five crew members from the fishing vessel Lochelin which had sunk a week earlier. The occupants were winched aboard the Sea King for transfer to Stalwart, while Stuart recovered the life raft.

Stuart's first overseas port visit was to Jakarta followed by an independent passage to Singapore. During the transit a Crossing the Line ceremony was held on the afternoon of 10 August followed by a 'steel beach' barbecue under a perfect equatorial twilight. Stuart's ship's company enjoyed the visit to Singapore with a number of wives taking the opportunity to join their husbands.

On completion of the visit to Singapore, all three ships of the training squadron took passage to the Philippines conducting a range of exercises and drills en route. On the afternoon of Saturday 20 August, exercises were suspended to host the prestigious annual Royal Stuart Park Race Carnival. A large field of prized fillies from each mess deck turned out and the event proved to be an unqualified success.

Royal Stuart Race day. L-R: POSY M Burton (tartan tie); CMDR JS O'Hara, RAN; PORS K Slavin.

Cebu City on the Philippine island of Cebu was the squadron's next port of call. The navigation plan proved challenging and much faith was placed in the local pilot's knowledge and advice as charts held onboard did not show extensions to the new Cebu International port or the dredged areas adjacent.

The squadron's final overseas visit saw the ships briefly visiting Manus Island, in company with the patrol boat, HMAS Gawler. The primary reason for the visit was for Stuart to refuel from Stalwart, but the opportunity was also taken to strengthen defence cooperation ties with PNG by providing personnel and equipment for maintenance and construction work ashore, in addition to some medical and dental assistance. A tour of the island was conducted for 80 junior officers during the short stay to provide an insight into the history and strategic significance of Manus Island.

Left: HMAS Stuart (II) nested alongside HMAS Stalwart at Manus Island. Right: The visit proved a good opportunity for 'Hands to Bathe'. (DJ Perryman)

Early September saw the squadron back in Australian waters, conducting pilotage training in the Whitsunday Passage area. On 5 September, Stuart suffered a serious defect in a main turbine gearbox, necessitating her independent passage to Sydney for repairs.

HMAS Stuart (II) at sea in the eastern Australian exercise area, circa 1988.
HMAS Stuart (II) at sea in the eastern Australian exercise area, circa 1988.

The next significant event for Stuart, and the RAN, was the Bicentennial Naval Salute held in Sydney Harbour. On Saturday 1 October, Stuart anchored in a prime position immediately east of Fort Denison awaiting the review of his Royal Highness the Duke of York. In due course the reviewing ship, HMAS Cook, passed close by and the ship's company gave a hearty three cheers. By late afternoon the majority of the 60 ships involved had moved to alongside berths, but Stuart remained at anchor where she had the additional privilege of firing a 16-gun salute in honour of the nations participating in the review, and as a prelude to the spectacular fireworks display that evening.

On 4 October 1988, Stuart sailed from Sydney on passage to Western Australian waters via Melbourne, Adelaide, Esperance and Albany, to be once again home ported at Fleet Base West. Since January 1985 Stuart had been adopted by the town of Albany and had been granted Freedom of Entry of the city. The visit en route to Albany proved popular and Stuart's ship's fund made a donation of $1000 to the ship's adopted charity, the Association for Developmental Disability.

Departing Albany on 3 November, Stuart shaped course for Fremantle where the ship berthed the following day, much to the pleasure of families and friends. On Monday 7 November, with Commodore Baird, Naval Officer Commanding West Australian Area onboard, Stuart took passage to Stirling, where she arrived to the sound of appropriate Scottish airs provided by the West Australian Police Pipe Band.

On her return to Western Australia HMAS Stuart (II) received a warm welcome following an absence of almost two years.

As a suitable finale for Stuart's year, the Annual Fleet Awards signal announced that the ship had been awarded the Wormald Shield for NBCD and firefighting efficiency in 1988.

HMAS Stuart's officers assembled with their captain, Commander JS O'Hara, RAN on Stuart's foc'sle.

1989 was programmed to be yet another busy year for the Tartan Terror. On 3 January Stuart began preparing for sea conducting a basin trial, a fast cruise and storing ship in preparation for a three month deployment to South East Asia. On 13 January, lines were cast off, and Stuart set course for Jakarta where she arrived on 21 January amidst a monsoonal downpour. Her next destination was the Royal Malaysian Navy base at Lumut, coinciding with the Chinese New Year, followed by a visit to Bangkok in company with HMAS Derwent. The four day visit was very hectic, with Stuart's ship's company attending a social function at the Australian Embassy, and competing in a number of sporting contests ranging from a Hash House Harriers run, cricket, golf, squash and tennis, to less strenuous darts. Chaplain John Simpson, accompanying the ships for the deployment, coordinated financial donations from both ships to the Christ Church of Bangkok, the Pattaya Orphanage for deaf and dumb children and one of Thailand's overflowing refugee camps.

In mid-February, Stuart was alongside in Singapore's Sembawang Basin for an Assisted Maintenance Period. In the early hours of 23 February, the ship received advice of the death of one of her junior sailors, ashore in Singapore, who had fallen from an upper floor of the Far East Plaza building. Official investigations were conducted by Singapore Police and the New Zealand Military Police into the unfortunate death. A contingent from Stuart subsequently had the sad duty of lining the approaches to Singapore Airport when the casket was delivered for return to Brisbane.

HMAS Stuart's ship's company alongside in Sembawang, Singapore, 1989. (Courtesy JS O'Hara)

In early March Stuart and Derwent shaped course westward across the Bay of Bengal to Madras. This was the first visit to India by RAN warships since 1986, and the first to Madras in a decade. Madras was a unique and enlightening experience for libertymen, and tours to various places of interest were heavily patronised. High teas hosted onboard ships of both navies provided an excellent opportunity for sailors of all ranks to exchange ideas and experiences with their foreign counterparts. A combined ships cricket team performed admirably against the well-renowned Madras Cricket Club. During the visit, both ships provided community assistance to the Convent of the Little Flower (Deaf Annex) in the form of painting, cleaning and a charity donation of $A420.

Returning east to more familiar tropical waters, Stuart's next port of call was Penang, on the west coast of Malaysia. The ship entered Penang on 21 March, and, after aborting the initial approach to the wharf, due to the attentions of a seemingly suicidal junk master, the ship berthed at Swettenham Pier at 10:15.

An Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) Exercise, ADEX 89-2, provided a challenging operational environment for both Stuart and Derwent in early April. The exercise involved almost 90 aircraft, and several warships from the Australian, New Zealand, British, Singaporean and Malaysian navies.

In spite of her age HMAS Stuart (II) was able to achieve an impressive 30 knots during full power trials.

After a final port visit to Singapore, Stuart and Derwent steamed in company back to more temperate waters, arriving at HMAS Stirling on 19 April 1989 where Commander JR Langsford, RAN, assumed command on 21 April.

The next few weeks were busy for both ships with preparations for Operational Readiness Evaluations and annual inspections. The next major exercise for Stuart was participation in KANGAROO 89 in August. This saw the ship steam north via Exmouth to Darwin. At Exmouth, Stuart took part in the festivities for American Independence Day over the weekend of 7-9 July 1989.

Exercise KANGAROO 89 saw units of the Australian Defence Force participating in Australia's largest military exercise. The K89 maritime operating area was concentrated in the sea and air gap to the north and northwest of the continent. Stuart was assigned to the Orange Forces, as the Kamarian warship RSK Muong Nuga, where she enjoyed herself creating mayhem and destruction for the duration of the exercise.

HMAS Stuart (II) at sea, circa 1988. (DJ Perryman)

The period from 28 August to late October was spent at Fleet Base West for leave and an assisted maintenance period. Leave for some personnel was disrupted due to an extended 1989 commercial pilots strike, which saw RAAF transport aircraft mobilised on some Australian commercial routes. On 31 October, following Navy Week commitments, Stuart sailed from Stirling for her second overseas deployment for 1989; a four month deployment to South East Asian ports, in company with Torrens.

The two ships entered Indonesian waters via the Lombok Strait. Lying between the islands of Bali to the west and Lombok to the east, with the Java Sea to the north and Indian Ocean to the south, this strait is well known to RAN ships on deployment to the Far East. En route to Surabaya, their first overseas port, Stuart and Torrens were welcomed by hundreds of small fishing boats or prahu which stretched across the horizon. More worrying for the command teams, the density of these small boats, usually unlit, or poorly lit, remained intense at night, seemingly concentrated on the ships planned track.

At first light on 14 November en route from Surabaya to Lumut, a small trading dhow was sighted low in water. As Stuart altered course to investigate, a number of people could be seen frantically waving from a makeshift raft lying next to the vessel. The Sinar Maju had been swamped during a storm the previous evening and was kept afloat only by its cargo of timber. Six grateful survivors were rescued by Stuart's sea boat and transferred to Torrens for medical treatment.

Stuart's and Torrens' first visit to Hong Kong for the deployment saw them berthed at HMS Tamar, 1-5 December 1989. During the weekend all the ships berthed at Tamar were open to visitors as part of Navy Day. Each visitor was charged 3 HK dollars (approx 50 cents Australian) to enter Tamar and visit the ships and displays. Over the two days, almost 7000 people toured Stuart. The Captain in Charge (CAPIC) Hong Kong was pleased to announce that Navy Days had raised a substantial amount for local charities.

On 5 December, Stuart proceeded to sea in company with Torrens bound for Manila. It was initially planned for the ships to visit both Manila and Subic Bay, but an attempted coup against the Philippines President, Corazon Aquino, caused the visits to be cancelled. This saw the ships return to Hong Kong for a three week AMP, 14 December 1989 to 1 January 1990.

For the duration of the visit full advantage was taken of all that Hong Kong had to offer including tours of the harbour, Kowloon, the New Territories and neighbouring islands, including Macau. HMS Tamar was again hospitable, with all its facilities open to visiting sailors and Hong Kong's famous shopping attractions did not disappoint.

No extended visit to Hong Kong would be complete without the fabled Jenny's Side Party descending on the ship to carry out routine cosmetic maintenance. No sooner had Stuart secured, than Jenny Ng, who ran the Side Party, was at the ship to present the Captain and Executive Officer with a big bunch of flowers, while her girls got to work. Berthed in Victoria Basin, Stuart was an impressive sight, especially at night, when the ships ceremonial lighting blended against the Christmas lighting of the buildings which towered over the basin.

Christmas Day was celebrated onboard Stuart in the traditional manner. Festivities started at 10:00 when Commander Langsford accompanied the Captain of the Day, 16-year-old SMNRP DG Donnelly, on a walk through the ship to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to judge communal space decorations. From Stuart's Report of Proceedings for December 1989:

The rounds party was bolstered by members of the Petty Officers mess who formed a band. At 11:00, many of the ship's company, some with their wives and families, gathered under the awning on One Deck aft. Here, the Chief Petty Officers performed a nativity play which was interspersed with Christmas carols and ended in prayer. The light-hearted occasion failed to subdue the deep emotions of a Christmas away from home, leaving hardly a dry eye. Then with the stage transformed to chairs and tables, the Christmas fare was arranged amid ice and margarine carvings and served by the officers to the ship's company and their guests. During the afternoon and evening, many took advantage of the invitations which had been extended to the ships' companies from members of the community. It was a memorable Christmas.

HMAS Stuart (II) departing Port Jackson, Sydney, circa 1990.
HMAS Stuart (II) departing Port Jackson, Sydney, circa 1990.

On Monday morning, 1 January 1990, Stuart and Torrens cast off, with Stuart farewelled from her berth by Chinese firecrackers let off by Jenny's Side Party. Having successfully negotiated the Crown Colony's busy Victoria Harbour, the two ships set a southerly course for Bangkok. The long passage to Bangkok required careful fuel expenditure, so manoeuvring exercises were minimised and training restricted to internal drills and synthetic warfare serials. On Sunday 7 January, Stuart's Royal Stuart Turf Club held a Christmas Racing Carnival onboard in support of the ship's fund.

On 9 January, after the long passage up the Chao Praya River, Stuart secured to number 1 buoy, Sathu Pradit, for her Bangkok visit. Bangkok proved popular with Stuart's ship's company, with an active sporting program, well subscribed tours and excellent shopping providing attractive alternatives to the renowned nightlife. In addition, a party of Stuart's sailors visited the Pattaya Orphanage to entertain the children and present a $600 cheque to the founder, Father Walter Brennan. On Sunday 14 January, at Christ Church in Bangkok, Chaplain John Simpson, RAN was the guest celebrant for the morning service. During the service Stuart's Commanding Officer presented cheques totalling $1550 and handed over 30 boxes of books and clothing collected in Stuart and from the Perth area.

On the passage south from Bangkok, Stuart and Torrens formed the opposing 'Orange Force' for a night encounter exercise against the Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Coventry. In the sea approaches to the east of Singapore Strait, the two destroyer escorts remained silent on all emitters and rigged deceptive lighting in an effort to avoid detection. They were, however, easy prey for their more modern foe which was armed with surface-to-surface Exocet missiles and equipped with a potent missile-armed helicopter. On completion of the exercise Stuart detached and took passage to Penang on the west coast of Malaysia which proved an enjoyable visit for the ship' company, who took advantage of the tourist attractions, particularly the inexpensive shopping and facilities offered by the resort hotels.

In early February the two destroyer escorts participated in a passage exercise with Royal Malaysian Navy ships, during which they conducted an extensive series of exercises and gunnery weapon practices in the South China Sea Exercise Areas, adjacent to Pulau Tioman. On 4 February, Stuart suffered a minor electrical fire, causing a loss of power to both the ship's gyro compasses. Consequently, Stuart remained in station astern of Torrens overnight to ensure her compasses settled correctly. In this formation, during the moonless and overcast middle watch, a contact closed at speed from astern and swept down the port side, close enough to reveal the imposing silhouette of an 8000 tonne Russian destroyer Stoyky.

Two days later, Stuart detached from Torrens for independent visits to Kuantan, Kota Kinabalu and Singapore. The visit to Singapore was the final foreign port visit for the deployment where it was arranged for HMA Ships Parramatta and Derwent to continue the RAN's presence in South East Asia. At 10:00 Wednesday 22 February, with the skirl of her piper resonating off the buildings adjacent to the wharf, Stuart backed out of the basin and commenced passage back to Australia. On Friday 2 March, Stuart rounded Colpoys Point and approached Fleet Base West, where the wharf was packed with family and friends waving banners and balloons in a colourful welcome. During the deployment Stuart had made 15 port visits and steamed more than 15,000 nautical miles.

A father and son cruise followed in April when Stuart steamed south to Albany for Anzac Day, with fifteen fathers embarked. En route a coordinated ship assault exercise took place with Stuart simulating the target. The exercise saw personnel from the SAS Regiment and a US Navy Seal team, assaulting the ship from helicopters and power boats. On arrival in Albany, Stuart's ship's fund presented a $1000 cheque to the ship's charity.

Anzac Day in Albany commenced with a Dawn Service at the Mount Clarence Cenotaph. RSL members assembled before the cenotaph and Stuart's officers were paraded in two lines on either side. During the brief but solemn service the large crowd was able to gaze across the Sound, and in the early light, see where troop ships had lain at anchor before departing Australia for the Middle East.

Later in the forenoon, the ship's company were prominent in the Anzac Day Parade, providing a Colour party, a Lieutenant's Guard and four 30-man platoons, to join with veterans and local units of Army and Air Force Reserves. Stuart also provided an eight-man platoon to march in the parade in Boyup Brook, a small community 230km from Albany.

After an unpleasant passage in a four-metre westerly swell the ship berthed at Stirling on Friday 27 April. Soon after securing alongside, 162 family and friends of the ship's company arrived onboard for a Family's Day.

In mid-May Stuart was cold-moved to the Australian Shipbuilding Industry (ASI) Shiplift Facility to undergo an intermediate docking. An inspection of the ageing warship revealed serious corrosion in the tiller flat and around the port rudder post resulting in the docking being extended to 20 August 1990. During that time the ship celebrated her 27th year in commission on 28 June.

Disappointing news for Stuart's ship's company came on Wednesday 22 August 1990 when, during the forenoon, the Maritime Commander Australia was received onboard where he informed a stunned ship's company that Stuart would be decommissioned on 31 August to release manpower for higher priority activities and to make expenditure savings.

At 10:30, Monday 27 August, under overcast threatening skies, lines were cast off, and Stuart proceeded into Cockburn Sound for a short passage to fly the decommissioning pennant. Mr Bill Williams, a member of the WA Pipe Band, played his pipes, and the skirl pronounced the solemn occasion as Stuart sailed Western Australian waters for the last time as an operational unit. During the 45-minute passage, the ship easily attained a speed of 25 knots, a noteworthy achievement with a ship fresh out of a docking period. At 11:15 the ship berthed alongside Destroyer Wharf East. Revolutions were run off, 'finished with main engines' was passed and Stuart reverted to 24 hours notice for sea. At 23:59 Friday 31 August, she ceased operational service.

However, a reprieve of sorts came on Friday 7 September with the welcome news that Stuart would remain in service until 31 May 1991. From a statement by the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Ray:

The paying off of Stuart will be deferred to maintain the Navy's ability to meet training commitments in Australia and to participate in international exercises.

Paying off plans for Stuart were immediately cast aside, and operational planning commenced. Personnel proceeding on leave and posting were stopped at the airport, while others were recalled. Work started immediately to bring the ship back to life, with the first tasks being refuelling, restoring, bringing equipment such as boilers out of a state of preservation, and setting equipment to work. Then, just six short days after the signal was received to continue operations, Stuart sailed for exercises in the WAXA.

On 29 September, Stuart departed Stirling for a two-month deployment to the Eastern States. For her ship's company the next few weeks were busy, supporting the eastern fleet units, conducting two series of submarine weapon firings, and taking an active role in the Operation DAMASK work-up of HMA ships Brisbane and Sydney, prior to their deployment to Operation DAMASK in the Middle East. Stuart returned to Stirling at the end of November 1990, a fully operational unit of the RAN.

On 31 January 1991 Stuart took independent passage from HMAS Stirling for her final deployment to South East Asia. On passage north at the start of the deployment, her routine reflected that of many RAN warships: exercising internal routines, DSOTS and emergency exercises. Recreational activities onboard began in earnest with Dog Watch physical training and publication of the Ship's Newspaper (the Stuart Star). The usual ship's quiz and beard growing competitions also started.

Following a refuelling stop at Port Hedland, Stuart next took passage through the Lombok Strait; usually scenic, but in this case, mostly obscured by frequent tropical rain squalls. On Wednesday 13 February, steaming north west from Surabaya, His Aquatic Majesty, King Neptune, Lord of the Sea and Ruler of the Deep, was piped aboard, together with ferocious members of his Court, immediately ordering all 'pollywogs' onboard to muster and pay homage. Not until the last 'pollywog' was anointed in a bath of dubious origins, did Neptune pronounce them 'trusty shellbacks', only then permitting Stuart to proceed on her way to Singapore.

Stuart's visit to Singapore coincided with Chinese New Year celebrations and was subsequently quiet. HMAS Success, enjoying a well-earned rest following her duties in the Persian Gulf proved a willing opponent in soccer, rugby and Australian Rules.

On 18 February 1991, while alongside at Sembawang, Commander JR Langsford was hospitalised, and his Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander KC Bayley-Jones assumed command in his absence. Departing Singapore, Stuart took passage north to the South China Sea Exercise Areas for exercises with Republic of Singapore naval units and aircraft. On completion, she set course for Langkawi Island via the busy Singapore and Malacca Straits. Langkawi is a small, under-developed resort island last visited by Stuart in 1967. It was an enjoyable visit with the ship's company soon absorbed into the island's tourist population.

A visit to Penang was next on the program, followed by passage to the Philippines for goodwill visits to Cebu, Subic Bay and Manila. During her passage, in preparation for major exercises later in the deployment, Stuart had a busy program of damage control, ship handling and synthetic warfare exercises. While alongside at Subic Bay, the Sea Training Group (STG) joined the ship to assist in maintaining operational readiness.

A much anticipated visit to Hong Kong for Easter followed with the ship entering Hong Kong harbour in thick fog on the forenoon of 27 March. After firing a 21 gun salute abeam Hum Hong buoy, Stuart berthed at HMS Tamar. During the stay, the crew enjoyed a busy sporting program, plus the many traditional attractions that Hong Kong had to offer. Again, the hospitality of HMS Tamar was on a par with the shopping opportunities provided by the Crown Colony.

From Hong Kong, Stuart took passage to Kota Kinabalu. On Friday 5 April, she encountered the P&O liner Sea Princess which requested a photo opportunity, with the captain of Sea Princess, Commodore Bastian, offering his ship as guide for OOW manoeuvres. Much to the delight of Sea Princess' passengers Stuart complied.

While alongside at Kota Kinabalu, Commander Langsford resumed command of Stuart. The visit generated considerable goodwill amongst the local community with the ship gaining extensive press coverage. The work done by members of the ship's company in erecting a greenhouse and carrying out general maintenance in two local schools for the intellectually handicapped was genuinely appreciated. Then, to the delight of 500 soccer fans, Stuart was trounced by the local Sabah team.

On completion of the Kota Kinabalu visit on Wednesday 10 April, course was shaped for Singapore. En route, the ship had a demanding program of internal drills, culminating in a synthetic War-at-Sea exercise to prepare Stuart's ship's company for forthcoming international exercises.

A number of Stuart wives joined their husbands for the nine days in Singapore, and for many of the ship's company this was a final opportunity to shop during the deployment. During the visit, Stuart was joined by Ovens, Adelaide, Darwin, Swan and the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Manchester.

On 21 April, Stuart sailed from Singapore for the last time, with an Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) Exercise next on her program. Ten ships from the nations in the Five Power Defence Agreement (FPDA) plus over 100 aircraft took part in Exercise IADS 1-91. This multi-national exercise off the east coast of Malaysia, saw ships participating in an escalating air war, supported by shore-based Combat Air Patrol, in the air defence of both Malaysia and Singapore. To add interest and further activity, there was also a complementary naval exercise program with the aim of improving interoperability between FPDA ships.

Following a short visit to the Kuantan Royal Malaysian Navy Base, 25-28 April 1991, Stuart was next involved in the annual Five Power Defence Agreement STARFISH Exercise. This exercise featured a structured Tactical Phase, escorting a high value unit (in this case HMNZS Endeavour), where the force reacted to a number of multi-threat structured incidents in a 'hot war' environment. The exercise culminated in a Freeplay Phase, centring on the protection of Endeavour, with opposing forces manoeuvring for tactical advantage, and ending, as ever, in a furious exchange of simulated missiles and gunfire.

Following STARFISH, the ships anchored in the Telok Tekek anchorage for the much-anticipated traditional post-exercise 'banyan' ashore on Pulau Tioman Island. Stuart, in company with Adelaide, Swan and Darwin then took passage to Surabaya, where they berthed on 15 May. This was the last overseas port visit for the deployment, with Stuart and Swan then shaping course via the Lombok Strait, back to Western Australian waters.

Off Perth, the two ships rendezvoused with Derwent for a series of close OOW manoeuvres to enable a photographer aboard HMAS Moresby's helicopter to record the three West Australian based Destroyer Escorts in company for the last time. After an absence of four months, Stuart then proceeded into Cockburn Sound to berth at HMAS Stirling where she was greeted by a large crowd of families and well-wishers.

Stuart's final week at sea, 27-31 May, saw the ship exercising in the WAXA. On Friday, 31 May, members of the media were embarked for the ship's final day at sea to record various evolutions, including a surface throw-off shoot against the tug, Tammar, and Seacat firings against a target towed by a Learjet.

Stuart's decommissioning pennant was broken at 15:00, and then with her ship's company lining the decks, a 19 gun salute was fired for the Governor of Western Australia when abeam Colpoys Point. Simultaneously, a flight of RAAF Macchis with a Learjet as the centrepiece flew over in 'V' formation as a fitting tribute to Stuart. To the skirl of a lone piper positioned on her gun turret, Stuart berthed at the Destroyer Wharf West, HMAS Stirling, where the Police Pipe Band and a large group of Stuart supporters greeted the ship. Telegraphs were rung off for the final time at 15:40(-8) and the ship ceased operational service at 23:59(-8) that evening.

On the evening of Saturday 1 June, the ship's Decommissioning Ball was held, with the 500 people present at the function giving Stuart a fitting farewell.

During June and July, Stuart completed the tasks of destoring the ship. A detachment from Clearance Diving Team Two removed and sealed underwater fittings, including removal of the propellers. The unpleasant task of cleaning all the fuel tanks was also completed. Many of the ship's company took leave prior to posting, and the SAS regiment used the ship for counter-terrorism training.

HMAS Stuart's last day in commission, 26 July 1991, came with heavy showers and dark skies, forcing the decision to hold the Decommissioning Ceremony indoors. Approximately 250 guests, including families from the ship's company, plus numerous ex-Stuart men and their families, filled HMAS Stirling's gymnasium.

A twelve-man guard was mounted for the guest of honour, the Chief of Naval Staff, VADM IDG MacDougall AO, RAN. Other dignitaries included NOCWA, RADM PD Briggs and Mrs Briggs, her Worship the Mayor of Albany and the Deputy Mayor of Rockingham, the Commanding Officers of HMAS Stirling, Swan and Westralia, and two ex-Commanding Officers of Stuart (Commodore PH James and Captain WE Rothwell). The ceremony proceeded smoothly, assisted by the Fremantle Port Division's RANR Band.

Finally, to the haunting strains of the Last Post, Stuart's Australian White Ensign was lowered for the last time, thus marking the end of 28 years of service to the RAN and the Australian people. After the service, Commander Jim Langsford, presented one of the ship's ceremonial badges to Mrs Annette Knight, the Mayor of Albany.

All useful fittings were subsequently removed from the ship before she was sold for scrapping.

HMAS Stuart (II) being taken in tow for the breakers yard. Her 4.5-inch gun turret was removed from the ship on decommissioning and is situated at Fleet Base West, HMAS Stirling.
HMAS Stuart (II) being taken in tow for the breakers yard. Her 4.5-inch gun turret was removed from the ship on decommissioning and is situated at Fleet Base West, HMAS Stirling.