HMAS SWAN was laid down at HMA Naval Dockyard, Williamstown, Victoria, on 18 August 1965, and was the last River Class Destroyer Escort (DE) to be constructed in that dockyard. The ship was named after the SwanRiver in Perth, Western Australia. She was launched by Mrs. Allen Fairhall, the wife of the then Minister for the Navy, on 16 December 1967. SWAN was the third Royal Australian Navy ship to bear that name, but the 25th ‘Royal Swan’, the first twenty-two having served in the Royal Navy.
SWAN and her sister ship, TORRENS, were the final two River Class DEs constructed for the RAN. The first four ships, PARRAMATTA, YARRA, STUART and DERWENT, were a modified version of the Royal Navy’s Type ‘12’ Whitby and Rothesay Class frigates, which had very good sea-keeping qualities. SWAN and TORRENS were a derivation of the Royal Navy’s Leander Class general purpose frigate, which was itself a development of the Type ‘12’. `
SWAN, especially in her initial role as a front line fleet ASW unit, had a very busy and varied RAN career, which emphasized her versatility. SWAN soon earned the nickname “Fluffy Duck”, or “Duck”, a name she retained throughout her career.
The information below provides some highlights of that career:
HMAS SWAN was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on Tuesday, 20 January 1970, when her Commissioning Order was read by her first Commanding Officer, Commander DW Falconer, RAN.
During 1970 SWAN participated in her first joint exercises, followed by a visit to Fiji. On 10 October 1970, SWAN, together with the frigates HMS CHARYBDIS and HMNZS BLACKPOOL, were in Suva to take part in the Celebrations which took place when the British colony of Fiji became an independent nation.
On 16 September 1971 SWAN sailed from Sydney for Singapore, for her first tour of duty ‘Up-Top’, with the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, replacing her consort, PARRAMATTA, in that role. The Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, based in Singapore, was made up of ships of the Royal Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy and the Royal Australian Navy.
On 1 November 1971, with the expiration of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement, the Strategic Reserve was replaced by ANZUK, under Five Power plans for the defence of Singapore and Malaysia. A highlight to the changeover was a farewell Steampast by units of the Far East Fleet. HMA ships DERWENT and SWAN also participated in the event, which marked significant changes in Britain’s defence role in South East Asia, and ended the role of the previous naval command which had existed for 150 years.
The year commenced with SWAN in the middle of her ANZUK deployment, and during January she undertook visits to Japanese ports. In late January she returned to Singapore for her next role as escort to the Royal Yacht BRITANNIA during a Royal visit to Thailand in February 1972, a task she shared with ships of the Royal Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy.
In mid-February, SWAN took part in the six-nation SEATO Exercise ‘Sea Hawk’ in the South China Sea. SWAN returned to Sydney the ‘long way round’ via Fremantle and Melbourne, arriving in her home port on 17 April.
SWAN then underwent an Assisted Maintenance Period (AMP) until mid-July. This was followed by trials and exercises in the East Australia Exercise Areas (EAXA). The year concluded with leave and maintenance at Garden Island Dockyard.
SWAN’s maintenance period alongside Garden Island Dockyard ended on 22 January 1973, when she sailed for a scheduled port visit to Geelong. The period to early April was occupied with activities in the EAXA.
SWAN undertook a scheduled refit at Williamstown Naval Dockyard from 9 April to 8 October. This was followed by Sea Acceptance Trials, Work-up, and Admiral’s Inspection.
The ship ended the year as it began, alongside GardenIsland for maintenance and leave.
After a Christmas leave period and successful trials on the new IKARA anti-submarine missile system, SWAN deployed south to Hobart for the Hobart Regatta. Following her return to Sydney the ship underwent an Operation Awkward in early March.
Her year then took its planned course with a variety of activities in the EAXA plus maintenance periods, and a port visit to Newcastle in late April.
On 25 May 1974 SWAN had just returned to Sydney when distress calls were received from the yacht ‘Cutty Sark’. SWAN battled through mountainous seas to the aid of the disabled yacht. Despite waves 50 to 60 feet high, winds up to 75 knots and the ship rolling up to 45 degrees, members of SWAN’s swimmer team swam to the yacht and rescued the crew. They were subsequently awarded Fleet Commander’s Commendations for their bravery.
In October 1974, SWAN, now under the command of CMDR M. B. Rayment, sailed from Sydney for a South East Asian deployment to join the Singapore-based ANZUK Forces, relieving HMAS STALWART.
SWAN was initially part of the ANZUK Naval Force and on its disbandment on 1 January 1975, became Australia’s maritime contribution to the Five Power Agreement. Ports visited include Penang, Bangkok, Belawan, Sandakan, Surabaya, Manila, Subic Bay and Hong Kong (for Christmas). SWAN was in the latter port when the announcement was made that the ship was the winner of the Duke of Gloucester Cup trophy for 1974 – an annual award given to the most efficient ship in the Royal Australian Navy.
Following her Christmas and New Year in Hong Kong, SWAN continued her South East Asian deployment. On 20 January 1975, SWAN had a special guest onboard, Admiral Sir Terence Lewin, the Royal Navy’s Commander-in-Chief of Fleet, who helped celebrate the ship’s fifth birthday.
The ship participated in Exercise SEA FOX during February, in the South China Sea. On her return passage to Australia, SWAN took part in Exercise ORION, which involved Indonesian naval units.
On 14 April 1975 SWAN returned to Sydney following her six-month deployment to South East Asia. During the deployment SWAN had steamed some 25,000 miles and taken part in three international exercises. During one of those exercises, a Singaporean Armed Forces pilot ejected from his jet fighter. Quick action by SWAN, who charged towards the pilot at full speed, resulted in the speedy recovery of the pilot, who was rescued after only 11 minutes in the water.
The period to early September included a combination of maintenance and exercises in the EAXA. In September, SWAN undertook a short deployment to Singapore via Townsville and Darwin, returning to Sydney on 5 November 1975.
Her year ended with SWAN alongside Garden Island Dockyard for leave and maintenance.
The beginning of the year saw SWAN in an Assisted Maintenance Period (AMP), which lasted until mid February. In March SWAN participated in a testing exercise, JUC 96, which was followed by a port visit to Melbourne over Easter. SWAN then continued west, on passage to Fremantle and Cockburn Sound. Albany was visited on her return passage to Sydney, where SWAN arrived on 13 May.
During the period May 1976 to February 1977, SWAN was in refit at Williamstown Naval Dockyard, Melbourne.
SWAN commenced 1977 undergoing a refit at Williamstown Naval Dockyard. This was followed by a short port visit to Burnie, Tasmania, in mid-March 1977. Following her return to Sydney, the period to early September was occupied with a combination of activities in the EAXA, plus scheduled maintenance.
In early October, SWAN, with other RAN units deployed to Singapore and the Indian Ocean for SINDEX 77. She returned to Sydney on 19 December 1977 for leave and maintenance, where her year concluded.
1978 commenced with SWAN alongside Garden Island Dockyard, undergoing an AMP.
In early February SWAN undertook Turana Technical Evaluation Trials in the EAXA. This was followed by a short port visit to Hobart, 2-6 March.
An emergency docking at VickersCockatooIsland on 8 March to rectify leakage from a stern gland interrupted her scheduled program. Following this, SWAN then resumed her scheduled program which included maintenance at GardenIsland, and further exercises in the EAXA with other RAN units. A very successful Family Day at sea was held in perfect weather on 6 April.
On 3 May, SWAN’s program was again interrupted, when she was detached from the EAXA to Middleton Reef to search for a lone yachtsman, whose wrecked yacht, ‘Josephine II’, had been sighted on the reef by search aircraft. SWAN achieved the 540-mile passage in 23 hours. An extensive search of the reef and the yacht failed to find any trace of the yachtsman, who was subsequently rescued from the sea, later in the month.
SWAN undertook a scheduled Intermediate Docking at CockatooIsland in the July – August period. This was followed by Shakedown, Work-up and other activities in the EAXA.
In late September SWAN was actively involved in Exercise JUC99. This was followed by Exercise SAND-GROPER off the West Australian coast later in the month. On her return passage from Western Australia, SWAN was scheduled to call into Melbourne for refuelling, but this was cancelled enroute due to industrial action.
1978 finished with SWAN alongside Garden Island Dockyard for Christmas leave and AMP.
1979 commenced with SWAN alongside GardenIsland, continuing her leave and AMP. On 15 January, SWAN was cold moved to alongside HMAS STALWART. On 18 January, STALWART received a bomb threat, and consequently both vessels were evacuated. No suspicious objects were found.
In early March, SWAN took passage to Melbourne, returning to Sydney on 9 March. This was followed by exercises in the EAXA, and a port visit to Brisbane on 12 April. The ship was in Newcastle for Anzac Day, and participated in the ceremonies.
SWAN was in refit at GardenIsland during the period from May to mid November. On 21 September, CMDR DT Read assumed command from CMDR DD Farthing. SWAN was involved in intensive post refit trials during November and December. She ended the year alongside HMAS STALWART for leave and maintenance.
During the early months of 1980, SWAN underwent a post refit work up and participated in a number of anti-submarine exercises in the Brisbane Exercise Area.
On 23 March 1980, now under the command of CMDR D.T. Read, SWAN sailed from Sydney for a five and a half month South East Asian deployment, during which she visited 18 ports in eight foreign countries.
On 17 June 1980 enroute from Singapore to Hong Kong, SWAN rescued 72 refugees from a dangerously overloaded 35-foot boat in the South China Sea. The refugees were landed when the ship arrived in Hong Kong. Whilst in Hong Kong, SWAN utilized the services of Jenny’s Side Party, a group of 30 Chinese women ship painters who, without pay, devotedly paint and clean all visiting warships. The Side Party workers supplement their normal operational earnings on non-navy vessels by selling soft drinks to visiting ship’s crews.
One of the informal highlights of the deployment were the modified General Drills carried out aboard SWAN in the South China Sea. Devised by the Gunnery Officer, the object of which was to get sailors and officers involved in other people’s business aboard ship. The evolutions were many and varied, and included the Writers detailed off to sponge out the 4.5” guns; the WE Department rigging the Wardroom as an operating theatre; and the Stokers preparing a cage for a polar bear on the quarterdeck.
On completion of a successful 155 day deployment, SWAN returned to Sydney on 27 August 1980, for leave and a Self Maintenance Period (SMP). During November she undertook a short visit to Whangarei, New Zealand, before returning to Australia for leave and maintenance.
During her career SWAN visited many overseas ports, especially around South East Asia. In May 1981, she commenced a seven month deployment which took the ship to 22 Pacific and Asian ports. One of her most significant Asian visits took place on 4 September 1981 when SWAN visited Shanghai, becoming the first Australian warship to visit China in 32 years. During the same deployment she became the first Australian warship to participate in joint exercises with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force.
Of the numerous dockings and refits SWAN has undertaken, two have great significance. On 29 October 1982, under the command of CMDR S. Youll, SWAN became the first and only RAN Destroyer Escort to be slipped in the port of Fremantle. In an operation which took some five hours SWAN was slipped at the Public Works No1 slipway, where she remained for a two week maintenance period. The second occasion was when she became the first Australian warship to be refitted at the West Australian Maritime Support Facility at Cockburn Sound, using the newly installed hydraulic facility. This was reported to be a novel experience.
During December, SWAN took passage as an element of Task Group 628.5 from the West Coast to Sydney. 1982 finished with SWAN alongside Garden Island Dockyard for Christmas leave and AMP.
The year commenced explosively with a spectacular display of fireworks above SydneyHarbour.
In February, SWAN was engaged in intensive exercises during the Fleet Concentration Period. This was followed by participation in Exercise SEA EAGLE 83-1, task group passage exercises between Melbourne and Fremantle and enroute to Bangkok, plus port visits to Geelong and Melbourne. During February SWAN spent 25 days at sea, passaged from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, transitted the Indonesian Archipelago and entered the Gulf of Thailand. It was an active exercise period in company with RAN, RNZN, USN and RSN units.
As the deployment continued, SWAN participated as a unit of Task Group 628.9, exercised with units from the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Navy’s Hong Kong Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force. She also visited Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kure and Yokosuka. Passaging south to Australia, SWAN participated in Exercise READEX ’83 with units of USN and RCN; visited Manila, and took part in Exercise CAKRAWALA BARU IV, plus a port visit to Surabaya in company with units of Indonesian Navy. SWAN returned to Sydney on 24 June, via Broome, Fremantle and Adelaide.
Following a mid-year leave period, the remainder of 1983 was just as busy with SWAN actively involved in the biannual EX Kangaroo 83, plus a port visit to Port Moresby. In early November, Acting Commander P. Newman assumed command from CMDR S. Youll.
This was SWAN’s busiest year to date with five consecutive deployments.
SWAN entered Williamstown Naval Dockyard in Victoria on 20 January 1984, for a protracted 20 month limited modernization. During this modernization, extensive work was undertaken to upgrade the ship’s efficiency and capabilities, and the outdated anti-submarine mortars were replaced by two sets of triple torpedo tubes.
Throughout the first half of the year, the ship remained in Alfred Graving Dock, Williamstown to complete the refit which had commenced in the previous year. The refit was completed in September 1985, and was followed by intensive trials and workups. On completion, SWAN took part in anti-submarine exercises in the EAXA with the submarine, HMAS OVENS.
In December 1985, after being based in Sydney for 16 years, SWAN sailed for Fleet Base West (FBW), HMAS STIRLING, thereby becoming the second River Class DE to be homeported in Western Australia.
The first half of January 1986 saw the ship berthed at FBW, enabling her ship’s company and their families’ time to adapt and settle in to life in ‘the West’, as SWAN took up her new role as a Western Australian-based DE. During the latter part of January SWAN conducted a “shakedown” exercise in the West Australian Exercise Area (WAXA) with STUART and BUNBURY. This was followed by SWAN’s first WA port visit, to Bunbury. Following the port visit, SWAN took advantage of the opportunity for a vigorous anti-submarine exercise with a visiting United States Navy nuclear submarine.
SWAN was afforded a warm welcome to Western Australia by her namesake, the Swan Breweries Company, which hosted a number of popular visits to their production plant. Ties with the local Rockingham community were strengthened on 9 February 1986, when a SWAN team competed in the annual Rockingham Shire Council Dragon Boat race.
A highlight of SWAN’s program was the opportunity to rendezvous with the Royal Yacht, BRITANNIA, in the late hours of 20 March 1986. SWAN sailed in company overnight whilst conducting exercises under the control of Flag Officer Royal Yacht.
In April, SWAN conducted multi-ship exercises with other RAN units, then sailed to Darwin in company with HMAS PERTH to participate in the North Australia Area Navy Week celebrations. Because 1986 was the Royal Australian Navy’s 75th Anniversary, these celebrations had a special significance.
Following a leave and maintenance period at FBW, in late July SWAN sailed for an active and challenging two-month South-East Asian deployment. SWAN then returned to FBW on completion of her South East Asian deployment and spent the remainder of the year in a self maintenance period.
SWAN commenced the year alongside at the DestroyerWharf, HMAS STIRLING. On 14 January the ship undertook Basin Trials, and was brought to 4-hours notice for sea. In late January SWAN exercised in the WAXA with other RAN units, and undertook a port visit to Bunbury. On 29 January, SWAN embarked ship’s company families and guests and proceeded into Cockburn Sound to join HMA Ships DERWENT, STUART, GERALDTON, BUNBURY and ADROIT to take part in the America’s Cup Defence Review. These duties continued until Monday, 2 February 1987.
In early February, SWAN deammunitioned at Fleet Base West, in preparation for the ship’s impending docking. After an uneventful passage, SWAN was docked at Alfred Graving Dock, Melbourne for an Intermediate Docking, due for completion in early April 1987. Continuation training was carried out in the Bridge Simulator at HMAS WATSON, and Naval Gunfire Support procedures were undertaken at WestHeadGunneryRange.
On completion of the docking, SWAN was temporarily based in Sydney whilst she undertook a busy period of work up and exercises in the East Australia Exercise Areas.
In early June, SWAN took passage back to the ship’s homeport, HMAS STIRLING, and on arrival, commenced an AMP, during which much work, both above and below decks was effected, and the ship slowly disappeared under a mountain of grit blast residue.
On 2 June, SWAN sailed on a two-month South East Asian deployment. Her first port of call enroute was at Broome, during which visit she experienced severe jellyfish congestion of all saltwater inlets, causing the ship’s engineering staff major problems.
During the deployment, SWAN took part in Exercise STARFISH in the South China Sea. STARFISH was the seventh in a series of multi-national exercises under the Five Power Defence Arrangements involving Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore. DERWENT and ONSLOW, plus an RAAF HS748 aircraft also participated. SWAN returned to her homeport on 26 July 1987, to recuperate from a successful and enjoyable deployment.
On completion of a leave period, SWAN next undertook exercises in the WAXA, followed by involvement in Exercise WESTERN APPROACHES, a Fleet Concentration Period, and operations with a United States Navy Battle Group.
On 19 October, SWAN sailed on the ship’s second South East Asian deployment for the year, arriving in Singapore on 29 October. Enroute to Bangkok on 4 December, SWAN rescued 4 Vietnamese refugees from their small boat. During a busy and satisfying deployment, SWAN conducted exercises with RAN, Singaporean and Indonesian Navies, returning to her homeport on 3 December 1987.
Late on 4 December, a MARSAR distress signal was received, reporting a seriously ill crewman aboard a Japanese fishing boat. In response to this, SWAN proceeded to sea and following a 25-knot passage, intercepted the fishing vessel. The crewman was transferred to SWAN. On her arrival in Fremantle, the patient was transferred to FremantleHospital.
As Australia’s Bi-Centennial Year began, SWAN was undertaking a Self Maintenance Period (SMP) at Fleet Base West. In mid-January, SWAN and DERWENT undertook exercises in the WAXA enroute to Esperance. On 27 January the ship’s 18th birthday was celebrated, a pleasure shared between the Commanding Officer, CMDR J. Newman, and the youngest member of the ship’s company, SMNRO Nash.
The year proceeded with SWAN involved in a busy round of West Australian port visits and exercises in the WAXA. Transfer of Command took place on 11 May, when CMDR Newman was succeeded by CMDR G. MacKinnell.
In mid-June, SWAN departed HMAS STIRLING for an ASEAN deployment, arriving in Singapore on 29 June, having steamed nearly 4000 nautical miles. This was a busy, but short deployment, with SWAN and her consort, DERWENT, actively involved in Exercise STARFISH 8/88. On their passage south, SWAN and DERWENT conducted a memorial service over the resting place of the cruiser, HMAS PERTH, which was sunk during the Battle of Sunda Strait on 1 March 1942. SWAN returned to her homeport on 18 August 1988.
In late August, SWAN took part in Exercise VALIANT USHER. This was followed by leave and maintenance alongside FBW.
On 3 October, SWAN sailed for another South East Asia deployment. SWAN and other RAN units undertook exercises with ships from the USA, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Port visits included Surabaya, Singapore, Lumut, Manila, Subic Bay, Bangkok and Penang. SWAN enjoyed a tropical Christmas and New Year while berthed at Sembawang Dockyard, Singapore.
In early January SWAN commenced her passage home from her 1988 South East Asian deployment, arriving back at HMAS STIRLING on 12 January.
She commenced an extensive refit on 31 January, becoming the first RAN ship to use the new Marine Ship Lift Facility at JervoiseBay. This was the first WA-based refit of a major warship since the inception of the RAN’s Two Ocean Basing Policy. The refit was completed in early September, and was followed by a month of post refit sea trials, culminating in a Refit Completion Ceremony on 20 September.
SWAN finished the year with exercises in the WAXA, followed by a leave and maintenance period alongside at HMAS STIRLING.
The year commenced with SWAN alongside FBW undertaking an AMP. After several months of operating in the WAXA, in late January SWAN sailed on passage to Auckland, for the scheduled Fleet Concentration Period in the New Zealand Exercise Areas. This was a busy period with SWAN underway in February for 21 of the 28 days.
On completion, SWAN took passage to Sydney for her Operational Readiness Evaluation. During March, SWAN completed workup training and participated in Public Relations Displays at Circular Quay, Sydney, before returning to HMAS STIRLING on 23 March after an eight week absence.
On 1 May, CMDR I.A. Whitehouse assumed command. The previous Commanding Officer, CMDR MacKinnell was rowed ashore in a whaler by the Ship’s officers, while the ship’s company manned the side to cheer ship.
In late May, SWAN sailed from FBW for a five month South East and North East Asia deployment. During the deployment, the Australian Flag was flown as far north as Ominato on the northern tip of the island of Honshu in northern Japan. SWAN and other RAN units took part in Exercises AUSSIAM, STARFISH, and AUSINA. International exercises like these make an important contribution to regional security
Whilst on passage in the South China Sea, SWAN rendered assistance to a Vietnamese refugee vessel, providing much needed food, water and navigational information. Whilst berthed at HMS TAMAR, Hong Kong, the ship’s Report of Proceedings states that “Jenny and her Side Party conducted their ritual of ‘scrubbing and touching up’ the ship’s side. The results were pleasing.”
SWAN returned to HMAS Stirling in late October, finishing the year with an Assisted Maintenance Period.
The new year was rung in with SWAN berthed at the SubmarineWharf, HMAS STIRLING, concluding the Christmas Leave period. On Sunday, 20 January, a party was held onboard to celebrate SWAN’s 21st birthday; followed by a keenly contested mini-Olympics competition. Having formally ‘come of age’, SWAN deployed to the East Coast, where she spent the Australia Day long weekend in Sydney, with the ship dressed overall.
Sunday, 10 February 1991 marked the 27th Anniversary of the loss of HMAS VOYAGER. A large contingent of survivors embarked at Port Kembla for passage to where VOYAGER lies, 20 miles south east of Point Perpendicular. Chaplain Whealdon performed a memorial service over the VOYAGER wreck, concluding with a wreath laying ceremony.
SWAN took part in Exercise TASMANEX 91, which was followed by an Operational Sea Check by the Fleet Training Group. She then took passage to Auckland, arriving on 1 March. In mid March, SWAN departed the EAXA en route back to HMAS STIRLING, where she spent the remainder of the month in maintenance.
In early April, SWAN landed all her IKARA missiles in accordance with a directive to cease using the system. On 10 April 1991, SWAN took passage to Singapore where she arrived on 17 April, joining other RAN fleet units.
During this deployment, SWAN took part in Exercise STARFISH 11/91. This was a major international exercise for some 30 ships of the Five Power Defence Agreement, with the aim of enhancing interoperability and honing professional skills.
During August and September, SWAN undertook an Intermediate Docking at the ASI Facility at Cockburn Sound. This was followed by another South East Asia deployment. Whilst visiting Manila, SWAN’s ship’s company assisted victims of the Mount Pinatubo volcano eruptions. Although relatively insignificant in scale to the damage, the RAN presence was very well received and the efforts greatly appreciated.
Following her return to HMAS STIRLING on 25 October, SWAN entered an Assisted Maintenance Period. CMDR DW Mole, AM, assumed command on 30 October.
The year commenced alongside at STIRLING. In March, SWAN operated from Darwin for her involvement in Exercise KANGAROO 92.
SWAN then took passage back to HMAS STIRLING where she underwent an SMP in preparation for her three month South East Asian Deployment in June.
During this deployment SWAN and other RAN units paid goodwill visits to the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and India. She also took part in Exercise STARFISH 92 in Malaysian waters, and finally Exercise VALIANT USHER off the Western Australian coast, before returning to HMAS STIRLING in October 1992.
SWAN spent the first two months of 1993 in a Reduced Activity Period, with most of her ship’s company taking leave. This was followed by exercises in the WAXA. Activities included SWAN acting as rescue ship and Scene of Action Coordinator for a SMASHEX.
In May SWAN sailed for Darwin to participate in the Fleet Concentration Period, KAKADU ONE. This was a joint exercise involving units from the Royal Malaysian Navy, Royal Thai Navy, Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Singaporean Air Force. On completion of this, SWAN returned to HMAS STIRLING.
On 14 June SWAN set passage to Sydney, conducting operational port visits to Adelaide and Hobart en route. Whilst in Sydney, SWAN was involved with the Fleet Concentration Period conducted in the EAXA.
During August, SWAN participated in the Australian/Indonesian Naval Exercise NEW HORIZON VII/93. This was followed by Exercise STARFISH 13/93, hosted by the Royal Malaysian Navy, conducted in the waters around Paula Tioman. On completion of this international exercise, an RAN Task Group including SWAN, conducted goodwill port visits visiting Muara, Brunei, Davao, Manila, Sasebo, Kagoshima, Tokyo and Hong Kong. SWAN returned to her homeport, HMAS STIRLING, on 2 December, and remained alongside until the end of the year.
After returning from her 1993 South East Asian deployment in early December, SWAN remained alongside FBW during January for maintenance and leave. This was followed by operations in the WAXA and Albany areas, and a Maritime Command formal inspection.
In April, SWAN commenced a 2 ½ month operational deployment, sailing via Albany and Adelaide to the East Coast in company with MELBOURNE and TORRENS. During May and June, SWAN participated in Exercise TASMAN LINK ’94 with other RAN units. Her deployment continued with port visits to Mackay, Cairns, Darwin, Surabaya, Jakarta.
Following SWAN’s return to FBW, she underwent an Intermediate Docking at the Transfield West facility, and ended the year at FBW for maintenance and leave.
SWAN commenced the year alongside FBW. She then proceeded to sea for the first time in five and a half months, conducting a Fast Cruise and Disaster Relief Exercise, Shakedown and Workup. During the period defect rectification required two emergency dockings.
In March, SWAN sailed to Darwin as part of a task group taking part in Exercise KAKADU. SWAN achieved MLOC, or Minimum Level of Operational Capability in all areas; the first Fleet unit to achieve such a result in three years. The ship next participated in Exercise TASMANEX 95 and a Principal Warfare Officer Sea Assessment Week, with port visits to Townsville, Auckland and Newcastle.
SWAN next participated in Exercise TASMAN LINK 95 in the ShoalwaterBay area. During this exercise, SWAN became the first RAN ship since the cruiser, HMAS PERTH in 1942, to empty her magazine, when she fired a total of 1081 4.5-inch shells.
Following an SMP at FBW, SWAN sailed for Darwin, commencing a two month deployment to South East Asia. Enroute to Darwin, 57 baby Loggerhead turtles were released in the vicinity of Shark Bay, Western Australia. During the deployment, SWAN participated in the inaugural Singaroo Exercise with the Republic of Singapore Navy.
The year ended where it began, with SWAN alongside FBW for leave and maintenance.
Now reclassified as a Training Ship, in February 1996 SWAN deployed back to the East Coast of Australia in company with her sister, HMAS TORRENS, where they conducted a training exercise for second year ADFA Midshipmen. SWAN then sailed to Hobart where a week’s pilotage training exercise took place for SEAAC 23A. Returning to FBW in early March, SWAN prepared for her decommissioning deployment to South East Asia.
On 8 July SWAN deployed to Singapore with TORRENS, arriving at Singapore on 15 July. SWAN and TORRENS then sailed to Hong Kong where they were delayed for one day due to a typhoon warning before departing for Davao in the Philippines. SWAN completed her final deployment in August 1996. On 29 August, she arrived at the mouth of the SwanRiver in Fremantle flying the colourful message: “Don’t muck with the Duck, 1970-1996. Farewell from SWAN”.
During her 26 years of RAN service, SWAN had been under the command of 22 different Commanding Officers, and had steamed 775,870 miles and spent over 56,982 hours at sea. In a signal just prior to her decommissioning, the Chief of Naval Staff paid respect to HMAS SWAN, “…On behalf of the RAN, I offer my thanks to all the personnel who have served in or been associated with HMAS SWAN over the years. We can all be proud of the fine job they have done in representing the RAN and the Nation in both Australian and International waters. Well Done HMAS SWAN.”
On 13 September 1996, SWAN was formally decommissioned at Fleet Base West, leaving her sister ship, HMAS TORRENS, as the sole remaining Destroyer Escort still in commission. In his decommissioning address, the Reviewing Officer, CDRE Trotter, recalled the many adventures SWAN and TORRRENS, shared. “Indeed, for a short time SWAN was TORRENS, when during a Kangaroo Exercise and under the command of CMDR Steve Youll, she sprouted the pennant number 53 and without her name boards showing, paid a sneaky visit to Port Hedland to the ultimate horror of the local defenders who knew TORRENS was on their side.
At the end of her half life modernization, SWAN had to use so much of TORRENS to get back to working order that she became known locally as ‘SWARRENS’. Now the boot is definitely on the other foot, but we have to watch TORRENS carefully to see when she starts to grow feathers.”
The Commonwealth Government announced that following her decommissioning HMAS SWAN would be gifted to Western Australia. On Monday 11 November 1996, the Western Australian Minister for Tourism announced that the Geographe Bay Artificial Reef Society had been successful in its bid to use SWAN as a dive wreck and artificial reef.
SWAN was towed from STIRLING Naval Base, some 80 nautical miles to the port of Bunbury where she was prepared for scuttling, a task that took over 12 months. With environmental considerations in mind, any material which could harm the marine environment was removed from the ship. The fuel and oil tanks were emptied and cleaned. More than 7000 litres of oil, 43 tonnes of lead ballast and 20 tonnes of electrical cabling were removed, as were all plastics.
The issue of diver safety was also addressed. Anything considered a hazard to divers was removed. Diver access holes were cut through the hull, deck, and bulkheads allowing better light penetration and easier access to SWAN’s interior. These access holes also helped in the scuttling process by enabling a much quicker “sink time”; essential to ensure SWAN would rest upright on the bottom.
SWAN’s resting-place was chosen with great care, taking into account environmental considerations, diver safety and ease of access. A site meeting these requirements was found at MeelupBeach near Dunsborough. The site is well protected by CapeNaturalist, which will help to extend the life of the ship.
On Sunday morning, 14 December 1997, in front of a crowd of 10000 people on shore, plus hundreds of spectator craft, a series of charges strategically placed well below the water line, sent SWAN quickly but gently to the bottom of Geographe Bay, 1.3 nautical miles off Point Piquet, latitude 115.06’2” East, longitude 33.33”2” South.
The former HMAS SWAN, or “Fluffy Duck”, now sits upright in 30 metres of clear, calm waters, creating an artificial reef for corals and marine life, and is now a dive site of world renown.
|Type:||River Class Destroyer Escort|
|Displacement:||2100 tons standard|
|Length:||372 feet overall|
|Builder:||HMA Naval Dockyard, Williamstown, Victoria|
|Laid Down:||18 August 1965|
|Launched:||16 December 1967|
|Commissioned:||20 January 1970|
|Armament:||2 x 4.5-inch guns, controlled by M22 Gun Fire Control System;Seacat Guided Missile System;Ikara Anti-submarine Missile System;2 triple-barrel Anti-submarine Torpedo Tubes; (added in 1984).
1 triple-barrel Anti-submarine Mortar (removed in 1984).
|Propulsion:||Remote controlled boilers and geared steam turbines (two shafts)|
|Radius:||4500 miles at 12 knots|