On This Day
1960-1975 > Vietnam era
On This Day - 1960-1975
- January 30, 1975
Operation Navy Help, the support to the clean up and rebuilding of Darwin following Cyclone Tracy, was completed. Over a dozen RAN warships, and thousands of sailors had been involved in the operation, and contributed greatly to getting Darwin cleaned up, and restoring essential services. The next day the last two warships, (HMA Ships STALWART and BRISBANE), departed. BRISBANE had the distinction of being one of the first ships to arrive in Darwin on 31 December, and being one the last to leave.
- January 13, 1975
RAN Clearance Diving Team 1, under LEUT D. Ramsden, RAN, salvaged the patrol boat HMAS ARROW at Darwin. The patrol boat sank during Cyclone Tracy.
- January 7, 1975
RAN Clearance Diving Team 2 recovered bodies from vehicles under the collapsed span of the Tasman Bridge at Hobart. The divers worked under difficult conditions in murky water.
- January 1, 1975
HMAS MELBOURNE, (aircraft carrier), and HMAS STUART, (destroyer escort), arrived in the cyclone destroyed city of Darwin. Over the following days they were joined by HMA Ships STALWART, HOBART, SUPPLY, VENDETTA, BALIKPAPAN, BETANO, TARAKAN, and WEWAK. CDT1 also arrived to recover the wreck of HMAS ARROW from underneath Stokes Hill Wharf. During the period 1 to 30 January 1975 the RAN contributed 17,979 man-days of effort in cleaning up the city. The peak was 1200 personnel ashore at the height of the clean up operation. Wessex helicopters from the Task Group carried some 7832 passengers and delivered over 110,000kg of cargo ashore. RAN HS 748 aircraft from HMAS ALBATROSS, Nowra, NSW, made 14 return flights into the city and carried 485 passengers, and delivered nearly 23,000kg of cargo.
- December 31, 1974
HMA Ships BRISBANE and FLINDERS were the first ships to arrive in Darwin, to commence work as part of Operation Navy Help, the cleanup and rebuilding of Darwin following the devastating effects of Cyclone Tracy. FLINDERS surveyed the entrance to Darwin Harbour to ensure the safe passage of the RAN Task Group, and BRISBANE landed work parties to commence the massive job of cleaning up the devastated city.
- December 26, 1974
Operation Navy Help, to assist with the clean up and re-establishment of services in the shattered city of Darwin, commenced.
The first RAN asset to arrive was an HS748 aircraft, on 26 December, carrying blood transfusion equipment and a team of Red Cross workers. Shortly after a second HS 748 arrived carrying personnel from CDT1. HMAS MELBOURNE, (aircraft carrier), and HMAS BRISBANE, (guided missile destroyer), sailed from Sydney. HMA Ships STUART, STALWART, SUPPLY, HOBART, and VENDETTA, sailed two days later.
HMA Ships BALIKPAPAN, BETANO, BRUNEI, TARAKAN, and WEWAK, (landing craft heavy), also sailed from Queensland ports, in what was to become the largest peace-time mission mounted by the RAN.
The first ships arrived on 31 December, and over the next 4 weeks the RAN provided over 18,000 man days of effort to clean up Darwin, create temporary accommodation, restore some services, and bring in supplies and material to help the civilian population.
- December 25, 1974
Cyclone Tracy struck and leveled the city of Darwin.
The Naval Headquarters building was destroyed, and the Naval Officer Commanding Northern Australia, (CAPT E. E. Johnston, OBE, RAN), and two of his staff, were trapped in the rubble, and had to dig their way out.
In the harbour the patrol boats HMAS ARROW, (LEUT R. G. Dagworthy, RAN), and HMAS ATTACK, (LEUT P. Degraaff, RAN), attempted to sail and ride out the storm as sea. Neither vessel made it out of the harbour. ATTACK was blown ashore and damaged, and ARROW was driven under Stokes Hill Wharf, and sank with the loss of two of her crew, (PO Leslie Catton and AB Ian Rennie). HMA Ships ADVANCE and ASSAIL, (patrol boats), also suffered some damage, but remained afloat.
Later that day CAPT Johnston was able to re-establish communications with Fleet Headquarters, and advise them of the total destruction of Darwin, and loss of vessels and life. He later wrote;
‘The scene at first light was beyond belief, the harbour empty, every building within eyesight destroyed with the exception of Government House. Soon after dawn the crew of the patrol boat ARROW arrived outside my wrecked headquarters to report that their vessel had been driven under Stokes Hill Wharf, losing two crew in the process‘.
- November 26, 1974
HMAS Salamaua was decommissioned and recommissioned into the Papua New Guinea Defence Force as HMPNGS Salamaua
- November 22, 1974
HRH Queen Elizabeth II approved the immediate award of the AFC to LEUT A. Baker, RAN, for ‘great skill, coolness and initiative in the rescue of survivors from the Danish freighter MARC ENTERPRISE, off Plymouth, England. LEUT Baker piloted a Sea King helicopter in a gale which exceeded 70 knots. He hovered over 15 metre waves to effect the rescues.
- November 14, 1974
HMA Ships Aitape, Ladava, Lae, Madang, Samarai and Tarangau decommissioned as units of the RAN and recommissioned flying the new White Ensign of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) Maritime Element.
HMAS Basilisk was re-commissioned under CMDR P. Paffard, RAN to provide administrative support for RAN personnel serving with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force