Memories of the sea on HMAS Brisbane (DDG-41)

I was never a naval man (although I did join but never went which is another story) I love ships and the sea always have so I was really delighted when my youngest son who served in the Royal Australian Navy for twenty years invited me to sail with him three times. I cannot really recall the first trip as it was a day trip only but the second one I really recall with a lot of pleasure. It was on the DDG-27 / D-41 HMAS BRISBANE a three day trip from Sydney NSW to Port Melbourne Victoria For the technically minded here are the specifications of her CLASS - CHARLES F. ADAMS As Built. Displacement 4526 Tons (Full), Dimensions, 437' (oa) x 47' x 15' (Max) Armament 2 x 5"/54 RF (2x1), Tartar SAM (1x1 Mk 13) ASROC ASW (1x8), 6 x 12.75" Mk 32 ASW TT (2x3). Machinery, 70,000 SHP; Geared Turbines, 2 screws Speed, 33 Knots, Range 4500 NM@ 20 Knots, Crew 333-350. Operational and Building Data Laid down by Defoe Shipbuilding, Bay City Michigan USA on February 15 1965. Launched May 5 1966. Commissioned December 16 1967. Built for the Australian Navy. FATE: To be decommissioned October 19 2001 and then to be sunk off the Queensland coast, in the Coral Sea for use as a recreational dive site. My time aboard her actually started the night before with a lengthy train ride from Taree oh some six or seven hours down to Sydney where I stopped with my son’s wife and was picked up by a launch from Garden Island as the ship was at sea and had called in to pick up me and ten other father’s to steam with her. Trouble at the start going up the ship’s ladder lol but I made it we all did. We had a welcoming committee naturally and were supplied with anti sea sickness patches (I noticed quite a few young sailors aboard wearing them) I discarded mine in the shower as in my case it was not needed thank goodness. Well first up we all had to sign waivers then our respective sons bore us away to our berths. It appeared that you stayed in the mess of whatever rank your son held at the time so I was designated for the leading seamen’s mess. Showers were first rate as was the food and I found out that the food was not done specially because of us mob but I tell you those blokes had real good tucker believe me just one thing wrong they never got enough of it. That was remedied I believe the following year as those blokes worked hard so obviously needed lots of food. I could never find my son so I had to find my own way around the ship; I did of course real quick I also got a working uniform off him so I did not stick out amongst the rest. Finding my sea legs was pretty hard in fact I don’t think I really did to be honest. Alcohol is permitted on our ships so I had my ration with the next man (two cans permitted) to get that I found a tad difficult as it was stored down in the magazine and as hatches are closed on board at night it was hard to slither through; I managed it I assure you and was usually third or fourth in line. Back in those days I drank the stuff a fair bit (I don’t today hardly ever just the odd beer) so I just got a few of the younger seamen who did not drink to go get their ration which they gave to me so that turned out well lol indeed the guy that issued it said as I left the ship in Port Melbourne the number of men on this ship that drink have increased whilst you have been aboard in a jocular way of course. There were displays of missiles being launched for us to view and on the Bridge as well a coveted place, I had a friendly chat with the Skipper who was well liked by officers and enlisted men. I also met an American sailor aboard doing his sea time with our Navy; he was stationed at Woomera usually which is a joint US Australian Base. We sailed down in company with the USS Reuben James (FFG-57) at the end of the Coral Sea remembrance celebrations which were continued at the Melbourne town hall free grog and tucker courtesy of the Melbourne town or city council. Transfers of men from each ship were done by line at sea and I struck up an acquaintance with a Petty officer from the Rueben James and we both toured the engine room together swapped ships caps as well and I still have his name of Lynch a nice bloke, apparently he was in the engine room on his ship. I foolishly asked him did they volunteer to come across for the alcohol and he said well the main reason was the food is better on your ships; I was told afterwards they got fast food only on their’s but I am not so sure I believe that still who knows. I was being searched for all over the ship by my son it seems he was an important personage on board and hardly ever left the control room of the ship. Young seamen were searching all over but it made it hard as I was in a working uniform so I blended in and did not stick out like the other dads aboard I spent some of the time at the stern out of the way sneaking a smoke on the Helo pad actually, wended my way down to the SONAR room now that was an education, in fact the bloke running it was showing me some demo tapes of it and got blew up by some officer on the bridge for not asking permission to do it; all was smoothed over he assured me. The control room was something else again little monitors everywhere not quite like ours at home sort of round in shape and plotting by RADAR very interesting indeed. The last night aboard was a real eye opener for me at least. My son and I finally caught up so we showered and went up to the junior ratings mess after our grog ration to watch a movie Kevin Costner in that Robin hood movie it had just come out at the time so there we all were watching and a knock on the bulkhead so I opened up and there was a ship’s messenger seems he was looking for me; I had an invite to the Petty officer’s mess for drinks. Heck I thought looking ruefully at my cans; I’ll drink them says Buck (my son) he knew the reason I reckon grinning so off I toddled and boy what a night in fact I enjoyed it much more than the movie, I just made it back in time for a shower and breakfast eggs bacon the works. Then topside again coming into Port where I could see my daughter who was living there at the time. She was in the Royal Australian Air Force so came aboard then I went to the march to the town hall for the rest of the celebrations. And our American sailor marched with ours not his as he was one of the Brisbane’s crew on attachment. There was so much more I did on board that sadly I cannot recall it all now but I sure did enjoy myself as did all the other Dads. I have another adventure aboard the HMAS Darwin which I will do another day which was just as exciting well maybe more so as I had some shooting practice aboard her. Sadly the Brisbane has been decommissioned now and sunk just off the coast near here as a reef for divers’ which is much better than selling her for scrap. Here is an account of it. HMAS Brisbane scuttled as scuba diving reef off Sunshine Coast CYBER DIVER News Network by MALCOLM COLE BRISBANE, Australia (1 Aug 2005) -- IN 34 years of military service, including three tours of active duty, the HMAS Brisbane never encountered an enemy that could do it harm. But in just seconds yesterday, a series of carefully timed and placed explosions took the former guided-missile destroyer to the ocean floor off the Sunshine Coast. Shortly after 10.15am the decommissioned warship entered a new service – one expected to last 500 years – as a dive site and artificial reef. Spectators aboard hundreds of private boats and more than a dozen aircraft, and thousands more people confined to shore, watched as the Brisbane slipped beneath the waves. Among them were a handful of former HMAS Brisbane crew members, many of whom had served on the ship during its two tours of Vietnam and spoke proudly and fondly of their days on the "Steel Cat". But while they insisted they were happy to see it end its days as a tourist attraction, there were a few moist old eyes as the Brisbane gracefully went down. Kerry Kerr, who served as a Leading Engineering Mechanic on the Brisbane, said the scuttling provoked mixed feelings among former crew members, particularly those who went to war on the ship. "Every person who is in the Navy or has been in the Navy, they each have a special ship," he said. "If they went to war on it, that does make it special. I hope this makes for entertaining reading and comments are most welcome.


  1. Enjoyed reading about your time onboard! We dived the Brisbane last year shortly after it was scuttled - there's some video here.

    Rgds from London.

  2. Thanks for your comment Stephen and the video of the Brissie under the swell was great in fact first class but why have you called it HMS instead of HMAS Never mind all in all it was a first rate movie