HMAS Queenborough (G70/D270/F02/57) (originally HMS Queenborough (G70/D19)) was a Q-class destroyer that served in the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
Constructed during World War II as part of the War Emergency Programme, Queenborough was laid down in 1940 and launched in 1942, serving in the Arctic, Mediterranean, and Pacific theatres.
After the war ended, the ship was transferred on loan to the RAN in exchange for an N class destroyer, ad was then given to Australia as a gift in 1950.
Transfer to RAN
Following the conclusion of World War II, Queenborough was one of three RN Q class destroyers transferred to the RAN on loan. Another two had been loaned to the RAN since commissioning.
This arrangement allowed the four N class destroyers loaned to the RAN during the war to be returned. Queenborough was the last ship to commission into the RAN, in September 1945, in trade for HMAS Norman.
In early 1950, the decision was made to convert all five Q class destroyers in RAN service to anti-submarine warfare frigates, similar to the Type 15 frigate conversions performed on several War Emergency Programme destroyers of the RN.
A proposal was made by the Australian government to pay for the upgrade to the five on-loan vessels, at the predicted cost of AU₤400,000 each. Instead, the British Admiralty presented the ships to the RAN on 1 June as gifts.
The conversions were part of an overall plan to improve the anti-submarine warfare capability of the RAN, although Queenborough and the other ships were only a 'stopgap' measure until purpose-built ASW frigates could be constructed.
Queenborough was the second ship to be converted, and was rebuilt as a frigate at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney. The modernisation began in May 1950, and despite predictions that work would finish within 18 months, Queenborough was not recommissioned until 7 December 1954.
The conversion started with the removal of the ship's entire armament. The entire superstructure was cut off, and replaced with a larger, aluminium construction. The quality of accommodation was improved.
Fuel stowage was reduced, in turn cutting the ship's range from 4,680 nautical miles (8,670km) at 20 knots (37km/h) to 4,040 nautical miles (7,480km) at 16 knots (30km/h). The bridge was enclosed, and a dedicated operations room was installed in order to coordinate the great quantity and type of data collected by the ship's sensors.
Queenborough was fitted with new guns: a twin 4 inch high angle/low angle gun aft of the superstructure, and a twin 40 mm Bofors gun forward of the bridge. The reduction in gun armament was justified by the inclusion of a Limbo anti-submarine mortar.
The conversion resulted in a 315-ton increase in standard displacement. The ship's draught increased from 9.5 feet (2.9m) to 15.5 feet (4.7m).
The converted ships were formed as the 1st Australian Frigate Squadron
Post-conversion service: Frigate
On 24 February 1955, Queenborough departed Sydney for England, to participate in anti-submarine warfare training with the Royal Navy. After repairs to damage sustained during the journey, Queenborough was assigned to the RN Training Squadron, attached to the Joint Anti-Submarine School in Derry, Northern Ireland. The ship was attached to the 6th Frigate Squadron during this period. In addition to the squadron's badge depicting the Red Hand of Ulster, Queenborough added a red kangaroo design to her funnel to depict the ship's Australian allegiance; one of the earliest instances of using a red kangaroo to identify an Australian warship.
Queenborough was first deployed to the Far East Strategic Reserve in early 1956. After returning to Darwin on 10 April, the ship was made lead vessel of the 1st Frigate Squadron.
Queenborough and sister ship HMAS Quiberon were sent to the Strategic Reserve at the end of January 1959. During the four-month assignment, the ships were assigned to the royal escort of HMY Britannia for the visit of Prince Phillip to Singapore, and participated in SEATO Exercise Sea Demon. The frigate returned to Sydney on 16 May 1959.
In October 1962 the HMAS Queenborough together with the HMAS Quiberon rescued 25 survivors from the Panamanian merchant steamer Kawi, which sank after being caught in a storm in the South China Sea. In December 1962, again with HMAS Quiberon, the HMAS Queenborough rescued the crew of the SS Tuscany, which had run aground on a reef in the South China Sea.
On 8 May 1963, Queenborough collided with British submarine HMS Tabard off Jervis Bay during anti-submarine training exercises. Tabard’s fin and conning tower were damaged, and minor damage was inflicted to the underside of Queenborough, but both vessels were able to return to Sydney unaided. In September, Queenborough and sister ship Quiberon were deployed to the FESR. On 26 October, the two ships were involved in the rescue of survivors from MV Kawi, The ships visited Calcutta in December, before returning to Hong Kong for Christmas.
In January 1963, Queenborough was replaced as the lead vessel of the 1st Frigate Squadron by HMAS Parramatta. From 31 January to 4 February, Queenborough and Quiberon were in Saigon for a diplomatic visit; they were the last RAN ships to visit Vietnam before Australia's military became involved in the Vietnam War. Following the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Australia in March and April 1963, Queenborough was stationed between Australia and New Caledonia as a precautionary air-sea rescue ship for the first leg of the Queen's departure flight. Queenborough was decommissioned into reserve on 10 July 1963.
Post-conversion service: Training ship
After spending three years in reserve, a need for expanded training capabilities saw Queenborough recommissioned on 28 July 1966 as a dedicated anti-submarine warfare (ASW) training ship. While being prepared for her new duties, the 4 inch guns and gunnery radar were removed (although the turret would remain until early 1968). An improved Type 978 radar was installed.
In October 1966, Queenborough was deployed to Tasmania on a training cruise.
An Australian researcher on Macquarie Island required a medical evacuation: as the closest Australian vessel, Queenborough changed course for the island. The ship encountered 9-metre (30 ft) seas, 60-knot (110km/h) winds, hail, and snow en route, and arrived in time to collect the scientist before worse weather set in.
At the start of 1969, the RAN's ship designation and numbering system was changed from the British system to the US system. Queenborough was reclassified as a destroyer escort, and received the number 57 (without any prefix letter). The similarity of the new number to the "57 Varieties" advertising slogan of the H. J. Heinz Company, led to a relationship between the ship and the Australian branch of the company.
On 22 July 1969, Queenborough completed her 400,000th nautical mile of sailing since launching.
On 16 April 1970, Queenborough was part of a 45-ship, 13-nation fleet assembled in Sydney Harbour as part of the Australian Bicentenary celebrations.
In June 1971, Queenborough left Sydney to visit Fiji, Samoa, and New Zealand. Heavy weather between Fiji and New Zealand created cracks in the bow.
These were detected in New Zealand waters, with Queenborough docking in Auckland until 5 July for repairs.
Decommissioning and fate
Queenborough was decommissioned on 7 April 1972. Tenders for purchase of the ship closed in February 1975, and on 8 April 1975 Queenborough was sold to Willtop (Asia) Ltd. The ship was towed to Hong Kong, arriving on 20 June, to be broken up for scrap.
Following an overhaul of the RAN battle honours system, completed in March 2010, Queenborough was retroactively awarded the honour "Malaya 1957" for her service during the Malayan Emergency.