HMAS Swan DE50 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 Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. Swan was the third Royal Australian Navy ship to carry that name.
Swan and her sister ship, Torrens, were the final two River Class DEs constructed for the RAN.
The first four ships, Parramatta (III), Yarra, Stuart and Derwent, were modified versions of the Royal Navy's Type '12' Whitby and Rothesay Class frigates both of which displayed very good sea keeping qualities.
Swan and Torrens (II) 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 of the 'Fluffy Duck', or the 'Duck', a name she retained throughout her career.
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, HMAS Parramatta (III), 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, following the expiration of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement, the Strategic Reserve was replaced by ANZUK, under the Five Power Defence Arrangement plans for the defence of Singapore and Malaysia. A highlight to the changeover was a farewell review of units of the Far East Fleet. HMA ships Derwent and Swan participated in this 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, mid-way through her ANZUK deployment, making official calls at Kure and Takamtsu, Japan. 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, a task she shared with ships of the Royal 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 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 Australian Exercise Areas (EAXA) with Canadian Naval units. 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-ups, and Admiral's Inspection and a brief visit to Burnie, Tasmania. The ship ended the year as it began, alongside Garden Island for maintenance and leave.
Following the Christmas leave period Swan participated in the initial Turana target drone tests. Turana was intended to provide a parachute recoverable pilotless target for use in gunnery and missile defence training. In February Swan steamed south to Hobart to participate in the annual Hobart Regatta. Following her return to Sydney in March she conducted Operation AWKWARD, a forerunner to current force protection measures. Over the proceeding months she was engaged in routine exercises conducted in the EAXA and a port visit to Newcastle in late April.
On 25 May 1974 Swan returned to Sydney, however, following the receipt of distress calls from the yacht Cutty Sark she returned to sea battling mountainous waves to render assistance to the disabled vessel. In spite of waves estimated to be 50 to 60 feet high, strong winds up to 75 knots and the ship rolling up to 45 degrees, members of Swan's swimmer team managed to reach the yacht and rescue its crew. Those involved in the rescue were subsequently awarded Fleet Commander's Commendations for their bravery.
In October 1974, Swan, now under the command of Commander MB Rayment, RAN, sailed from Sydney for a Southeast Asian deployment to join the Singapore-based ANZUK Forces.
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 Defence 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 Christmas and New Year celebrations in Hong Kong, Swan continued her South East Asian deployment. On 20 January 1975, she received Admiral Sir Terence Lewin, the Royal Navy's Commander-in-Chief, on board who joined the ship's company in celebrating Swan'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 the six-month deployment to Southeast 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. The 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 Exercise JUC 96, which was followed by a port visit to Melbourne over the Easter period. She then continued a westerly 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 underwent a prolonged refit at Williamstown Naval Dockyard, Melbourne.
The completion of her refit at Williamstown Naval Dockyard was followed by a short port visit to Burnie, Tasmania, in mid-March 1977.
At five minutes to midnight on 1 May, Swan was ordered to prepare to sail in response to an urgent request for medical assistance from SS Austral Moon. Two crew members had suffered serious injuries when the 30,000 tonne American freighter encountered heavy weather some 650nm due east of Sydney. Swan put to sea at 8:00am the following morning and rendezvoused with Austral Moon that afternoon. The inclement weather precluded the use of Swan’s boats so a line was passed to the freighter and connected to an inflatable naval life raft. Surgeon Lieutenant Brian Misso and Leading Seaman Phillip Littlewood were lowered into the raft to be pulled across to Austral Moon while Swan afforded a lee as best she could in the conditions. There were tense moments as the line parted during the crossing but Lieutenant Misso and Leading Seaman Littlewood were able to secure the raft and board the freighter. They remained on board Austral Moon until she arrived in Sydney the following morning and the two injured sailors were transferred to a waiting ambulance at Circular Quay.
Following her return to Sydney, the period to early September was occupied with routine exercises in the EAXA, and further 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.
1978 began with Swan secured alongside Garden Island Dockyard, undergoing maintenance.
In early February she again participated in Turana Technical Evaluation Trials in the EAXA. This was followed by a short port visit to Hobart, 2-6 March.
An emergency docking at Vickers Cockatoo Island, Dockyard on 8 March to rectify leakage from a stern gland interrupted Swan's scheduled program. Following repairs she resumed her program which included further maintenance at Garden Island, followed by exercises in the EAXA with other RAN units. A very successful 'family day' was conducted at sea in perfect weather on 6 April giving relatives of Swan's ship's company a taste of life at sea.
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 Cockatoo Island 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 JUC 99. This was followed by Exercise SANDGROPER off the West Australian coast later in the month. On her return passage from Western Australia, Swan was scheduled to call into Melbourne for refueling, 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 Garden Island, continuing her leave and AMP. On 15 January, Swan moved alongside HMAS Stalwart (II), the fleet's escort maintenance ship.
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, where her ship's company took part in the annual commemorative ceremony.
Swan was in refit at Garden Island during the period from May to mid November. During that time, on 21 September, Commander DT Read assumed command from Commander DD Farthing, DSC, RAN. Swan was involved in intensive post refit trials during November and December ending the year alongside HMAS Stalwart (II) 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 she sailed from Sydney for a five-and-a-half month South East Asia deployment, during which she visited 18 ports in eight foreign countries.
On 17 June 1980 enroute from Singapore to Hong Kong, Swan rescued 72 Vietnamese refugees from a dangerously overloaded 35 foot boat in the South China Sea. The refugees were subsequently landed when the ship arrived in Hong Kong.
While in Hong Kong, Swan utilised 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-inch 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 7-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 Commander S Youll, RAN, Swan became the first and only RAN destroyer escort to be slipped in the port of Fremantle. In an operation that took some five hours Swan was slipped at the Public Works No.1 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 ended with Swan alongside Garden Island Dockyard for Christmas leave and maintenance.
In February 1983, Swan was engaged in intensive exercises during the Fleet Concentration Period that was memorable for its rough weather. This was followed by participation in Exercise SEA EAGLE 83-1, a task group passage exercise program between Melbourne and Fremantle enroute to Bangkok and port visits to Geelong and Melbourne. During February Swan spent 25 days at sea steaming from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean before transiting the Indonesian Archipelago and entering the Gulf of Thailand. It was an active exercise period in company with RAN, RNZN, USN units.
As the deployment continued, Swan joined Task Group 628.9 exercising 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 in Japan before taking part in Exercise READEX 83 with units of the US Navy. A visit to Manila followed before participating in Exercise CAKRAWALA BARU IV which was followed by a port visit to Surabaya, Indonesia. 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 Exercise KANGAROO 83, followed by a port visit to Port Moresby. In early November, Acting Commander P Newman, RAN assumed command.
Swan entered Williamstown Naval Dockyard, Victoria on 20 January 1984 for a protracted 20 month long modernisation during which extensive work was undertaken to upgrade the ship's efficiency and capabilities. During this refit the outdated Limbo anti-submarine mortars were replaced by two sets of triple torpedo tubes.
During the first half of the year Swan remained in the hands of the dockyard in Alfred Graving Dock, Williamstown. The refit was completed in September and was followed by sea 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 home-ported 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) in company with HMA Ships 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 US 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 steamed in company overnight whilst conducting exercises under the control of Flag Officer Royal Yacht.
In April, Swan conducted multi-ship exercises with RAN units before sailing to Darwin in company with HMAS Perth (II) 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.
On completion of a leave and maintenance period at Fleet Base West, Swan sailed in July for an active and challenging two-month South-East Asian deployment. She returned to Fleet Base Wes on completion, spending the remainder of the year in a self maintenance period.
Swan commenced the year alongside at the Destroyer Wharf, HMAS Stirling. 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 (II), Geraldton (II), Bunbury (II) and Adroit to take part in the America's Cup Defence Review. These duties continued until Monday, 2 February 1987.
In early February Swan docked at Alfred Graving Dock, Melbourne for an Intermediate Docking on completion of which she proceeded to Sydney to participate in exercises being conducted in the EAXA with other fleet units.
In early June, Swan returned to HMAS Stirling where she underwent further maintenance before again deploying for Southeast Asia. Her first port of call 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 in company with units from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Singapore. She returned to Fleet Base West on 26 July 1987.
On completion of a leave period, Swan participated in exercises in the WAXA followed by involvement in Exercise WESTERN APPROACHES, a Fleet Concentration Period, and operations with a US Navy Battle Group.
On 19 October, Swan sailed on the ship's second Southeast Asian deployment for the year, arriving in Singapore on 29 October. Enroute to Bangkok, Swan rescued four Vietnamese refugees from their small boat. The remainder of the deployment saw Swan exercising with RAN, Singaporean and Indonesian Naval units before returning to her home port on 3 December 1987.
Late on 4 December Swan received a maritime distress signal reporting a seriously ill crewman aboard a Japanese fishing boat. Following a 25 knot mercy dash Swan rendezvoused with the vessel taking on board the patient before proceeding to Fremantle where the patient was transferred to hospital.
As Australia's Bicentennial 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, Commander J Newman, RAN and the youngest member of the ship's company, Seaman Radio Operator Nash.
The year continued 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 Commander Newman was succeeded by Commander G MacKinnell, RAN.
In mid June, Swan departed HMAS Stirling for South-East Asia arriving in Singapore on 29 June. The deployment saw Swan and her consort, Derwent, actively involved in Exercise STARFISH 8/88. During their return passage to Australia the two ships conducted a memorial service in the Sunda Strait over the resting place of the cruiser, HMAS Perth (I), which was sunk on 1 March 1942. Swan returned to her homeport on 18 August 1988.
In late August, Swan took part in Exercise VALIANT USHER which was followed by leave and a maintenance period alongside Fleet Base West.
On 3 October, Swan sailed for another Southeast Asian deployment. Together with other RAN units she exercised with ships from the US Navy, 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 return passage home arriving back at HMAS Stirling on 12 January.
There she began an extensive refit on 31 January, becoming the first RAN ship to use the new Marine Ship Lift Facility at Jervoise Bay. 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 exercising in the WAXA followed by a leave and maintenance period alongside at HMAS Stirling.
The year commenced with Swan alongside FBW undertaking an assisted maintenance period. In late January Swan sailed on passage to Auckland to take part in a scheduled Fleet Concentration Period in the New Zealand Exercise Areas. This proved to be a busy period for Swan which spent 21 days at sea throughout February
On completion, Swan visited Sydney prior to undertaking 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 following an eight week absence.
On 1 May, Commander IA Whitehouse, RAN assumed command. In keeping with tradition, the previous commanding officer, Commander 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 Fleet Base West for a five month South East/North East Asia deployment. During the deployment she steamed as far north as Ominato on the northern tip of the island of Honshu in northern Japan. Swan, in company with other RAN units, took part in Exercises AUSSIAM, STARFISH, and AUSINA.
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 was again tended to by Jenny's side party. She returned to HMAS Stirling in late October, finishing the year undergoing an Assisted Maintenance Period.
The new year was rung in with Swan berthed at the Submarine Wharf, 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 (II). A large contingent of survivors embarked in Swan at Port Kembla to take passage to where Voyager was lost, approximately 20 miles south east of Point Perpendicular. Chaplain Whealdon, RAN performed a memorial service over Voyager's wreck, concluding the ceremony with the laying of a commemorative wreath.
Later that month, Swan took part in Exercise TASMANEX 91, which was followed by an Operational Sea Check overseen by the Fleet Training Group. She then took passage to Auckland, arriving on 1 March. In mid-March, Swan departed the EAXA enroute back to HMAS Stirling, where she spent the remainder of the month in maintenance.
In early April, Swan landed her Ikara missiles following the withdrawal of the system from operational use. 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 Southeast 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. Commander DW Mole, AM, RAN assumed command on 30 October.
The year commenced alongside HMAS Stirling. In March Swan steamed to Darwin from where she operated in support of Exercise KANGAROO 92. On completion of the exercise she returned to HMAS Stirling for maintenance before again deploying to Southeast Asia in June. During this deployment, Swan in company with 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 routine exercises in the WAXA. In May Swan sailed for Darwin to participate in the Fleet Concentration Period (Exercise 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 Swan returned to HMAS Stirling.
On 14 June Swan transited to Sydney, conducting operational port visits to Adelaide and Hobart enroute. On arrival in Sydney Swan took part in another 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 Pulau 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 routine exercises conducted in the WAXA and Albany areas, and a Maritime Command formal inspection.
In April, Swan sailed from FBW for Albany and Adelaide before rendezvousing with HMA Ships Melbourne (III) and Torrens (II) in the EAXA. During May and June, Swan participated in Exercise TASMAN LINK 94. Her deployment continued with port visits to Mackay, Cairns, Darwin, Surabaya, Jakarta."
Following Swan's return to Fleet Base West she underwent an intermediate docking at the Transfield West facility ending the year alongside HMAS Stirling for maintenance and leave.
Swan commenced the year alongside Fleet Base West. 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 that 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 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 supported a Principal Warfare Officer Sea Assessment Week before visiting Townsville, Auckland and Newcastle.
Swan next participated in Exercise TASMAN LINK 95 in the Shoalwater Bay area. During this exercise, Swan became the first RAN ship since the cruiser, HMAS Perth (I) in 1942, to empty her magazine, when she fired a total of 1081 4.5-inch shells.
Following period of maintenance at FBW, Swan sailed for Darwin, beginning a two month deployment to Southeast Asia. Enroute to Darwin, 57 baby Loggerhead turtles were released from Swan, 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.
Reclassified as a training ship in February 1996, Swan deployed back to the east coast of Australia in company with her sister, HMAS Torrens (II), where they conducted a training exercise for second year ADFA Midshipmen. Swan then sailed to Hobart where a week's pilotage training took place. Returning to FBW in early March, Swan prepared for her decommissioning deployment to Southeast Asia.
On 8 July Swan deployed to Singapore in company with Torrens (II), arriving at Singapore on 15 July. The two ships then steamed 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 Swan River in Fremantle flying the colourful message: 'Don't Muck with the Duck, 1970-1996. Farewell from Swan'.
During her 26 years of service, Swan was under the command of 22 different captains. She steamed 775,870 miles and spent over 56,982 hours at sea. In a signal received prior to her decommissioning, the Chief of Naval Staff acknowledged Swan's contribution:
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 (II) as the sole destroyer escort in commission. In his decommissioning address, the reviewing officer, Commodore R Trotter, RAN, recalled the many adventures Swan and Torrrens (II), shared:
The Commonwealth Government announced that following her decommissioning 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 HMAS Stirling, 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 that 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 Meelup Beach near Dunsborough. The site is well protected by Cape Naturalist, which will help to extend the life of the ship.
On Sunday morning, 14 December 1997, in front of a crowd of 10,000 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 a dive site of world renown.
Members Who Served:
Members of the Nepean Blue Mountains Sub-Section who served on the Swan
Robert (Monty Montgomery