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HMAS Vampire D11

The Daring Class destroyer design evolved in Britain during the Second World War. Requirements for a new fleet destroyer for the Royal Navy saw the first of eight ships ordered in March 1945.

HMAS Vampire Ship Crest

The new ships were so far beyond accepted destroyer design that many naval authorities claimed they should be classified as light cruisers.

Construction of the Daring Class ships in Australia opened a new era in local shipbuilding.

The ships were the first all-welded hulls to be erected in Australia and, for the first time, aluminium was used extensively as a structural material.

The Australian built Daring Class destroyers were similar to the vessels of the Royal Navy's Daring Class however, they were modified for Australian conditions.

HMAS Vampire, the third Daring Class destroyer for the Royal Australian Navy, was ordered from Cockatoo Island Dockyard on 3 December 1946. Fabrication commenced in September 1948, and the keel was laid on 1 July 1952.

On 27 October 1956, HMAS Vampire was launched by Lady Slim, wife of the Governor-General, Sir William Slim, KG, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE, DSO, MC, KStJ. Vampire underwent three years of fitting out following her launching.

HMAS Vampire commissioned at Sydney on 23 June 1959 under the command of Captain Eric J Peel, DSC, RAN. The next 4 months involved post commissioning trials, ship familiarization and her first deployment, a 27 day voyage to New Zealand and back to Australia.

Members of the Nepean Blue Mountains Sub-Section who served on the Vampire

From Left to Right: Colin Kelson, Des Harper AM & Robert (Monty) Montgomery

From October 1959 to March 1960, Vampire exercised with Australian and New Zealand naval units off the east coast of Australia and in the Tasman Sea. After visiting New Zealand she returned to Sydney in March 1960 and in June proceeded to Singapore for service in the Strategic Reserve

During her tour of duty she visited Hong Kong, Sandakan (Borneo) and Trincomalee (Ceylon). Vampire returned to Sydney in December where she underwent an extensive refit until April 1961. In September 1961 she again took her place in the Strategic Reserve, operating from Singapore and Hong Kong. She returned to Sydney in April 1962.

During the remainder of 1962 Vampire exercised with Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy units and also visited several ports in New Zealand. In January 1963 she departed Sydney for her third tour of duty as a unit of the Strategic Reserve, during which she participated in the 1963 South East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO) Exercise SEA SERPENT and also visited Japan. She arrived back in Sydney in August 1963 and underwent a long refit.

In February 1964 Vampire was back at sea exercising with other Australian units. In May 1964, after carrying out anti-submarine exercises with USS Sculpin, she proceeded to Port Moresby, Manus Island and Subic Bay, preparatory to taking part in Exercise LITGAS with units of the Royal Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy and United States Navy. On completion of the exercise Vampire continued to operate in Asian waters until her return to Australia via Manus Island in February 1965.

After a leave and maintenance period Vampire conducted exercises with the French Navy Ship Doudart De Lagree in April 1965 on passage to Manila. In May 1965 she escorted HMAS Sydney (III), for part of her maiden voyage to Vietnam before proceeding to Sydney to undergo refit from July until December 1965.

Vampire departed for another Far East deployment in February 1966. The ensuing months were busy with involvement in patrols off Malaya and Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation, escort duty for HMAS Sydney (III) from Manus Island to Vietnam and participation in the SEATO Exercise SEA IMP. Vampire returned to Sydney in August and the remainder of 1966 was taken up with local exercises, mid cycle docking and participation in a four nation exercise in the Solomon Sea off New Guinea.

Image: HMAS Vampire at sea

In January 1967 Vampire, in company with HMAS Duchess, sailed for a lengthy Far East deployment. Both ships arrived in Singapore on 19 January. During local area exercises in February, Vampire gave assistance to the SS Maha Thevi which had run aground on Palau Pemanggil. The SEATO Exercise SIYASAT and visits to Manila and Bangkok occupied the month of March, prior to Vampire proceeding to Manus Island to escort HMAS Sydney (III) to Vietnam. This was the first of two trips to Vietnam during April, the second being from Singapore to Vung Tau with HMAS Sydney (III) later in the month. The remainder of the deployment included participation in the SEATO Exercise SEA DOG in July, followed by visits in August to Chinhae and Inchon in South Korea. The Indonesian ports of Jakarta and Surabaya were visited in September on the voyage home to Sydney, where Vampire arrived on 19 September.

A long refit was carried out in Sydney between September 1967 and May 1968. Work-ups and further participation in local area exercises followed this. Vampire deployed again to the Far East from March to October 1969, during which she undertook self-maintenance in Singapore and Hong Kong.

In early 1970 Vampire was involved in junior officers training plus goodwill visits to Adelaide, Brisbane and Lord Howe Island. This was a prelude to her paying off on 29 June 1970 to undergo an extended refit. This half-life modernisation, which took until November 1971, saw Vampire receive new gun turrets and fire control systems, new aircraft warning and navigation radar, plus replacement of a major portion of her superstructure.

Vampire recommissioned on 17 November 1971 under the command of Captain GJH Woolrych RAN at Dockyard Pier, Williamstown, and conducted work-up trials before arrival back in Sydney in March 1972.

A trip to New Zealand was undertaken in August before her first Far East deployment in her new guise from October 1972 until March 1973, during which she participated in the SEATO Exercise SEA SCORPION.

In April 1973 Vampire visited Suva and Apia and hosted the Australian Prime Minister during the South Pacific Forum. In September Vampire participated in Exercise LONGEX 73 and visited New Zealand.

In 1974 Vampire participated in exercises in Australian waters before undergoing refit from September 1974 to May 1975. Late 1975 saw her proceed for another Far East deployment during which she visited Singapore, Manila, Subic Bay, Hong Kong and Jakarta before returning to Australia in February 1976.

In June and July 1976 Vampire visited the west coast of America, calling at San Francisco and Seattle before returning home in August via Hawaii. The remainder of 1976 and early 1977 were occupied with maintenance, leave periods and local exercises.

In March 1977 Vampire undertake Royal Escort duty to the Royal Yacht Britannia during the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In April Vampire rendered assistance to the junk Wan Fu which was en route from Australia to America. A visit to Adelaide in June was followed by a docking in Sydney, plus leave and maintenance, before a visit to Singapore in November 1977 to participate in a combined United States Navy, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Navy exercise, COMPASS 77.

A visit to New Zealand was the only deployment during 1978, due to further refitting between May and August. Post refit trials and work-ups completed the year. Vampire commenced a South East Asian deployment in January 1979 and visited Singapore, Madras, Colombo, Belawan, Manila, Subic Bay, Hong Kong and Japan before returning to Sydney via Guam in June 1979. Participation in Exercise KANGAROO THREE completed the year and her arrival in Sydney on 6 December 1979 marked the end of Vampire's operational career.

In early 1980 Vampire undertook an Intermediate Docking in Sydney prior to assuming her new role as a training ship. For the remainder of 1980, and during 1981 and 1982, Vampire undertook a number of training cruises in company with HMAS Jervis Bay before undergoing refit at the New South Wales State Dockyard, Newcastle, from July to November 1982.

Image: HMAS Vampire in a large swell at sea

January 1983 began with another training cruise to New Zealand in company with HMAS Jervis Bay, before a quick trip to Singapore in company with units of Task Group 628.9 in March and April 1983. Another training cruise followed in May. October 1983 saw Vampire assisting Taronga Park Zoo by releasing two leopard seals into their natural environment before visits to Melbourne and Brisbane. The year was completed by another training cruise to the Whitsunday Passage and North Queensland ports.

A fire in Alpha boiler room gave Vampire a bad start to 1984. However, there were no casualties and damage was repaired within a week. A two month refit at the State Dockyard in Newcastle in May and June, during which Vampire celebrated her 25th birthday, was a prelude to a deployment to South East Asia. Between August and September Vampire visited Surabaya, Kuantan and Lumut before undergoing a ten day self-maintenance period in Singapore. Vampire resumed her training role after arriving back in Sydney in October. The remainder of the year was taken up with navigation training in the Torres Strait and Whitsunday Passage.

The first half of 1985 saw Vampire undertake training cruises to New Zealand and Queensland waters in company with HMAS Jervis Bay. This was followed by a three month Assisted Maintenance Period in Sydney before visits to Portland and Melbourne. Navigation training again ended the year.

The Royal Australian Navy's 75th Anniversary was a fitting year to mark the end of Vampire's career. In April 1986 a decision was made to decommission her, and after a final cruise to Cairns, Townsville, Suva, Apia and Auckland, Vampire made a ceremonial entry in to Sydney on 24 June 1986. The following weeks were spent preparing the ship for decommissioning. The last of the Australian Daring Class destroyers paid off on 13 August 1986 after a 27 year career during which she steamed 808,026 nautical miles.

On decommissioning Vampire was gifted to the Australian National Maritime Museum where she continues to be a popular tourist attraction for overseas visitors and former members of her ship's company.

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