HMAS Stuart has wrapped up a successful port visit to its hometown of Devonport, Tasmania, with over 1,800 locals getting a tour of the ship.
Between 12-14 December the ship's company exercised their freedom of entry with a march through the town centre and opened the ship up to the public. The Devonport locals took it all in their stride, with a huge turn out to both major events.
Inspector Shane Lefevre, Senior Police Officer of Devonport, challenged the Commanding Officer Commander Aaron Nye before granting him leave to enter the city.
Supporting the event was a Bell 429 from 723 Squadron along with its three crew members, who made the journey from HMAS Albatross in Nowra, NSW to show their 'office' to the masses. The city was treated to a perfectly timed flypast as the ship’s company marched off after being granted Freedom of Entry.
Mayor Martin described the activities as a hit for all the locals, as some personnel visited Mercy Community Hospital in Latrobe to donate 1,000 Japanese origami paper cranes to the Paediatric ward, while Stuart’s rugby team played the Devonport Bulls.
“With Devonport being HMAS Stuart’s home port, it shows the people of Devonport not only the importance of our armed forces, but how hospitable we can be and respectful of those who joined the armed forces to maintain our freedom and privileges.
"We look forward to their next visit and welcoming them back to Devonport," he said.
The Royal Australian Navy has a long association with Tasmania and appreciates the hospitality and support of the Tasmanian community and the visit was a hit for those in uniform also.
"The locals were friendly and it was an honour to be involved in the freedom of entry, it was a highlight of my career to date," said Chaplain Grant Ludlow.
"I really enjoyed Devonport and the town has grown since considerably since I was there last in 1978," Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Stephen Courtney said.
On the Sunday, guests were also treated to a half hour tour of the ship, where they were able to catch a glimpse of life onboard, followed by an up-close look over the helicopter and a chance to mingle with the crew, all the while enjoying tunes being played by the Navy Band.
Many of the guests were impressed with the enthusiasm of the ship’s crew and were thankful for the rare opportunity to be up close to a Major Fleet Unit; many querying when the next visit would occur.
For the crew of HMAS Stuart the visit comes as welcome respite, having spent over 300 days in the last year deployed.
The visit was a perfect ending to a busy year for Stuart, which in the last five months alone has managed to circumnavigate Australia and taken in ports as far afield as Darwin, Singapore, Port Klang in Malaysia, and Albany in Western Australia.
Major events have included participating in Exercises KAKADU, SINGAROO and BERSAMA LIMA as well as the 100th anniversary of the convoy departure from Albany and support to the G20 meetings in Brisbance. The ship's company are now looking forward to a good break over Christmas before starting a major refit in Sydney in January.