Creating one of the most unusual sights of her deployment, HMAS Perth's 5-inch gun, harpoon anti-ship missile launchers and forecastle were all draped in hand-made quilts while alongside in Muscat, Oman recently.
A traditional ‘airing of the quilts’ took on a new twist as the proud owners of over 90 masterpieces showed off the hard work of dedicated volunteers back in Australia.
Members of the Aussie Hero Quilts organisation filled personalised orders for quilts and appliquéd laundry-bags as their unique tribute to service men and women over their 22-week deployment to Operation MANITOU Rotation 63.
While the theme of each quilt or laundry-bag was specified by the requesting sailor or officer, the actual designs were a surprise until the quilts arrived individually packed in boxes via mail over the course of the deployment.
“I was thrilled to have my pineapple themed quilt to sleep under between watches,” said Lieutenant Nam Nguyen, an Officer of the Watch who received his quilt in the first few weeks of the deployment.
“Others waited in anticipation for their quilt and in each port, as more quilts arrived, it was common to see people proudly showing off their new bed-covering.”
Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Bradley Thomas (who requested an Australian Flag themed Quilt) appreciated the gesture.
“It’s a really nice way to demonstrate support of what we’re doing,” said Leading Seaman Thomas.
“My quilt is going to stay in the family and it’ll get passed on with the story of how I got it on deployment.”
Able Seaman Medic Matthew Kirk (Starwars themed laundry-bag), Able Seaman Supply Chain Sophie Grace (a ‘bright and girly’ quilt), and Leading Seaman Clearance Diver Scott Caldwell (a Diver themed quilt) all agreed that the personal letters, and care packages that often accompanied the quilts, were another highlight.
“The lady who made my quilt told me all about her family in South Australia and sent me chocolate biscuits,” Leading Seaman Caldwell said.
“It really makes us feel good to know that real people care so much."
While Perth was deployed, the coordinator of Aussie Hero Quilts, Ms Jan-Maree Ball, suffered a personal tragedy when her house burnt down.
Perth's ship's company donated to her rebuilding fund, and also raised enough money to pay for flights and a hotel so that Jan-Maree could be on the wharf with the rest of the families and loved ones when the ship returns to Australia on 11 November.