Homecoming for Anzac Captain

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author), LSIS James Whittle (photographer)

Location(s): Auckland, New Zealand

Topic(s): HMAS Darwin (F04)

Commanding Officer, HMAS Darwin, Commander Phillip Henry pictured on the forecastle of the Royal Australian Navy guided missile frigate during passage to Auckland, New Zealand for the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th Anniversary International Naval Review. (photo: LSIS James Whittle)
Commanding Officer, HMAS Darwin, Commander Phillip Henry pictured on the forecastle of the Royal Australian Navy guided missile frigate during passage to Auckland, New Zealand for the Royal New Zealand Navy's 75th Anniversary International Naval Review.

As the warships from more than 15 navies far and wide descend on Auckland, the arrival of one will also represent a special and long awaited homecoming.

Commanding Officer of HMAS Darwin, Commander Phillip Henry, will proudly guide Darwin and her complement of 200 sailors into Auckland Harbour for the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th Anniversary International Naval Review.

For Commander Henry it’s a life long dream and a little case of déjà vu as he is originally from Roxburgh, New Zealand.
Commander Henry joined the Volunteer Reserves of the New Zealand Navy as a Seaman Engineer in 1985.

On completing a fitting and turning apprenticeship at the Islington Freezing Works in Christchurch, he transferred to the permanent New Zealand Navy as a Seaman Officer in 1989 and eventually into the Royal Australian Navy in 2003.

He said despite a strong affiliation with his homeland there wasn’t much to miss.

“Both navies are extremely professional,” he said.

“The similarities are strong and the camaraderie is fantastic so it wasn’t a big change to go from one to another,” he said.

During his 13 years with the Kiwis, Commander Henry saw operational service in Bougainville, the Persian Gulf, and Timor Leste.

Despite his experience, he stills regards the New Zealand Navy's 50th Anniversary in 1991 as one of his career highlights.

“I was a young Sub Lieutenant embarked in the old Leander class frigate HMNZS Canterbury,” he said.

“We did a six week tour of New Zealand before the actual celebrations kicked off in Auckland.

“It was just an amazing six weeks away.

“The enthusiasm in the communities through out New Zealand was inspiring, and when it came time for the actual Fleet Review, to see so many warships in the harbour at once was a very special and proud moment.”

In 2014, Commander Henry deployed to the Middle East region as the Australian Senior National Representative at the Combined Maritime Forces Headquarters in Bahrain before assuming command of HMAS Darwin in June 2015.

“Command has been the absolutely highlight,” he said.

“Having the privilege to be the Commanding Officer, representing Australia on a major deployment to South East Asia then up to the Middle East was just a spectacular opportunity.

The International Naval Review will be preceded by the New Zealand led multinational Exercise MAHI TANGAROA in the Haruki Gulf, in which the warships will demonstrate and share their skills in boarding operations with the aim of increased cooperation in maritime security in the region.

“HMAS Darwin has recently returned from the Middle East where we conducted a lot of boardings and had some very successful drug and weapon interdictions,” Commander Henry said.

“But of course we are always learning and around the world there are slightly different tactics that the boats we are targeting might be using.

“We will learn from all the other nations just like I hope we can share some of what we learned recently in the Middle East.”

Commander Henry said on this visit he’s most looking forward to catching up with friends and once again, seeing a long line of proud ships in Auckland Harbour.

“It’s a significant event for the New Zealand Navy, 75 years of operating through out the pacific and other regions, preserving maritime security and enforcing their maritime zones.

“They’ve done it with a great degree of commitment and professionalism and I look forward to joining in their celebrations”.

HMAS Darwin returned from her seventh deployment to the Middle East region in July in which her boarding party siezed nearly one tonne of heroin in vessel interceptions off the coast of Africa.

The deployment was the 62nd rotation of a Royal Australian Navy vessel in the region since 1990.