Darwin still sailing strong

Published on LCDR Jason O'Gorman (author), LSIS James Whittle (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Darwin (F04)

HMAS Darwin prepares to come alongside Fort Hill Wharf, Darwin. (photo: LSIS James Whittle)
HMAS Darwin prepares to come alongside Fort Hill Wharf, Darwin.

Guided missile frigate HMAS Darwin had a jam-packed 2016 with the frigate deployed on two operations and working with a number of foreign navies across the globe - proof that the old girl still has the goods, going into her 33rd year of service.

The year started with a bang, with the ship’s company viewing the New Years fireworks off the Gold Coast, Queensland, having departed Garden Island, Sydney two days before en route to a seven-month absence from Australian waters deployed as part of Operation MANITOU.

It was the beginning of an intense year, consisting of both triumph and tragedy.

Darwin flew the Australian flag in Visakhapatnam, India at the Indian Navy International Fleet Review on her way to Middle Eastern waters.

During MANITOU, Darwin had considerable success intercepting and disposing of almost one tonne of heroin and seizing a shipment of over 2000 small arms. 

As part of the operation, she embedded with French Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group and worked with legal enforcement agencies the the Seychelles to enable apprehension of illicit substances and personnel involved in illegal drug trafficking operations.

The tragic loss of Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Chef Cameron Acreman in the port of Muscat profoundly affected all Darwin personnel, with the crew coming together to support each other.

After returning from MANITOU in July, Darwin underwent a period of maintenance and rest and recreation leave.

In November, Darwin sailed to Auckland to participate their International Naval Review being held to mark the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature delivered a 7.9 magnitude earthquake near Kaikoura on the South Island, which cut off the community and Darwin and other allied units were dispatched to assist in relief efforts. Volunteers helped with clean-up, food preparation and distribution, and checked up on people and Darwin’s helicopter was heavily utilised for transfers.

Commanding Officer Commander Phillip Henry said the year had kept the ship’s company of the warship on their toes.

“This year has been intense from start to finish. I can’t remember a time when I have worked with more foreign navies and their warships in one calendar year,” he said.

“I’m pleased to say, though, no matter the task set before us, Darwin’s ship’s company has met every challenge asked of us,” Commander Henry said.

“Everyone on board is entitled to look back on 2016 and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. The crew have earned it, and I am proud to have served alongside the dedicated men and women of HMAS Darwin.”

It is likely that 2017 will mark the final year of service for Darwin, having served the nation since 1984.