It is not often that an Australian warship visits South Africa, so the recent visit by HMAS Anzac provided a great opportunity for her crew to celebrate the growing relationship between the two countries with a series of engagements with the South African Navy and the Cape Town community.
Australia and South Africa are both prominent members of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (commonly known as IONS), which was founded in 2008 by India. The head of the South African Navy held the chair of IONS from 2012 until 2014, when he handed over to the Australian Chief of Navy.
Anzac’s Commanding Officer at the time of the visit, Commander Belinda Wood, highlighted the emerging role of IONS.
“IONS consists of 22 nations that lie within or at the edges of the Indian Ocean, along with four observer nations that have a direct interest in the ocean.
“Lying at the eastern and western extremes of the Indian Ocean, respectively, Australia and South Africa have direct roles in the range of maritime security, enforcement humanitarian and disaster relief, and interoperability objectives of IONS,” Commander Wood said.
“We share an ocean, and there are many likenesses in terms of history and culture, as well as many differences.
“There is much that Australia and South Africa can share on many levels for the benefit of both nations, and the region as a whole."
A key part of Anzac’s NORTHERN TRIDENT 2015 deployment has been to commemorate the Centenary of Anzac, paying tribute to the 102,000 Australia’s that have died in the service of their nation in the past 100 years.
South Africa was a major stopover point for Australian Navy ships transiting to and from the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea in both World Wars, and some eighty Australian Defence Force personnel are buried in South African cemeteries.
A contingent from Anzac, along with His Excellency Mr Adam McCarthy, the Australian High Commissioner in South Africa, Rear Admiral du Toit, Australian High Commission staff and current and former members of the South African Navy attended a commemorative service at the Dido Valley Naval Cemetery, where three Australian sailors are buried.
One of the Anzac contingent at the ceremony Seaman Combat Systems Operator John Butterworth, reflected on the three sailors being buried so far from home.
“The sailors died of injuries from accidents either at sea or ashore, during the Second World War.
“The Australian High Commissioner gave an address at the service where he talked about the fact that although they did not die in action, they died in the service of their country. Having gone off to war, they never came home.
“We have had a long deployment, and we are all looking forward to getting home to our families, safely.
“The fact that these people, doing the same jobs that many of us do, didn’t get home is a fitting reminder,” Seaman Butterworth said.
During the port visit, Commander Wood participated in a live interview on Talk Radio 702, South Africa’s leading talk radio station, discussing women in defence, along with her own career, life in the Navy, IONS and experiences at sea.
This interview, along with Anzac’s participation in an AFL Clinic and reciprocal tours of Anzac and the Simon’s Town Navy Base, information sessions and receptions with members of the South African Navy made for a very busy port visit, setting up contacts for future exchange. Tours of Anzac were also held for prominent diplomats, community and business leaders.
Members of ship’s company also got to experience Cape Town and South Africa, with organised tours including wildlife safaris, shark cage dives and heritage tours of Cape Town and the spectacular Table Mountain being on offer.