The last Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigate built in Australia for the Royal Australian Navy, HMAS Newcastle, was decommissioned at a rousing ceremony at Fleet Base East in Sydney on Sunday.
Living up to the ship’s motto ‘enterprise’, the event was a celebration of Newcastle’s dedicated service to the Navy and the Nation over nearly 26 years.
More than 600 friends, family, serving and former serving members attended the ceremony.
Among the crowd of supporters was the ship’s Launching Lady, former Newcastle City Lady Mayoress Margaret McNaughton, who watched with a tear in her eye – giving away her pride in the crew and her long association with the ship.
More than two and a half decades ago, Mrs McNaughton had attended Newcastle’s launch ceremony and commissioning. Now it was time to watch the decommissioning of the ship named after her home city.
HMAS Newcastle was the first Royal Australian Navy vessel to bear the name of Australia’s fifth largest city.
Over the course of her service as a commissioned warship, HMAS Newcastle travelled more than 900,000 nautical miles, visited more than 30 countries, conducted six maritime security operations and earned battle honours in East Timor, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.
Newcastle also operated with regional Navies, contributed to local and international maritime exercises and provided support to disaster relief and community assistance missions.
The ship had conducted a multitude of ship borne activities, including replenishments, weapons firings, boarding operations, flying operations, and search and rescue missions.
Lighter moments for the ship over the years included charity events, community engagement activities, christenings, birthdays, official receptions and ship’s concerts.
For two members of the crew, the decommissioning ceremony offered a moment for reflection.
The ship’s Command Warrant Officer, Jason McGraw, and Petty Officer Boatswain Shane Bellingham had both served in Newcastle for her commissioning and her decommissioning.
“Not many can say they served in a warship at the start and the end - I am excited to be one of those few,” Petty Officer Bellingham said.
“It’s been an incredible experience and one I will never forget,” Warrant Officer McGraw said.
For the Commanding Officer, Commander Anita Sellick, the decommissioning was the closing act in a busy last 12 months at sea for the ship. Newcastle had recently completed a four-month deployment and had contributed to INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2019, in which she exercised with regional navies and visited countries across South East Asia.
Newcastle’s final port of call before returning to Fleet Base East was to the City of Newcastle to pay tribute to her namesake port.
“Today is a little sad, but the ship and crew have done an excellent job preparing for this event. I couldn’t be more proud of their achievements,” Commander Sellick said.
Imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20191641.