Almost 12 years after decommissioning, part of the former HMAS Westralia (II) will find a permanent home outside the HMAS Stirling Naval Historical Display.
In 2017, one of Westralia’s four lifeboats was located wasting away in the sprawling grounds of a Swan Valley café by Submarine Force Element Group Regulator Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Bill Prince.
“My wife Chris and I were visiting the Swan Valley and we stopped at a café for lunch,” Chief Prince said.
“After lunch, Chris pointed out a lifeboat that was sitting in the carpark behind the café.
“On closer inspection we noticed on the starboard side of the boat was a metal plate stamped ‘Westralia 195’.”
This set the wheels in motion of a chain of events which eventually led to the boat being re-located to HMAS Stirling for a much-needed facelift.
Westralia, previously the former Royal Fleet Auxiliary oiler Appleleaf, was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in October, 1989 and was home-ported at Fleet Base West.
Disaster struck the ship on May 5, 1998 when a fire broke out in the engine room off the coast of Western Australia – four members of the ship’s company tragically lost their lives in the fire.
The lifeboat, which will be in place outside the Historical Display in time for the 20-year commemoration of the fire, is being restored to its former glory by the staff at FBW Fleet Support Unit (FSU).
FSU Warrant Officer Marine Technician Submarines Len Carr said his staff had been working hard to bring the boat back up to scratch, including the original motor which they were able to start after stripping and rebuilding it.
Navy members who lost their lives in the 1998 fire were Midshipman Megan Pelly, Petty Officer Shaun Smith, Leading Seaman Bradley Meek and Able Seaman Phillip Carroll.
Lest we forget.