Atomic survivors visit Stirling

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Mick Wheeler (author), LSIS Lee-Anne Mack (photographer)

Location(s): Montebello Islands, Western Australia, Rockingham, Western Australia

Operation HURRICANE just moments after a nuclear device was detonated in HMS Plym. (photo: Unknown)
Operation HURRICANE just moments after a nuclear device was detonated in HMS Plym.

The Australian Ex Services Atomic Survivors Association visited HMAS Stirling recently, as the group was in Western Australia preparing to travel to the site of the atomic tests at the Monte Bello Islands in the 1950s. 

Operations HURRICANE and MOSAIC involved British and Australian forces conducting atomic tests on the islands, 130 kilometres off the Western Australian coast.  
Secretary of the Association Jim Marlow spoke about the plans the Association had made to erect a plaque on the site of the atomic tests
“On 14 and 15 June, seventeen of us will travel to Dampier and then onto the Monte Bello Islands and officially unveil the plaque," he said.
“Interspersed with this activity will be some fishing, a function with the Pilbara Regiment in Karratha and hopefully an official reception with the City of Karratha.”
The Stirling Ship's Welfare Fund represented by Leading Seaman Andrew McKail presented the Association with a contribution to the project.
The Royal Australian Navy's contribution to the operations was significant. HMAS Karangi  and HMAS Warrego (II) conducted surveys of the island. A combined Royal Navy and Royal Australian fleet, designated Task Force 4, was assembled to conduct the testing. The Australian government announced the intention to test a British nuclear device in Australia in February 1952.
The Australian component of Task Force 4 comprised a variety of ships including the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney (III), with 805 and 817 Squadrons embarked. HMA Ships Tobruk (I), HawkesburyMacquarieMurchison, Shoalhaven and Mildura carried out patrol work while the smaller vessels KarangiKoalaLimicola,ReserveWareenMRL 252 and MWL 251 performed useful work laying moorings, marking channels and providing valuable logistic and personnel support.
(I), in a position some 28 miles to the south-east of ground zero, became the closest Royal Australian Navy unit to the detonation, where she conducted security and safety patrols before and after the test. HMAS Culgoa acted as the weather ship for the first British nuclear test, Operation HURRICANE.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the completion of Operation MOSAIC  and members of the Association and their partners were taken on a tour of the facilities at Stirling which concluded with a visit to the museum and an opportunity to meet and speak with Commanding Officer Stirling, Captain Brian Delamont.
For more information on the operations, visit the Navy website