A time of reconnaissance and rescues

This article has photo gallery Published on SGT Dave Morley (author)

Topic(s): Search and Rescue (SAR), Historic

Imagery Scanned from Navy Historic Archive of HMAS Queenborough from HMAS Sydney. (photo: )
Imagery Scanned from Navy Historic Archive of HMAS Queenborough from HMAS Sydney.

Amateur naval historians might suggest the early 1960s, before the Borneo Confrontation and the Vietnam War, was a quiet time for Australia’s Navy, but crew members in the Q-class fast anti-submarine frigates would disagree. 

When the Panamanian registered steamer Kawi sank after being caught in a storm in the China Sea on 25 October 1962, HMA Ships Quiberon and Queenborough were en route from Singapore to Hong Kong.
They increased speed to 24 knots to search for survivors.
Captain’s Steward Bob Wade, of Adelaide, said a lifeboat from Kawi, with 24 survivors, was found by Quiberon on 27 October.
“We were heading to Hong Kong and had to divert because of Cyclone Jean, so we arranged to transfer the survivors to the merchant shipBenvorlich, which was heading to Singapore,” he said.
“We were involved in another rescue on 17 December that year, when the SS Tuscany ran aground on a reef in the China Sea.
“The duty seamen from our boarding party walked across the reef to collect the survivors and we got them into the ward room, gave them clean dry clothes, some food and relaxed them – they were able to walk, but they were pretty tired.”
Mr Wade said Quiberon and Queenborough were in Saigon, South Vietnam, on a flag-showing visit from 31 January to 4 February 1963.
“When we were coming into port, a South Vietnamese Navy gunboat, Ky-Hoa, came out to meet us, and accidently rammed us, tearing a nine-inch-by-one-foot hole in the bow, above the waterline,” he said.
“I felt a bump but didn’t take much notice. We patched the hole and later hobbled back to Singapore, where it was repaired properly.
“While we were in Saigon, a bloke from the embassy came out and warned us not to venture off the main roads and to be back aboard by 11pm.
“The real purpose of our visit was to research the water depths to see if larger ships could come into the port.” Mr Wade said.
The rescues of survivors from Kawi and Tuscany were not Quiberon’s first rescue at sea.
In company with sistership HMS Quentin, she depth-charged and sank the Italian Adua-class submarine Dessie off the coast of Algeria in November 1942.
Five days later, on 2 December, Quentin was torpedoed and sunk by a German Ju-88 aircraft off Tunisia with 20 Royal Navy sailors killed in action.
, while under heavy air attack, rescued members of Quentin’s ship’s company.
The ship was commissioned on 6 July 1942, and paid off to Reserve in June 1964.