Hobart (II) - one in a million

This article has photo gallery Published on Mr John Perryman (author), Department of Defence (photographer), ABIS Yuri Ramsey (photographer)

Topic(s): Naval History, HMAS Hobart (D39), Commissioning, HMAS Hobart (II), Duke of Gloucester’s Cup

HMAS Hobart (II) returning to Sydney Harbour for the last time prior to being  decommissioned. (photo: ABIS Yuri Ramsey)
HMAS Hobart (II) returning to Sydney Harbour for the last time prior to being decommissioned.

On 23 September, the Royal Australian Navy will commission the first of three new destroyers. In continuing our reflective stories of previous ships that have carried the name HMAS Hobart, this is the story of Hobart (II).

The second ship to bear the name Hobart was one of three Perth class guided missile destroyers built in the United States for the Royal Australian Navy. 

She was commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on 18 December 1965 under the command of Captain Guy Griffiths. Following sea trials and exercises in the United States and Canadian waters, Hobart arrived in her namesake city on 1 September 1966. She berthed in her home-port of Sydney for the first time on 7 September 1966.

Hobart undertook three deployments to Vietnam and served on the ‘gunline’ as part of the United States Seventh Fleet, providing naval gunfire support, and undertaking plane guard and escort duties with the United States aircraft carrier strike groups. She also provided support to United States Marine and airborne divisions, and to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

On 29 July 1967 Hobart went to the assistance of USS Forrestal after the aircraft carrier suffered a major fire on board causing numerous casualties, and on 17 June 1968, during the ship’s second deployment, two members of Hobart’s crew were killed and several others injured when a United States Air Force jet mistakenly fired three missiles at the ship.

Hobart was awarded a United States Navy Unit Commendation for ‘exceptionally meritorious service’ as an element of the United States Seventh Fleet during her first deployment.

She participated in the inaugural Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, the first of many for Hobart, in October 1971 and the following year visited South East Asia, another regular destination for Hobart, and the United States, where her 5-inch gun mounts were updated.

Hobart participated in Operation NAVY HELP: DARWIN after Cyclone Tracy devastated the city over Christmas 1974, arriving in Darwin on 3 January 1975. More than 100 men were landed ashore, working in a two-day rotation undertaking clearing and rehabilitation tasks before being relieved by their shipmates. She departed Darwin on 18 January 1975.

In August that year, she became the first Royal Australian Navy vessel to berth at the new West Australian Naval Support Facility before undertaking an Indian Ocean deployment. She was the first Royal Australian Navy vessel to visit the Republic of the Maldives before visiting Iran, Pakistan, India, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. 

On 17 May 1976 Hobart began Operation PHINEAS FOGG, a round-the-world deployment during which she represented Australia at the International Naval Review in New York. She joined 47 other ships from 20 navies for the event on New York Harbor on 3 and 4 July before returning to Sydney on 3 September 1976. Later that year she began an extended refit which involved a complete weapons system update and conversion from using furnace fuel oil to diesel oil.

In May 1981 Hobart celebrated the steaming of half a million miles since commissioning before departing for a north-west Indian Ocean deployment in July. On 29 September 1982, Hobart, in company with other Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy ships, escorted the Royal Yacht, Britannia, into Brisbane for the beginning of the XII Commonwealth Games.

A major refit was carried out in 1984-85 before she departed Sydney in July 1985 to participate in the 75th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy in Vancouver. On 24 January 1986, Hobart featured in the fleet entry that marked the beginning of the Royal Australian Navy’s 75th Anniversary celebrations, and later in the year once again visited South East Asia.

In late September and early October, she joined in the international Naval Assembly and Review celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the granting of Royal Assent to the Australian Navy. In January 1988 Hobart took part in the Bicentennial Australia Day celebrations, and in May she sailed to Apia, where the ship’s company attended Western Samoa’s independence celebrations. Later in the year, she participated in the Bicentennial Naval Salute and Review. 

A $100 million refit and modernisation began in 1989 and lasted until late 1991. The Ikara anti-submarine missile system was removed, accommodation refurbished, the guided missile launching system modernised and the ship fitted with the Vulcan Phalanx close-in weapons system. In October that year, Hobart took part in the 50th Anniversary Fleet Review of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the following May took part in the 50th Battle of the Coral Sea Commemoration Fleet Entry and Review.

Hobart remained a regular participant in fleet exercises both in Australia and overseas, and was a regular visitor to Asian, Pacific and New Zealand waters, over the final decade of her commission. In August 1998 she left Sydney on her final South East Asian deployment during which she visited Jakarta, Manado, Singapore, Phuket, Penang, Lumut, Kuantan, Bangkok and Ujung Pandang. By May 1999 Hobart attained the distinction of having steamed one million nautical miles since commissioning - the third Australian Navy ship to do so.

In February 2000, the destroyer paid her last visit to her namesake city, Hobart, and in March visited New Zealand and the South West Pacific for the last time. On 12 May 2000 Hobart was decommissioned. Among the guests present at the ceremony was Lady Hay who had launched the ship 34 years earlier. Hobart was sunk as a dive wreck in Yankalilla Bay, South Australia.

In 1967 Hobart was awarded the coveted Duke of Gloucester’s Cup for being assessed as the most efficient unit of the Royal Australian Navy fleet. She was to win this cup on seven further occasions: 1970, 1975, 1979, 1982, 1988, 1992 and 1994.