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HMAS Brisbane D41

HMAS Brisbane crest
HMAS Brisbane (II) was the third of three improved Charles F Adams class guided missile destroyers (DDG) built in the United States for the RAN; her sister ships were HMA Ships Perth (II) and Hobart (II). The destroyers were referred to in the RAN as Perth class DDGs and their primary role was air defence.

A member of the Nepean Blue Mountains Sub-Section who served on the Brisbane

Parade Master
WO Des. Harper AM

With the decision to cease fixed wing naval aviation in the early 1960s, a need arose to replace the capability previously provided by HMAS Melbourne (II). For naval planners, the choice came down to the Royal Navy’s (RN) County Class destroyers, designed around the Sea Slug surface-to-air missile system, and the United States Navy’s Charles F Adams Class destroyers designed around the Tartar missile system. The Tartar system was a superior weapons platform and offered the added bonus of being compact enough to be retrofitted into the RAN’s existing Daring and Battle class destroyers if desired.

On 29 June 1961, the Minister for Defence, Mr. Athol Townley, announced the decision to acquire two DDGs. A third, which became Brisbane, was later ordered in lieu of modifying the existing Battle and Daring classes.

Construction of Brisbane began at the Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Bay City, Michigan, on 15 February 1965. She was launched on 5 May 1966 by the wife of the Minister for the Navy, Mrs. Mavis Mary Chaney, and after receiving a telegram from her sister ship, Hobart, stating “Come on in, the water’s fine.

She was commissioned into the RAN under the command of Captain Alan Willis, RAN, on 16 December 1967; and a comprehensive internal training program began on 18 December as the final fit-out of the ship continued.

The ship’s company had been in Boston for some months prior to the commissioning and had developed an excellent rapport with the local community. Many Boston families hosted crew members to Christmas lunch in their own homes and their generosity was reciprocated early in January 1968 when many members of the crew answered an emergency call for blood donations from the Red Cross when inclement weather had caused a blood shortage in Boston hospitals. More than half of Brisbane’s complement donated some 80 pints of blood.

Brisbane put to sea for consolidated operability tests in the Boston Operating Areas for the first time on 17 January 1968. The final fit-out was completed on 24 January and she departed Boston the next day. She remained in North American waters until September conducting sea trials and exercises primarily off the US west coast; and underwent a final maintenance period in San Diego from June to September.

Brisbane departed for Australia on 28 September. She arrived in her namesake port, Brisbane, via Pearl Harbor and Suva, on 17 October, and the following day, at a ceremony conducted in the Botanical Gardens, the Freedom of the City of Brisbane was conferred on HMAS Brisbane. She arrived in her home port of Sydney for the first time on 22 October. By then she had already steamed more than 30,341nm since commissioning.

In January 1969 Brisbane’s crew began preparing for the ship’s first deployment to the Vietnam War. She departed Sydney for Vietnamese waters on 20 March 1969 and arrived at Subic Bay, Philippines, on 31 March. After a brief work-up, she arrived in Vung Tau, South Vietnam, on 15 April and conducted her first naval gunfire support (NGS) mission that evening; a night harassment mission in the Vinh Binh province. Brisbane’s NGS missions typically involved conducting one or more spotted missions during the day followed by a harassment fire mission of about four hours duration at night.

She remained in the area south of Saigon until 8 May when she was assigned to support an operation on the island of Phu Quoc near the Cambodian border. She departed Vung Tau on 18 May to return to Subic Bay for maintenance followed by rest and relaxation visits to Manila, Philippines, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

She returned to the area of operations (AO) on 10 June where she joined USS Rowan in support of Task Force South. Over the course of four days the two destroyers conducted 189 NGS missions mostly aimed at intelligence targets or Viet Cong base camps. Brisbane then conducted operations south of the Demilitarized Zone in company with the cruiser USS St Paul, and later in an area northeast of Phan Thiet before departing the AO on 29 June for a maintenance period in Singapore.

HMAS Brisbane
HMAS Brisbane

Click on image for a better view.
On the morning of 30 June, while enroute to Singapore, Brisbane encountered a burning merchant ship, MV Sincere. A firefighting party was dispatched but, in spite of their efforts, which involved 71 officers and sailors, the blaze could not be contained and Sincere was abandoned. Her crew was evacuated to Brisbane for passage to Singapore. Brisbane stood by the burning vessel until 3 July when the salvage tug Salvana arrived and took Sincere in tow, but the ship later sank some 80nm north east of Pulau Tioman.

Brisbane returned to the gunline on 15 July operating off Phu Yen and Binh Dinh provinces. On 22 July she suffered a premature explosion in the barrel of Mount 51, injuring Leading Seaman Lenton Benfield and rendering the gun unserviceable. Benfield was landed ashore and returned to Australia for medical treatment.

Brisbane returned to Sydney on 13 October, where she was fitted with the Ikara anti-submarine guided missile system.

Brisbane returned to sea on 3 August 1970 for post-refit sea trials and work-up exercises. She visited Brisbane in October before returning to Sydney later that month to participate in Exercise SWAN LAKE, which saw her proceed to Western Australian waters in company with HMA Ships Melbourne (II), Stalwart (II), Supply and Swan (III), and HM Ships Charybdis and Minerva.

The destroyer maintained a routine program of exercises, training and maintenance until early 1971 when she departed for her second deployment to Vietnam on 16 March. This proved to be the RAN’s last gunline deployment. She arrived in Subic Bay, via Manus Island, on 28 March and arrived in the AO on 5 April. where she conducted multiple NGS missions in the regions known as Military Regions 3 and 4, south of Phan Thiet.

She visited Singapore and the Philippines in late April and early May before returning to the gunline on 15 May to relieve USS Floyd B Parks as the commander of TU 70.8.9, marking the first time an RAN officer held the position of Gunline Commander. She operated just south of the Demilitarized Zone until joining the destroyer screen for the aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk, on 31 May.

She departed the AO on 12 June for Hong Kong where her stay was interrupted by Typhoon Freda, and then returned to the gunline once again on 24 June, operating in Military Regions 3 and 4, for her final stint in Vietnamese waters on 15 August. This period was spent near the Demilitarized Zone where there was a marked increase in enemy activity and a commensurate increase in NGS missions.

Brisbane departed the gunline for the last time on 5 September for Hong Kong and, later, Subic Bay. Following a brief period of maintenance and exercises, she arrived back in Sydney on 15 October marking the end of the RAN’s combat role in the Vietnam War.

Over the course of her two deployments to Vietnam, Brisbane had steamed nearly 70,000nm and fired some 16,000 rounds of 5-inch ammunition. The ship earned high praise from the Commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet who said that that the ship’s crew had attained ‘a most enviable reputation for extreme dedication and true professionalism, which was in keeping with the fine tradition established by a long series of predecessors’. Her performance during the year was recognized with the awarding of the Duke of Gloucester’s Cup for 1971.

With the RAN’s involvement in the Vietnam War over, Brisbane adopted a more routine program of exercises, training and maintenance. She began 1972 conducting exercises off the coast of New South Wales before proceeding to Western Australian waters in April. She returned to Sydney at the end of the month. She participated in a search for a missing fishing boat on 5 July; the boat and her two man crew were located by HMAS Melbourne (II) the following day.

Brisbane departed Sydney on 17 August in company with Melbourne and Perth, later joined by HMA Ships Supply and Stuart (II), bound for Pearl Harbor to participate in the second RIMPAC exercise. The five ships arrived in Hawaii on 30 August. RIMPAC 72 began on 5 September and included navy and air force units from Australia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand. On completion of RIMPAC, Brisbane, Melbourne, Supply and Perth visited Japan, before participating in the South East Asia Treaty Organization Exercise SEA SCORPION off the Philippines.

SEA SCORPION was immediately followed by Exercise GROUNDWORK, an ANZUK exercise which simulated the opposed passage of a carrier force from Manila to Singapore. GROUNDWORK came to an end upon arrival in Singapore on 3 November. Brisbane and HMAS Derwent then went on to visit Surabaya, Indonesia, where they participated in Exercise CAKRAWALA BARU with units of the TNI-AL. They departed Bali on 20 November 1972 and arrived back home in Sydney on 28 November, bringing a busy Pacific and South East Asian deployment to an end.

Brisbane resumed a routine program of exercises, training and maintenance in the new year in waters off the coast of New South Wales. She visited her namesake city in February 1973 before undergoing an Intermediate Docking from late June to early August.

She put to sea again on 6 August and immediately began preparations for her second consecutive deployment to Pearl Harbor for the RIMPAC exercises. She arrived in Pearl Harbor via Fiji on 7 September and departed for the commencement of RIMPAC three days later; one of 24 ships participating in the exercise involving some 14,000 sailors and airmen from Australia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

RIMPAC concluded on 21 September and Brisbane, once again in company with Melbourne, Stuart and Taranaki, steamed for home on 26 September. She arrived back in Sydney, via Fiji, on 12 October and conducted a fleet entry into Sydney Harbour in company with HMA Ships Melbourne, Stuart, Supply, Vendetta (II), Torrens (II) and Derwent, and the submarine Onslow.

Brisbane departed Sydney on 22 October enroute to Bunbury, Western Australia to participate in Exercise WESTWARD HO, along with other naval units from Australia, Great Britain and the Netherlands. She arrived in Bunbury on 29 October and departed two days later bound for Singapore, conducting Exercises SUNDA BALL and LEADLINE enroute with other Australian and British ships. Brisbane arrived in Singapore on 14 November, and departed five days later in company with Melbourne and Stuart, taking part in Exercise SANDGROPER before arriving in Fremantle on 26 November. She departed two days later to participate in Exercise OWNBACK, which was severely curtailed due to inclement weather.

After a brief period of exercises in January and February, Brisbane spent most of 1974 in refit beginning on 11 March. Late on Christmas Day 1974, Brisbane's ship’s company was recalled from Christmas leave and ordered to steam to Darwin in response to the devastation caused by Cyclone Tracy. Shortfalls caused by crew members that were unable to return to the ship before she sailed were made up by volunteers from other ships and shore establishments. Brisbane arrived in Darwin Harbour on 31 December and her ship’s company immediately began clean up operations.

Brisbane then resumed the normal pattern of routine exercises, training and maintenance in the Eastern Australia Exercise Area (EAXA) before departing Sydney on 16 July 1975 bound for South East Asia via Darwin. She departed Darwin that afternoon and during the course of her three month deployment visited ports in; Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand; she also conducted exercises with Navy and Air Force units from Australia, the United Kingdom, the USA, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The new year saw Brisbane undergoing an Intermediate Docking, which included the installation of new gun mounts. Unfortunately industrial action saw her work schedule blow out and she remained alongside in Sydney until 26 October 1976. A frustrating period alongside ended on that date and, following a period of shakedown exercises and trials, Brisbane was again deemed mission ready.

Following the frustrations of the previous year, 1977 proved to be more rewarding for Brisbane’s crew as the ship undertook deployments to Hawaii for RIMPAC 77, and to the United Kingdom for HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee Fleet Review. Brisbane departed Sydney for Pearl Harbor on 11 February in company with HMA Ships Melbourne (II), Supply, Perth (II) and Parramatta (III), and HMNZS Otago.

RIMPAC exercises, involving 38 ships, 225 aircraft and about 20,000 personnel from four countries, began on 18 February. RIMPAC 77 concluded on 11 March off the island of Lahaina. The task group departed Pearl Harbor for Australia on 16 March but Brisbane was forced to turn back towards Hawaii shortly after leaving to transfer a sailor with a suspected case of appendicitis to a shore based hospital. The sailor was transferred to a US Coast Guard helicopter for evacuation back to Hawaii and Brisbane rejoined the task group the following day. A second case of appendicitis was confirmed that day and the patient was transferred to Supply where a successful appendectomy was performed.

Brisbane arrived back in Sydney, via Fiji, on 2 April and soon began preparations for her deployment to the UK. She departed for the five month deployment on 28 April in company with Melbourne and HMNZS Canterbury.

At the end of May, the task group conducted exercises with French naval units in the Northern Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden prior to transiting the Suez Canal on 31 May. The group then conducted exercises with RN and USN units in the Mediterranean, during which they were shadowed by a Soviet Riga class destroyer and a surveillance vessel.

The review was conducted on 28 June in the Spithead anchorage located in the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Brisbane and Melbourne were just two of 175 ships from 18 nations with 30,000 sailors embarked for the occasion. The task group participated in Exercise HIGH WOOD in July which took them from Plymouth north along the west coast of Ireland to the Faeroe Islands north of Scotland. On the morning of 13 July a Wessex helicopter crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Melbourne. Brisbane recovered the three crew members uninjured while Melbourne recovered the aircraft. Brisbane continued on to London at the conclusion of the exercise.

The task group again conducted exercises with RN, USN, French and Indian naval units enroute back to Australia. Brisbane steamed more than 36,000 nm during the deployment visiting Fremantle, Colombo, Gibraltar, Portsmouth, Plymouth, London, Antwerp, Toulon, Port Said, Bombay, Singapore, Fremantle and Melbourne. On 9 May, two days out of Fremantle, one of Melbourne’s Sea King helicopters crashed into the sea near Cocos Island about 500 yards ahead of Brisbane. The destroyer rescued the two man crew and recovered part of the Sea King’s undercarriage, but the remainder of the aircraft was lost.

Following her return, Brisbane’s crew began preparing for a major refit, which commenced on 24 October and kept the ship alongside for most of 1978 excepting a week of sea trials at the end of November. She returned to sea for further trials on 30 January 1979 spending most of February at sea undergoing evaluations before her refit officially concluded on 31 March. Post-refit trials and exercises continued on 3 April before visiting Brisbane at the end of May where the crew conducted a march through the city streets exercising the ship’s right to Freedom of Entry.

Brisbane participated in Exercise TASMANEX in New Zealand waters in August, Exercise SEA EAGLE in September before a brief visit to Melbourne, and finally the UNZUS exercise KANGAROO III in Queensland waters in October.

January 1980 saw Brisbane visit Melbourne and Geelong before departing Sydney on 4 February for her third deployment to Hawaii to take part in RIMPAC 80. Enroute she rendezvoused with HMA Ships Supply and Hobart (II) off the coast of Queensland, and HMA Ships Melbourne (III) and Yarra (III) off Vanuatu. The task group then arrived in Pearl Harbor on 25 February and the exercises commenced the following day, involving 47 ships, 215 aircraft and some 20,000 service people from Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Canada and Japan.

The exercises were suspended in the early hours of 13 March when Able Seaman DB Westwood was reported missing from Brisbane. A search was initiated off the small island of Niihau, coordinated from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre at Honolulu, while the residents of Niihau searched the island itself. The destroyer USS Joseph Strauss spotted Westwood, clinging to an inflated plastic garbage bag, just before midday. A crewman from a USN SH3 Sea King helicopter entered the water to support Westwood as Strauss moved into position to affect the rescue. The recovery became more dramatic in the final stages when a large shark was observed swimming towards the two men. Westwood had fallen overboard just before midnight on 12 March, spending some twelve hours in the water. He was in good health though exhausted and suffering the effects of exposure. He remained a guest in Strauss until returning to Pearl Harbor. After a brief visit to Kauai, Brisbane departed Hawaii on 28 March arriving back in Sydney on 21 April, via Tarawa, Rabaul and Lae.

She became the first major fleet unit to be temporarily home-ported to Western Australia when she arrived at HMAS Stirling on 24 June.

At the end of September Brisbane was in Queensland waters conducting trials in company with HMA Submarines Oxley (II) and Onslow, and HMAS Yarra(III), before heading to New Zealand to participate in Exercise AUCKEX in October. She arrived back in Sydney on 7 November where she was docked for routine maintenance. Brisbane’s performance during the year earned her the Duke of Gloucester’s Cup as the most proficient unit in the RAN.

Brisbane returned to sea on 17 February 1981 for shakedown and workup exercises and, following a brief visit to Melbourne, she departed Sydney in company with HMAS Stalwart (II) for a South East Asian and Indian Ocean deployment on 23 March. After a brief visit to Darwin she went on to visit Singapore, Trincomalee, Bombay, the Seychelles, Mombasa and Columbo, before conducting patrols and exercises with the USS Independence and USS America battle groups in the north west Indian Ocean, and participating in Exercise GONZO. She returned to Sydney, via Fremantle and Adelaide, on 20 August. The deployment was marred by the tragic accidental death of Seaman David Tracey who was killed in a car accident in Mombasa on 6 June. At just 18 years of age, he was the youngest member of Brisbane’s crew.

That October, Brisbane participated in Australia’s largest multi-national, tri-service exercise, KANGAROO, off the Queensland coast and included some 20,000 personnel, 100 aircraft and 25 ships from four nations.

Early 1982 saw Brisbane participating in Exercises EUREKA and SEA EAGLE in February and March, before once again departing for RIMPAC on 19 March in company with HMA Ships Hobart (II), Yarra (III) and Swan (III), and HMNZS Canterbury. HMAS Stalwart (II) also participated in in-company exercises for the first three days of the voyage in the Tasman Sea. The task group arrived in Pearl Harbor, via Suva, on 4 April.

A subsequent refit's progress was also hampered when a short but intense fire broke out in the ship’s main galley on 12 May 1983. Though the fire was completely extinguished in little more than half an hour, and there were no injuries, it did cause damage to insulation, wiring, galley fittings, ventilation and the expansion joint in the superstructure, as well as internal cabling. Brisbane returned to sea on 19 July 1983.

She participated in the Fleet Concentration Period in August, Exercise SHARK BAIT at the end of October, and visited Melbourne in November at short notice to conduct exercises with the HMS Invincible task group as the carrier made her way to the East Australian Exercise Areas for Exercise KANGAROO.

In early 1984 Brisbane was engaged in the routine program of exercises, training and maintenance. The remainder of the year, however, proved to be a busy one for the destroyer. She participated in a Fleet Concentration Period in February during which she sunk so many targets she received a signal from the Commander of the Target and Services Group with the Biblical reference Job Chapter 16 verses 12-14, which reads; “I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces and set me up for his mark he breaketh me with breach upon breach, he runneth upon me like a giant".

Brisbane then took part in Exercise SEA EAGLE in March which included a port visit to Brisbane where the ship’s company again exercised the right to Freedom of Entry with a march through the city streets. Exercise PITCH BLACK, in northern Australian waters, followed in May before deploying on an Indian Ocean deployment. There she conducted exercises with the USS America Battle Group and visited Singapore and Sri Lanka (twice), the Maldives, the Seychelles and Kenya before returning home to Sydney, via Darwin, on 2 August. She later participated in the second Fleet Concentration Period of the year in September before visiting Western Australian waters to participate in Exercise SANDGROPER in October and November.

Brisbane’s program of exercises, training and maintenance continued in to 1985 as she took part in a Fleet Concentration Period in February; Exercise FLYING FISH in March which saw her lead a formation departure of RAN and USN ships from Sydney Harbour and also took her north to Brisbane where the ship’s company held a ‘working bee’ at the ship’s charity, the Tufnell Home for Displaced Children.

After conducting exercises with HMNZ Ships Canterbury, Southland and Waikato in the EAXA in June and July, Brisbane departed Sydney in company with her sister ship HMAS Hobart (II) on 17 July for the South Pacific. They arrived in Suva on 22 July, their visit coinciding with the 10th Anniversary of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Naval Division and the commissioning of the shore establishment, HMFS Viti. The visit was marred by the tragic death of a shipmate; Seaman Bradley Wine was killed in a motor vehicle accident near Lautoka on 23 July. Brisbane went on to visit Auckland and Lyttelton in New Zealand arriving back in Sydney, via Hobart, on 22 August.

Upon her return to Sydney, Brisbane commenced preparations for a major half-life refit and modernization that kept her alongside for more than two years. The objectives of the modernization project had been defined in November 1978. It was intended to maintain the class at the highest possible capability through to the end of the century at a fraction of their replacement cost. The refit included improvements to command and control systems, weapons systems, communications and habitability, as well as extensive mechanical, electrical and hull maintenance. It provided for the future installation of new weapons platforms including the Harpoon surface-to-surface missile system. Brisbane was the first of the three DDGs to undergo the modernization in what was one of the largest projects ever undertaken at Garden Island Dockyard. After some 957 thousand man-hours of work, Brisbane returned to sea on 11 November 1987.

Much of Brisbane’s post-refit defect rectification work was conducted in Newcastle and she visited that city in January, March, May and July in 1988 with the crew participating in Bicentenary celebrations there in January, and in May participating in a march commemorating the Battle of the Coral Sea. She also visited Melbourne for defect rectification while participating in the Moomba Festival in March where a detachment from the crew took part in the RAN Freedom of Entry parade. She commenced workup exercises in May and again visited Brisbane in August where she participated in Exercise TASMANEX.

A detachment of the ship’s company took part in the Bicentennial Naval Salute March through the streets of Sydney on 29 September and the ship was berthed at Garden Island for the Bicentennial Naval Review on 1 October.

Brisbane departed Sydney on 14 October for a 15 week south east Asian deployment taking the opportunity to conduct a patrol of the Australian Fishing Zone enroute to Darwin. She departed Darwin on 24 October conducting exercises with RAAF aircraft; however, exercises with Indonesian naval units were subsequently cancelled.

Brisbane rendezvoused with HMAS Swan (III) on 28 October with the duo remaining in company for the duration of the deployment. They arrived in Singapore on 30 October and went on to visit Subic Bay, Manila, Bangkok, Penang before returning to Singapore. The ships then joined the USS Carl Vinson Battle Group exercising with naval forces from the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore. Brisbane returned to Sydney on 20 January 1989, via Darwin and Brisbane, having celebrated the Christmas and New Year period in Singapore.

There was little respite for Brisbane’s crew and she was soon back at sea participating in a Fleet Concentration Period and Exercise TASMAN RULER during January and February, before visiting Port Arthur and Hobart in April after Exercise SWALLOW DIVE in Bass Strait was cancelled due to inclement weather. A visit to Newcastle followed in May where her crew took part in the annual Battle of the Coral Sea commemorations before taking part in the international, tri-service exercise VALIANT USHER in Queensland later in the month.

Brisbane then proceeded to Darwin on 14 July where she conducted a two week maintenance period before participating in Exercise KANGAROO 89 in August. A visit to her namesake city at the end of August followed where the ship’s company exercised its right to Freedom of Entry to the City of Brisbane on 5 September. The ship then steamed to Newcastle on 5 November where she underwent an intermediate docking at the Forgacs shipyard before returning to Sydney the following month.

The 1990's saw Brisbane return to sea to participate in a Fleet Concentration Period in New Zealand waters in February. She returned to Sydney on 22 February and commenced preparations to deploy to Hawaii for RIMPAC 90. Brisbane departed Sydney on 26 March in company with HMA Ships Adelaide (II), Darwin and Success (II). The RIMPAC exercises began on 16 April and continued until 8 May. Brisbane remained in the Hawaiian exercise area after RIMPAC, later setting a course for home on 31 May. She arrived back in Sydney, via Pago Pago and Noumea, on 21 June and participated in Exercise PITCH BLACK off the Northern Territory in July. Brisbane arrived back home in Sydney on 6 August where an unscheduled upgrade began to better prepare the destroyer for a potential operational deployment to the Arabian Gulf.

On 10 August 1990 the then Prime Minister RJ Hawke affirmed Australia’s commitment to send RAN warships to the Persian Gulf as part of a Multinational Naval Force assembling to enforce sanctions on Iraq following its invasion of neighbouring Kuwait. Under the Australian codename Operation DAMASK, HMA Ships Adelaide (II), Darwin and Success (II) were the first to sail, with Brisbane and Sydney (IV) tipped to follow later.

A number of Brisbane’s on board systems were upgraded. Besides satellite communications equipment and electro-optical surveillance systems, these improvements included; new electronic warfare equipment; better chaff decoy rounds; radar absorbent material (RAM) panels to reduce the ship’s radar cross section; and extra firefighting and damage control equipment. To improve efficiency of boarding operations the old sea boats were replaced with two new rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs). The most prominent structural change was the installation of a pair of Phalanx Close-in-Weapons Systems (CIWS) for greater protection against missile attack.

On 15 October Brisbane, in company with Sydney, sailed for a tailored two week pre-deployment workup before both ships departed for the Middle East on 12 November under the auspices of Operation DAMASK II. A number of VIPs farewelled the ship’s company including Prime Minister Bob Hawke, AC, MP, and the Premier of New South Wales, Nick Greiner, MLA.

On 30 November, just before entering the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO), the ships were advised that the United Nations Security Council had adopted Resolution 678 authorising the use of force against Iraq unless it withdrew from Kuwait by 15 January 1991. On 3 December, Prime Minister Hawke announced that Australian units were allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz and enter the Arabian Gulf. Brisbane and Sydney were to form part of the largest grouping of warships seen since the end of World War II. The multi-national coalition included some 90 warships, more than 100 logistic, amphibious and smaller craft, and 800 aircraft from 15 nations.

Brisbane and Sydney arrived in the MEAO, via Fremantle and Diego Garcia, on 3 December 1990. They rendezvoused with HMA Ships Success (II), Darwin and Adelaide (II) that morning and conducted a thorough handover after which they commenced Maritime Interception Force (MIF) duties. They sailed through the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Arabian Gulf for the first time on 16 December, Brisbane’s 23rd birthday. The two ships conducted patrol operations in the Central Gulf. Brisbane spent Christmas alongside in Bahrain before recommencing patrol duties on 27 December. A scheduled port visit to Dubai was delayed in early January 1991 when, over the course of 36 hours, Brisbane came to the assistance of three separate merchant vessels, one of which, MV Demetra Beauty, claimed to have struck a mine in the Gulf of Oman but refused any assistance which required anyone to board and inspect her hull. Her crew was rescued by the Omani patrol vessel Mussadan and the merchant ship Sumara before Demetra Beauty sank.

The UN deadline of 16 January 1991 passed without incident, but at 2:30am on 17 January Operation DESERT STORM began. Sydney and Brisbane formed part of the air defence screen around Battle Force Zulu which included up to three USN aircraft carriers. These duties continued for the duration of the war with Brisbane operating primarily in the North and Central Arabian Gulf. Additional duties during the course of the war included search and rescue, aircraft control and escort of detached units. US President George Bush announced a cease fire on 28 February 1991, though Brisbane’s responsibilities in the Battle Force Zulu screen remained largely unchanged. Brisbane and Sydney proceeded out of the Arabian Gulf for the last time on 22 March and exited the MEAO on 26 March. They arrived back in Sydney, via Singapore, Darwin and Brisbane, on 22 April where they began a well earned leave and maintenance period. Brisbane was subsequently awarded an Australian Meritorious Unit Citation in recognition of her service during Gulf War I.

Following a period alongside in Sydney, Brisbane returned to sea on 26 June resuming the normal program of exercises, training and maintenance. She conducted a successful ‘welcome home’ visit to Melbourne from 5 to 9 July and the ship’s company participated in the Gulf Welcome Home parade in Sydney on 5 August. Later that month she participated in Exercise PITCH BLACK off the Northern Territory before conducting passage exercises with Malaysian and Singaporean ships between Darwin and Cape York in early September.

Brisbane departed Darwin, in company with Sydney, on 10 September bound for South East Asia. The pair separated on 14 September with Sydney continuing on to Singapore enroute to the Middle East, while Brisbane went on to Penang and Phuket before visiting Singapore, where she took part in a multi-national Integrated Air Defence Series (IADS) exercise. She returned to Sydney, via Darwin and Brisbane, on 22 October. A Fleet Concentration Period in November was her last major fleet exercise for the year.

During the early part of 1992 Brisbane underwent an extended maintenance period before participating in another Fleet Concentration Period and Exercise CORAL SEA in April. On 1 May she joined 11 other RAN and USN vessels, led by the 80,000 tonne aircraft carrier USS Independence, in a fleet entry into Sydney Harbour commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. She departed later in the day, in company with USS Reuben James, for a four day visit to Melbourne to participate in further Coral Sea commemorations including a march through the streets of Melbourne concluding with a memorial service at the Shrine of Remembrance. Later that month she conducted trials for the Nulka missile decoy system off Jervis Bay becoming the first ship in the world to fire Nulka on 18 May.

Brisbane visited her namesake city in June, before continuing northwards to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area to participate in Exercise TASMAN LINK in late June and early July. Upon her return to Sydney she participated in festivities celebrating Sydney’s sesquicentenary with 52 members of the ship’s company forming part of the Heritage Guard which marched through the streets of the city on 18 July.

On 3 August, Brisbane departed Sydney for a four month deployment to South East Asia, via Western Australia. She conducted exercises in Western Australian waters in company with HMA Ships Perth (II), Torrens (II) and Derwent, and HMNZS Waikato in August before departing for Asian waters on 22 August in company with Perth and Torrens. Brisbane visited Jakarta, Singapore, Lumut, Sattahip, Kota Kinabalu, Iloilo and Hong Kong during the course of her deployment; and participated in the international IADS exercise and Exercise STARFISH off the east coast of Malaysia in September. She arrived back in Sydney, via Darwin, and an unscheduled stop at Mackay to transfer an injured sailor to hospital on 26 November.

She then had a refit that included extensive work on the ship’s habitability, communications, weapons and propulsion systems, and hull preservation work. In a rededication ceremony held on 24 May 1994 the National Safety Council presented Brisbane and ADI-NED with a Three-Star Safety Award acknowledging the high level of safety maintained during the refit.

Brisbane returned to sea on 26 May to conduct post-refit trials before beginning work-up exercises on 27 June. With her workup complete, and having successfully passed an Operational Readiness Evaluation, Brisbane departed Sydney on 10 August for South East Asian waters. She visited her namesake city enroute and participated in a Fleet Concentration Period off the Northern Territory before continuing northwards in company with HMA Ships Adelaide (II), Melbourne (III), Newcastle and HMNZS Wellington. She later rendezvoused with HMAS Westralia (II) and HMNZS Endeavour. The task group then split into two before Brisbane accompanied the two New Zealand ships to Singapore, arriving there on 30 August.

The deployment continued with participation in the multi-national Exercise STARFISH and IADS off the east coast of Malaysia in September. Poor weather, however, curtailed the IADS exercises and Brisbane returned to Singapore at the end of the month. She went on to visit Hong Kong before taking part in commemorative events for the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Leyte Gulf in Tacloban, Philippines, from 19 to 21 October. She continued on to Nagasaki, Singapore and Penang before arriving at HMAS Stirling on 17 November. She then returned home to Sydney, via Adelaide and Hobart, on 9 December.

The new year began with a shakedown and workup exercises on 7 February 1995. In the early hours of 8 March, Brisbane closed a Russian merchant ship MV Rybnovsk in order to transfer a critically ill sailor to shore after an earlier attempt to transfer the sailor by helicopter was aborted due to inclement weather. The sailor was subsequently landed at Jervis Bay where he made a full recovery.

She again steamed northwards on 24 July in company with HMA Ships Perth (II) and Newcastle to participate in Exercise KANGAROO 95 off the coast of Far North Queensland. The exercise concluded on 24 August as the Task Group entered Darwin Harbour that day.

Brisbane departed Darwin, in company with HMA Ships Perth (II) and Westralia (II), bound for South East Asia on 28 August. She arrived in Lumut on 4 September before commencing Exercise STARFISH five days later. She then visited Sattahip, Thailand, upon conclusion of the exercise before proceeding to Singapore. There she participated in Exercises SINGAROO off Singapore and ZEEHOUND 2 in the Malacca Strait in October before proceeding on to conduct port visits to Phuket and Surabaya. The destroyer returned to Sydney, via Cairns, on 21 November.

In early February 1996 Brisbane visited Melbourne where she participated in contractor trials with NUSHIP Anzac, before taking part in a Fleet Concentration Period conducted off the New South Wales coast. It was during February that the ship also adopted corporate sponsorship of Abdul the Black Panther at Taronga Park Zoo. This was a symbolic gesture recognising the use of a black panther as the centrepiece in the ship’s official badge.

A deployment to South East Asian waters followed in February, skirting the edges of Tropical Cyclone Ethel in the Gulf of Carpentaria. She arrived in Singapore on 19 March and again participated in an IADS exercise at the end of the month. She visited Jakarta in early April before setting course for Australia and avoiding a second tropical cyclone, Olivia, in the Timor Sea. She arrived back in Sydney, via Darwin and Townsville, on 18 April.

A passage to New Zealand waters to conduct Anti-Submarine Warfare training followed in April, bookended by two visits to Auckland before the ship returned, to Sydney on 16 May. After a period alongside conducting maintenance, she departed Sydney in company with HMAS Perth (II) and HMNZ Ships Endeavour, Canterbury and Waikato on 29 July for Darwin and a Fleet Concentration Period followed by another South East Asian deployment. She departed Darwin on 26 August following the Fleet Concentration Period and proceeded directly to Pulau Tioman off the east coast of Malaysia for the beginning of Exercise STARFISH in early September.

Brisbane set course for home on 7 October but that evening made an emergency visit to Benoa, Bali, where, with the assistance of Indonesian Navy units, she landed a sailor suffering from suspected appendicitis. She participated in Exercise MARITIME GUARD with HMA Ships Adelaide (II) and Westralia (II) enroute back to Australia, and arrived back in Darwin on 11 October where she took part in Exercise SINGAROO.

From 21 to 23 October Brisbane visited Port Hedland for that city’s centenary celebrations. Brisbane arrived at Stirling on 26 October to undertake a maintenance period. She visited Albany and Adelaide, and conducted naval gunfire support and anti-submarine warfare serials in Jervis Bay, enroute back to Sydney, where she arrived on 22 November. Brisbane was awarded the Duke of Gloucester’s Cup as the most proficient ship in the fleet in 1996, the third time that she received that honour.

Brisbane again participated in the annual Fleet Concentration Period in February 1997 and Exercise TANDEM THRUST in March, the largest joint exercise between Australia and the USA since World War II. The exercise concluded on 22 March and Brisbane accompanied HMAS Adelaide (II) to Darwin.

She commenced another South East Asian deployment on 1 April visiting Phuket before proceeding to Pulau Tioman to participate in Exercise FLYING FISH 97 from 14 to 26 April. She then went on visit Lumut and in early May conducted passage exercises with Canadian and New Zealand naval units enroute back to Sydney. She arrived in Sydney, via Darwin and Cairns, on 23 May. The ship returned to northern Australian waters to participate in Exercise KAKADU in late July and early August. She returned to Sydney on 4 September.

Brisbane departed for Western Australian waters late in October where she participated in anti-submarine warfare exercises the following month, and visited Albany, Bunbury and Adelaide as well as HMAS Stirling before arriving back in Sydney on 1 December.

Brisbane participated in another Fleet Concentration Period in February 1998 and visited Melbourne and Hobart in March. She remained alongside in Sydney in April and May undergoing maintenance in preparation for her deployment to Hawaii for RIMPAC 98 in June. She was also host to the Chinese replenishment ship Nancang when a PLA-Navy task group visited Sydney from 4 to 7 May.

With her deployment to Hawaii scheduled to begin on 9 June, Brisbane put to sea early in the month for shakedown exercises; however, the failure of her No. 1 Air Conditioning Unit forced her withdrawal from RIMPAC. She consequently remained alongside for most of the month, returning to sea on 29 June.

An amended program, which included another South East Asian deployment, was put in place for the second half of the year consequent to Brisbane’s forced withdrawal from RIMPAC. She departed Sydney on 17 August for Townsville where she participated in Exercise NOTHERN ENCOUNTER, which ironically included the RAN task group returning from RIMPAC. She arrived at Darwin at the end of month where she took part in the second Fleet Concentration Period of the year in early September. She departed Darwin in company with HMA Ships Adelaide (II) and Hobart (II) for South East Asian waters and visited Jakarta and Manado where the trio participated in the International Year of the Ocean Festival.

She conducted port visits to Singapore, and Thailand, and conducted passage exercises with Australian, Malaysian and Thai naval units. She arrived back at HMAS Stirling on 13 November where she participated in Exercise ASWEX 98, and arrived back in Sydney, via Bunbury, on 29 November.

Some 70 new members rotated into the ship’s company in January 1999 before participating in the first Fleet Concentration Period of the year the following month. She entered dry dock at Captain Cook Inner Graving Dock for maintenance in March and returned to sea on 24 May for exercises and trials off the Queensland coast. While the ship was alongside in May, members of the ship’s company took part in Operation BANTAM assisting efforts to combat an outbreak of Newcastle Disease in New South Wales poultry farms; and while in Queensland in June, a team of cyclists from the crew conducted a charity bike ride from Gladstone to Brisbane raising nearly $1200 for Tufnell House.

Brisbane participated in Exercise NORTHERN ENCOUNTER on passage to Darwin in July, during which she provided assistance to HMAS Balikpapan when the LCH’s bow door failed. Exercise KAKADU, off the Northern Territory, followed at the end of July and continued into August. During an anti-aircraft firing exercise, a cartridge failed in the Mount 51 5-inch gun mount causing a fire to erupt inside the turret. The two person crew evacuated the mount safely and the ship went to emergency stations. That the fire was extinguished within three minutes was a credit to the crew and their training. The only injuries were a few minor cases of smoke inhalation but the gun itself suffered extensive damage and was rendered unserviceable. All 5-inch gun firings were stopped until a full investigation could be conducted.

Brisbane departed Darwin on 15 August in company with HMA Ships Anzac (III) and Darwin for South East Asia to participate in Exercise STARDEX. STARDEX concluded on 10 September and Brisbane returned to Sydney, via Kuantan and Cairns, on 24 September. Upon her arrival she commenced a maintenance period which included the replacement of Mount 51 with Mount 52 from the recently decommissioned HMAS Perth (II). She then resumed the normal pattern of routine exercises, training and maintenance at the end of November.

Brisbane’s new Mount 51 became fully operational in February 2000 ahead of the ship’s participation in the RNZN’s Fleet Concentration in March. She visited Devonport and Wellington before returning to Sydney on 24 March. She then visited Geelong briefly at the end of April before proceeding up the east coast into Queensland waters in May while conducting training evolutions. She returned to Sydney at the end of the month.

Brisbane again proceeded northwards in July to participate in Exercise NORTHERN ENCOUNTER in Far North Queensland. August saw her take part in a Fleet Concentration Period and Exercise SINGAROO, both off the Northern Territory, before departing for north Asian waters on 28 August. Brisbane arrived in Bangkok on 4 September and commenced Exercise AUSTHAI in the Gulf of Thailand five days later. She went on to visit Hong Kong before making a six hour passage up the Yangtze River to Shanghai, in company with HMAS Success (II), on 24 September. The two ships remained in the Chinese port for five days and conducted brief passage exercises with the escorting PLA-N frigate upon their departure on 29 September. The two ships then participated in Exercise GOODWILL, along with HMA Ships Darwin and Canberra (II), in Japanese waters in October during which they visited Yokosuka, Tokyo and Kure. They visited Guam enroute back Australia and, while transiting through the Federated States of Micronesia towards the end of the month, conducted Operation BIG EYE 2, a fisheries surveillance operation, in conjunction with Micronesian vessels and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. Brisbane arrived back in Sydney, via Cairns, on 3 November marking the end of the ship’s last ‘up top’ deployment.

Brisbane commenced her final calendar year in commission by striking the ship’s bell continuously for five minutes from 3:55 to 4:00pm on 1 January 2001 to ‘ring in’ the Centenary of Federation. She put to sea for shakedown exercises on 30 January before departing for Hobart on 7 February. There she acted as flagship for the Royal Hobart Regatta before returning to Sydney on 15 February where she participated in Exercise OCEAN PROTECTOR at the end of the month.

She took part in Exercise TASMANEX in March along with other Australian, French and New Zealand naval units, transiting the Tasman Sea to New Zealand waters. TASMANEX concluded on 14 March and the following day the participating ships conducted a Fleet Entry into Auckland Harbour. She went on to visit Wellington before returning to Sydney on 28 March.

Brisbane conducted a four day visit to her namesake city early in April where she supported the 60th Anniversary of the International Rats of Tobruk Association, which included numerous guided tours and two open days. She returned to Queensland waters in May to participate in Exercise TANDEM THRUST during which she spent some time exercising as part of the USS Kitty Hawk Battle Group.

At 1:07pm on 13 May, a significant milestone was reached when Brisbane passed one million nautical miles steamed. She conducted her final replenishment at sea from HMAS Success (II) on 19 May and Success’ ship’s company gave her a rousing cheer as the destroyer broke away. She returned to Sydney at the end of the month.

Brisbane departed Sydney for her final voyage, a circumnavigation of Australia and New Zealand, on 2 July. She visited Adelaide, Fremantle and Darwin where she participated in Exercise KAKADU at the end of July and beginning of August. She visited her namesake city for the final time on 17 August and embarked a number of VIPs for her passage up the Brisbane River. On her approach to the Gateway Bridge she exchanged a 19-gun salute with 1 Field Regiment (representing the City of Brisbane). With the RAN Band in support, the ship’s company exercised its right to Freedom of Entry to the City of Brisbane on 18 August with a march through the city streets, concluding with a civic reception at City Hall.

She departed Brisbane on 22 August and arrived in Auckland three days later. Brisbane then went on to visit Dunedin at the end of the month, the final overseas port visit of her commission, before enjoying a brief cruise in Milford Sound on 4 September. The ship then crossed the Tasman for the final time before visiting Hobart and Melbourne where she arrived on 13 September. Unfortunately the tragic events of 11 September 2001, resulted in the cancellation of many of the events planned for Brisbane’s last port visit before decommissioning, however, an official reception proceeded as planned on 14 September. She left Melbourne on 17 September arriving back in Sydney two days later.

Brisbane was host ship for two visiting PLA-N ships Yichang and Taichang in early October and she conducted a Youth Sea Day with 64 guests embarked on 8 October. Her final sea time was spent exercising in company with HMAS Melbourne (III) the following day before anchoring in Jervis Bay overnight. She steamed up the NSW coast on 10 October before making her final entry into Sydney later that day.

HMAS Brisbane decommissioned on 19 October 2001 in front of approximately 1700 guests marking the end of the DDG era in the RAN. More than 7000 officers and sailors served in Brisbane during her service life.

Brisbane now lies as a dive wreck 4.2 miles off Point Cartwright on the Queensland coast and forms the centrepiece of the ‘Ex-HMAS Brisbane Conservation Park’.

One of Brisbane’s 5-inch gun mounts may be found on display outside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, positioned in front of her bridge and forward superstructure which forms part of the post-1945 conflicts gallery.