HMAS Queenborough (G70/D270/F02/57)
A brief history 1942 to 1972
HMAS Queenborough (G70/D270/F02/57) (originally HMS Queenborough - G70/D19) was a Q class destroyer that served in the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
Constructed during World War II as part of the War Emergency Programme, Queenborough was laid down in 1940 and launched in 1942, serving in the Arctic, Mediterranean, and Pacific theatres. After the war ended, the ship was transferred on loan to the RAN in exchange for an N class destroyer, then given to Australia as a gift in 1950.
Queenborough was converted to an anti-submarine frigate, and served with the RAN until 1966. During this time, she was deployed to the Far East Strategic Reserve on multiple occasions, participated in numerous fleet exercises, and took on a partial training role. She was decommissioned and placed in reserve, but reactivated in 1966 as a training ship. Queenborough remained in service for another three years, until a series of mechanical and structural faults required that she be retired, decommissioning in 1972 and being scrapped in Hong Kong in 1975
British Home Fleet
HMS Queenborough served in the Arctic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean during World War II. She was assigned to the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, which was made up of Q class destroyers. Following commissioning, Queenborough was assigned to the British Home Fleet and spent the end of 1942 and the early part of 1943 as an Arctic Convoy escort. On 31 December 1942, Queenborough was one of ten ships taken by Home Fleet commander Admiral Tovey to reinforce the ships covering Arctic convoy JW 51B, following the Battle of the Barents Sea.
She was briefly deployed to the waters off South Africa before the 4th Destroyer Flotilla was assigned to Force H and the Mediterranean theatre in mid-1943. Queenborough was involved in numerous Allied landings of the Italian Campaign. She was part of the British covering force for the Allied invasion of Sicily on 10th. July. The destroyer was involved in the leadup to the British landings at Calabria from 31th. August to 3rd. September, including preparatory shelling of the landing site on 31 August and 2 September. A week later, she supported the United States troop landings at Salerno, remaining on station until 16th. September.
British Eastern Fleet
The 4th Destroyer Flotilla was ordered to depart the Mediterranean theatre and sail for the Indian Ocean in March 1944, to join the British Eastern Fleet. Near the end of March, Queenborough commenced involvement in Operation Diplomat. Leaving Trincomalee, on 21st. March, the 18-ship fleet practiced refuelling 800 nautical miles (1,500 km) south of Ceylon. On 27th. March, the fleet met United States reinforcements - the USS Saratoga and three escorts - with the combined force arriving back in Trincomalee on 31st. March. Queenborough was assigned to Task Force 70 of Operation Cockpit as one of the ships escorting aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga. On her return to Trincomalee, the destroyer joined Task Force 66 for Operation Transom, a carrier-based air raid on Surabaya. The task force replenished from tankers at Exmouth Bay on 15th. May, before attacking on 17th May. Queenborough departed Trincomalee on 15th. October as part of Task Force 63, a British Eastern Fleet operation to focus Japanese attention on the west coast of Malaya as a diversion for American amphibious landings in the Philippines. The diversionary attacks, known as Operation Millet, included a series of bombardments and air raids against Japanese installations and ships in Malacca and Car Nicobar, and were intended to appear as if the Allies were preparing an invasion of Malaya. Queenborough was attached to Group 1, consisting of the battleship HMS Renown and her escorts, and bombarded Car Nicobar. Despite heavy damage to the target areas, Operation Millet failed to attract a significant reaction from the Japanese, as available resources were already en-route to defend Leyte from invasion.
British Pacific Fleet
At the end of 1944, the heavily-reinforced British Eastern Fleet was split into two forces, The smaller East Indies Fleet remained in the Indian Ocean, while the larger British Pacific Fleet (BPF) was redeployed to the Pacific Ocean, to increase the British and Commonwealth presence in the war against Japan. Queenborough and the 4th Destroyer Flotilla were assigned to the latter at the end of November 1944. As part of this deployment, ship numbers and designations were changed from the British pennant system to the American hull number system to facilitate operation with the United States Navy; Queenborough had her pennant changed from G70 to D19.
The destroyer received five battle honours for her wartime service: "Arctic 1942-43", "Sicily 1943", "Salerno 1943", "Mediterranean 1943", and "Okinawa 1945".
Following the conclusion of World War II, Queenborough was one of three RN Q class destroyers transferred to the RAN on loan. Another two had been loaned to the RAN since commissioning. This arrangement allowed the four N class destroyers loaned to the RAN during the war to be returned.
In early 1950, the decision was made to convert all five Q class destroyers in RAN service to anti-submarine warfare frigates, similar to the Type 15 frigate conversions performed on several War Emergency Programme destroyers of the RN. A proposal was made by the Australian government to pay for the upgrade to the five on-loan vessels, at the predicted cost of 400,000 pounds (Australian) each. Instead, the British Admiralty presented the ships to the RAN on 1st. June as gifts. The conversions were part of an overall plan to improve the anti-submarine warfare capability of the RAN, although Queenborough and the other ships were only a 'stopgap' measure until purpose-built ASW frigates could be constructed. Queenborough was the second ship to be converted (F02), and was rebuilt as an Anti - Submarine Frigate at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney. The modernisation began in May 1950, and despite predictions that work would finish within 18 months, Queenborough was not recommissioned until 7th. December 1954.
The conversion started with the removal of the ship's entire armament. The entire superstructure was cut off, and replaced with a larger, aluminium construction. The quality of accommodation was improved (Gee! it must have been bad before). Fuel stowage was reduced, in turn cutting the ship's range from 4,680 nautical miles (8,670 km) at 20 knots (37 km/h) to 4,040 nautical miles (7,480 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h). The bridge was enclosed, and a dedicated operations room was installed, in order to coordinate the great quantity and type of data collected by the ship's sensors. Queenborough was fitted with new guns: a twin 4 inch high angle/low angle gun aft of the superstructure, and a twin 40 mm Bofors gun forward of the bridge. The reduction in gun armament was justified by the inclusion of a Limbo anti-submarine mortar.(Mortar Mk 10)
In January 1963, Queenborough was replaced as the lead vessel of the 1st Frigate Squadron by HMAS Parramatta.
As training ship
After spending three years in reserve, a need for expanded training capabilities saw Queenborough recommissioned on 28th. July 1966 as a dedicated anti-submarine warfare (ASW) training ship. While being prepared for her new sea going role in 1966, the gun director for the 4 inch gun turret was removed however the turret, fully functional, would remain until early 1968 (these were the last firing 4 inch guns in the RAN). An improved Type 978 radar was installed.
In October 1966, Queenborough was deployed to South Australia on a training and fisheries research cruise. An Australian researcher on Macquarie Island required a medical evacuation, so being the closest Australian vessel, Queenborough refueled in Hobart and departed for the island. The ship encountered 9-metre (30 ft) seas, 60-knot (110 km/h) winds, hail, and snow en-route, and arrived in time to collect the scientist before worse weather set in.(that's the official story)
At the start of 1969, the RAN's ship designation and numbering system was changed from the British system to the US system and Queenborough was reclassified as a destroyer escort, and received the number 57 (without any prefix letter). The similarity of the new number to the "57 Varieties" advertising slogan of the H. J. Heinz Company, led to a relationship between the ship and the Australian branch of the company. Queenborough was decommissioned on 7 April 1972.
I drafted to Lonsdale in Port Melbourne (June 1966) to standby (work) on the Queenborough, a sister ship to the Quickmatch. Queenborough (known as Queenbee, Qbee or just "Bee") was to recommission as a training ship for the RAN and she was in a deplorable state of disrepair, but made the deadline for recommissioning and sailed for Sydney. The CO was a LtCdr. Haley and he brought a flag with him with a comet on it which was permanently flown on the main mast - so for a short while, the Qbee was known as "Haley's Comet". On the run up the NSW coast the old scow managed 36 knots during speed trials, even thought most of the flouresent light tudes down below fell out, which also happened when the 4 inch guns were fired!. The ship exercised with some RN ships and our new Attack Class patrol boats in the Coral Sea and New Guinea - the ship was dressed in hessan to look like a trading vessel, but that fooled no one as we were spotted from the air and attacked.
Mercy Dash to Macquarie Island
One memorable voyage in October, 1966 was to recover a sick scientist from Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean (he was reported to have acute pain from kidney stones). Sea conditions during the trip down were so bad the ship could only make 18 knots (from a possible 36 knots), was under water continuously, thereby necessitating a total lock down of the ventilation system and on arrival, was snowed upon and the decks iced up. Rig was "Pirate Rig". Because the ventilation was completely shut down, we slept in foul air, awoke wth head aches and feeling totally buggered. 20 sailors at a time were allowed into the bridge where the lee side door was open - this was the only fresh air entering the ship! The real heroes of the trip were the quartermasters and helmsmen who steered the ship, the stokers in the boiler and engine rooms and the cooks who fed us with "train smash" - everything we ate was called "train smash" because that's what it looked like! The ship had a main fore/aft passage the full length of the accommodation and as the ship was riveted it leaked like a sieve in those rough seas which resulted in pools of water running up and down the passage way, returning almost as fast as they were mopped up. My mess, the aft seaman's mess, flooded regularly to a depth of 5 or 6 inches from a leaking fire and bilge pump. This was no pleasure cruise! A simple joke appeared on the notice board which summed up the situation!
Macquarie Island was first sighted by a goofer on the bridge as the radar was next to useless because of the clutter in a snow storm, and a quick evaluation of the small bay that was the usual landing meant the ship could not enter because of the huge seas. We could see part of the base and the small jetty but the recovery was not possible from the normal landing so the ship went to the other side of a small cape on the northern most part of the island. Surprisingly there was a good, reasonably calm lee shore and the diving party (me included) affected the rescue from a rocky "beach" using a seaboat and an inflatable life raft towed ashore by swimmers. We towed the raft in it's fibreglass coccoon close to the shore with a seaboat, then the divers swam it ashore. The raft was pulled up onto the rocks, which were about 2 feet in diameter, smooth, rounded and slippery as hell, then we pulled the painter and inflated the raft. The patient was placed in the raft and then the seaboat, with help from the divers, pulled it off the rocks into the water. We all transfered to the seaboat but towed the raft back to the ship where it was recovered. There were not enough wet suits to go round so I dived in a woolen jumper and overalls and I never knew water could be so cold! With hundreds of seals and penguins swimming round there must have been big sharks but we never though about them! Back on board in the sick bay, the Old Man came in with a bottle of brandy to help warm us up!
When the ship berthed back in Hobart it had changed colour from grey to rust red! Oh! That sick scientist, well, he had a few Fosters in the wardroom (wardrobe) during the return voyage, had a piss, out popped the stones and he had recovered miraculously before the ship berthed in Hobart!! One interesting fact I learned was that Macquarie Island then (1966) had a plague of both rats and rabbits!
Navy News and the Hobart Mercury published accounts of the rescue mission from an officer's point of view - reading them one could be forgiven for believing there was only the Captain and First Lieutenant on the ship, in fact I can't remember the Jimmy even being in the seaboat when we took the life raft ashore!
Queenborough was an absolute pig stye to live in, the only good thing was hammocks - by far the best fart sack at sea, so my time in her was not a happy one and I was pleased to draft off to Cerberus (January 1967) however on arrival I found I was to be an instructor at the Recruit School and I did not relish the thought of training civilians to be sailors, so after a few weeks I requested to be sent back to sea and some months later, returned to Melbourne.