HMAS Melbourne, 1969 to 1982
A Brief History of R21, 1969 to 1982
After a lengthy refit and half life conversion, a long workup with new aircraft, Melbourne left for the Far East in May 1969 equipped with Skyhawks of 805 Squadron, Trackers of 816 Squadron, and the Wessex of 817 Squadron.(The LWO2 was no longer on the masthead.)
Misfortune occurred during the course of SEATO Exercise SEA SPIRIT when in the early hours of 3rd. June 1969, Melbourne and USS Frank E Evans collided in the South China Sea. The bow section of the Evans sank with the loss of 74 lives. As tragic as the event was, the crew of Melbourne were nonetheless officially recognised for their subsequent rescue actions by the US government.
Following repairs in Singapore to make her seaworthy, Melbourne returned to Australia for repairs which included a new prefabricated bow. She then continued to be occupied in exercises and training during 1969 and 1970, including SEATO exercises in the Far East in 1970. In May 1970 she visited Osaka, Japan, for the Australia National Day at the EXPO 70 exposition. The HMAS Melbourne band also participated in the Waltzing Matilda Review at the EXPO. Following the visit to Osaka, Melbourne participated in exercises in the Far East with both Australian ships and ships of other navies. In December 1970 her three squadrons were disembarked and Melbourne commenced another major refit at Garden Island which lasted until August 1971. She then took on board 805, 816 and 817 Squadrons in September, and participated in joint exercises near Hawaii in November.
In January 1972 Melbourne departed Sydney in company with HMA Ships, Hobart, Duchess, Stalwart and Supply, forming Task Group 327.2 to Subic Bay in the Philippines, for exercise SEA HAWK and subsequent ANZUK exercises. The carrier returned to Sydney via Fremantle on 26th. April 1972 having steamed 15,933 miles since departure on 27th. January.
From June 1972 to January 1973, Melbourne was occupied in training and exercises, including Exercise RIMPAC 72 off Hawaii. She then proceeded to Yokosuka, Japan, on 3rd. October 1972. Exercise SEA SCORPION began on 15th. October off Corregidor and Melbourne did not return to Australia until 27th. November, via Manila and Singapore.
After a refit at Garden Island in July 1973, Melbourne, in company with HMA Ships Brisbane and Stuart, again visited Hawaii for Exercise RIMPAC 73. Further exercises and training periods followed during 1974, including Exercise KANGAROO ONE which involved sea, land and air forces from Australia, Britain, the United States and New Zealand. The ship briefly visited California in March 1974 calling at Long Beach and San Francisco. Relics of the Pacific War which had been presented to the Admiral Nimitz War Museum at Fredericksburg, Texas, by the Australian Government were offloaded at Long Beach. Cargo for Australia was loaded at both ports.
When Darwin, Northern Territory, was devastated by Cyclone Tracey on Christmas Day 1974, Melbourne sailed from Sydney the next day to assist with a large cargo of urgently-needed supplies. When Australia took delivery of the Westland Sea King helicopter in 1975, they were allocated to 817 Squadron aboard Melbourne, as well as being assigned to the land base at Nowra..After another refit in 1975-76, 805, 816 and 817 Squadrons re-embarked, and Melbourne was involved in further exercises. Exercise Kangaroo II, in October 1976, saw Melbourne operating with the USS Enterprise. The smallest aircraft carrier in the world exercising with the largest!!
Early in 1977, Melbourne collected 16 Grumman Trackers from the US, to replace ten of the aircraft lost in a hangar fire at Nowra the previous December. In May 1977, she sailed in company with the guided missile destroyer HMAS Brisbane and was joined by the New Zealand frigate, HMNZS Canterbury, bound for England to take part in the celebration of the Queens Silver Jubilee.
Later she remained in Australian waters, with two more periods in dock, one including a substantial refit. Melbourne continued to take part in exercises and occasional rescue tasks until 1981, when she put in to Sydney for maintenance. During this period it was decided to decommission her, and this occurred on 30 June 1982. After a period in dry dock being gutted HMAS Melbourne, once the proud flagship of the Royal Australian Navy was towed to the reserve dolphins.
|Carrier Name||HMS Majestic sold as HMAS Melbourne.||Beam||80 feet 2 inches.|
|Class||Majestic Class.||Overall width||112 feet 6 inches.|
|Type||Light Fleet Aircraft Carrier.||Draught||25 feet 5 inches.|
|Ships in Class||Majestic, Terrible (later HMAS Sydney), Magnificent, Powerful, Leviathan, Hercules.||Engines Propulsion||Steam Turbines (4 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 shafts, Parsons geared turbines), 40,000 shp (shaft horse power) each.|
|Commissioned||28th.October 1955.||Propellers||Starboard, 4 blade. Port, 3 blade.|
|Water Line Length||650 feet.||Range||12,000nm. (nautical miles) at 14knots.|
|Flight Deck Length||690 feet 8 inches.||Crew||1,335 (full operational complement).|
|Overall length||701 feet 5 inches.||Armament||25 x 40/60mm Bofors, Sea Venom fighters, Gannet anti-submarine aircraft, Sycamore helicopters, Skyhawk fighter-bombers, Tracker anti-submarine aircraft, Wessex anti-submarine helicopters, Sea King anti-submarine helicopters, Mk30, then Mk44 electric homing anti submarine torpedoes, Mk 11 aircraft dropped anti submarine depth charges.|