From the archives, 1957: RAN obtains a “push-button” destroyer

“They change these things so often, I can’t keep up,” the second lieutenant said to one of the deckhands, “You and me both,” said the deckhand.

Job done… Acting Captain CJB Crabb addresses the ship’s crew after the ceremony.Credit:Staff photographer

08:30: The Voyager lands off Garden Island and a tiny naval launch comes ashore with distinguished visitors. Captain Crabb adjusts the loose ribbon of the medal on the tunic while waiting beside the catwalk. Visitors on board include Secretary of the Navy, MCW Davidson; the Chief of Naval Construction, Rear Admiral CC Clark; Flag Officer-in-Charge, Rear Admiral HJ Buchanan; Chairman of the Board of Cockatoo Dockyard, MMD Wiltshire; shipyard general manager, engineer captain GI D, Hutcheson.

0900: Cross Heads on the southeast course. Control on this occasion everything except remotely. Radar equipment can, if necessary, pull Voyager out of port without a soul on deck. Not yesterday, however. Braid everywhere: two rear admirals, three captains, four lieutenant commanders, three lieutenants, three second lieutenants.

Flying spray

Once through Heads, the Voyager begins to nose dive in a heavy swell. “It’s going to get wet here soon,” said Second Lieutenant MD Jackson. Lots of salt spray already.

0910: Second Lieutenant Jackson leads an inspection party below decks. Operations room with classified electronic equipment for aiming and firing weapons; mess with green tablecloths to starboard, red to port; dormitories with bunk beds instead of hammocks; air conditioning everywhere.

“Our speed is now 24 knots,” said the speaker. “We are working up to 30 knots at 9.45am. At 9.45am there will be a firing demonstration from all three turrets – A, B and X.”

0945: Huddle into Hatchway apprehensively. “All guns are now loaded and will be fired soon,” the speaker said. “Stand by” The six 4.5-inch barrels fire as one; air rushes into the hatch.

1015: Navy and shipyard officials sit at the table near the stern under Turret X; honor guard on both sides, pale blue wake behind them. The Minister of Marine signs a document stating that ‘HMAS Voyager has been received, without prejudice to outstanding debts, from Cockatoo’ Dock and Engineering Co, Py. Lod,”

1025:

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The guard lowers their arms, and lowers the Red Ensign from the mainmast. The bugler sounds “Alert” and “General Salute”, and mounts White Ensign. The bugle sounds “Carry on”. The pale blue trail is already curving into an arc; Voyager has changed course and is returning to port.

Voyager’s operations have seen exercises and duties in the Far East Strategic Reserve (FESR), the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) as well as deployment to the Far East.

Tragically, on February 10, 1964, Voyager collided with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne during exercises on Jervis Bay. Voyager sank and 14 officers, 67 sailors and a civilian shipyard worker were killed.

There was no loss of life aboard Melbourne. Two royal commissions and a long series of compensation claims followed.