'Scotland The Brave' HMAS STUART 1974

 

HMAS STUART DE 48

 

 

HMAS STUART was the only one of 6 Type 12 A/S Frigates in the R.A.N not to be named after a river in Australia and this was so because she had assumed the name of her famous Australian World War 11 predecessor. A 'Scott' Class Destroyer who gained fame as the leader of the historic "Scrap Iron Flotilla'. Following the famous tradition a third HMAS STUART (ANZAC Class Frigate) is due to roll of the slipway in Williamstown in the near future.

 

When Captain Ian (RIMPAC) Richards assumed command of her very early in 1972 he was somewhat obsessed with reviving the flagging Scottish theme. There were two brothers in the R.A.N. at this time bearing the name of McCallum, both using the nickname 'Scotty' of course and they would alternate, turns about, in their postings to the famous No. 48. This was so because both brothers played the bagpipes.

 

It was customary whilst carrying out ceremonial harbour entries and departures for 'the piper' to perch himself atop the 'main ornament' (4.5" Gun Turret mounted aft on the fo'c'sle) and play his lungs out on the pipes whilst dressed in full Scottish regalia. RIMPAC even went to the extreme of making all officers wear Tam O'shanters, of the Stuart Tartan, when appearing on the upperdeck during these ceremonial occasions known as Procedure Alpha. It must be noted that most of the sailors were somewhat bemused by this Scottish theme and it must have confused the bejesus out of the local populations of the many ports we visited.

 

In the April of 1972 we arrived in Singapore, with flags waving and Bagpipes playing where we berthed alongside in Sembawang Basin with the Australian Army Support Ship 'Sir John Monash' lying lazily at her moorings in the tropical heat forward of us. John Monash was a strange little vessel which carried out a support role for the Australian Army in Vietnam. Her poop deck was fitted out with a rattan furniture suite where the Army crew relaxed by day swilling cold cans of ale. Things appeared very layback on this olive drab vessel and the 'Pongo' crew seemed to have a fairly easy lifestyle.

 

There was at this time in history a prank the R.A.N sailors used to carry out at every given opportunity and that was to raid vessels of other navies in the middle of the night, by sea, armed with a paint bucket and brush and perform acts of graffiti upon their hulls. Such as the painting of Kangaroos and comical remarks etc. John Monash was not spared this prank and one sultry Singapore morning both crews awoke to see bright orange grafitti plastered all over John Monash's olive drab hull. The prank was accepted by all in the spirit of which it was intended.

 

A few nights later a couple of the Army crew from John Monash wandered over to Stuart and casually went down to the "Greenies" Messdeck and asked a couple of the boys where was 'Scotty' McCallum's bunk and locker was. The obliging Greenies present unhesitatingly pointed them in the right direction. Unbeknown to the sailors the Pongos helped themselves to Scotty's bagpipes then proceeded to the Gun Director Deck and knocked off the Gun Director Radar dish cover which was brightly painted with the Stuart Crest. This cover also happened to be the Skipper's pride and joy. Not one sailor aboard Stuart was aware of this act of 'theft' at this time.

 

johnmonash.jpg
John Monash at Sea

 

A week or so passed and it became time for John Monash to depart Singapore for Vietnam. Since as how she was berthed in front of Stuart she had to steam past us to get out of the basin. The entire crew of Stuart mustered upon the upperdeck to witness her departure and as it is customary for warships to exchange ceremonial salutes when passing each other the Captain and all the officers was present to perform this act of nautical courtesy. The 'Still' was piped and all sailors on the upperdeck of Stuart were ordered to face to port, stand to attention and salute John Monash.

 

Sir John Monash replied with the appearance of a large, naked from the waist up, Digger, with the biggest beer gut you have ever seen endeavouring to belt out a tune on Scotty's Bagpipes. It was woeful! and... to add insult to injury the skipper's pride and joy, the ceremonial Gun Director Dish cover was flipped over the side of John Monash's bridgewing for all to see. The diggers aboard John Monash were falling over themselves with the hilarity of it all.

 

Needless to say our skipper nearly went into to cardiac arrest with a serious sense of humour failure. He was, quite truly, ready to close up Special Sea Dutymen and go after her. As this was not prudent he immediately summoned his Chief Yeoman of Signals and dictated the most strongest of messages informing the entire Australian Military as to this gross act of treachery and desecration. The Stuart sailors were uproariously pissing themselves too at this hugely comical sight, which, infuriated the Skipper even more.

 

In a few days time we were due to sail for Subic Bay in the Philippines and the skipper flatly refused to go until the Bagpipes and cover were returned. John Monash, on her arrival in Vietnam was ordered to despatch, post haste, the said items on the first available transport out of Vietnam and down to Singapore. Which they did at great cost I imagine. Relieved at their return a few days later the Skipper gave the all clear to depart for Subic where we entered harbour and went alongside with Scotty piping merrily away and the radar dish cover back in its rightful place.

 

These were truly great navy days.