- RESDES (Rescue Destroyer. HMAS Brisbane & USS
America Persian Gulf 1984.
of being involved with the 'Battle Group' is taking your turn as' Plane
Guard' or RESDES. The same job the ill fated HMAS Voyager and USS Frank
E. Evans were carrying out when they collided disastrously with aircraft
carrier HMAS Melbourne in 1964 and 1969 respectively. The job was simple
enough, just sit off her quarter about 1 mile and be there should one
of her aircraft be forced to ditch in the sea.
also refuelled from 'carriers' nearly as much as we did from tankers
and going up alongside one of these 100,000 Ton juggernauts in our 4,500
Destroyer is rather awesome to a new sailor, the tankers are big enough
themselves but these 'floating cities' with a crew of over 5,000 and
aircraft totalling approx 100 of all different makes and models, they
are truly a sight to behold - America's Big Stick! (some perspective
may be gained from the insert, a large tanker alongside the carrier
carriers also fly aircraft on and off continuously, 24 hrs per day,
whether a ship is alongside refuelling or not, the hiss of the steam
catapult, the deafening roar of the jet fighters and bombers, and main
broadcast announcements all adding to the atmosphere.
night in 1981 whilst operating with America it was decided at midnight
we would go up alongside to carry out a 'Jackstay' transfer. It was
the middle of the monsoon season in the Nth West Indian Ocean and there
was a huge swell running. USS America, so as to enable her to continue
flying ops steamed into the wind and we were to take up station 100
feet off her starboard side from which position to commence the transfer.
It was a filthy night and we had the swell from directly astern, our
Chief Coxswain had been medivac ed out of the ship in Trincomalee and
CPOUC Max Turner was on the wheel. Steering was difficult as the swell
picked up the stern, lifted it out of the water and surfed her in whichever
direction she wanted.
a very laborious approach we finally made it alongside and commenced
passing the lines. Max was wrestling hard with the helm finding it extremely
difficult to keep on course as the swell drove us in its own direction,
(reminiscent of a shopping trolley). As we finally 'hooked up' an extraordinary
wave picked up our stern and surfed us in toward America. The distance
started closing rapidly, and the entire RAS Party turned, looked up
at the towering aircraft carrier, threatening to engulf them. We were
moving quickly now and we could see the Yank sailors looking down upon
us from the overhangs.
HMAS Melbourne (A/C) RAS with Derwent Sth China Sea 1970
flashed through my mind about the US Cruiser 'Belknap' getting too close
and being sucked into to a carrier's vortex and being pulverized, caught
beneath the carriers overhangs. It now seemed as if we were going to
'touch' and I looked at my 40 or so seamen manning the jackstay, they
were recovering it as quickly as possible as the distance between the
two ships closed, all the while, heads turned, eyes wide, watching this
big steel monster loom over us in the pitch black night.
Jim Dixon, having had enough games for one evening, calmly advised the
Navigating Officer to quote 'get us out of here!' We increased revolutions
on main engines and put the wheel over 20 degrees to starboard and at
last finally started pulling away from America. The sailors standing
down aft on the quarterdeck almost being able to reach over the guardrail
and touch America's Hull as we did so.
heeled over and we carried out an emergency breakaway. I again looked
at the relieved faces of the RAS Party and could tell many had thought
they were going to die this night, but never one flinched. Apart from
having to make up a new Jackstay no damage was done and the new blokes
would at last have a dit to spin at the next beer issue!
Below is a sketch from the HMAS Brisbane 1981 cruise book commemorating
the event - it was drawn by yours truly.