16 Juni 2006
HMAS Perth the last Anzac class (photo : DefGovAu)
The 10th and last Anzac Class frigate, Nuship Perth, was launched at the Tenix Shipyard, Melbourne, on March 20.
The third RAN ship to proudly carry the name, she slid down the slipway after Launch Lady, Ms Margaret Gee, pronounced thetraditional words, “I name this ship Perth, God bless her and all who sail in her”.
Perth was launched in the presence of dignitaries including the Minister for Defence Senator Robert Hill, Chief of the Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove, Chief of Navy, VADM Chris Ritchie, and Maritime Commander, RADM Raydon Gates.
Perth carries on the tradition of her original namesake, HMAS Perth I, a World War 2 light cruiser, and HMAS Perth II, a guided missile destroyer in RAN service between 1965 and 1999.
The launch was also attended by many former crewmen of Nuship Perth’s predecessors, and their families.
Perth joins HMA Ships Anzac, Arunta, Warramunga, Stuart and Parramatta, Nuships Toowoomba and Ballarat, and HMNZ Ships Te Kaha and Te Mana.
Senator Hill said that as we looked to the future, he paid tribute to those who fought for what Australia stands for.
He noted that the $7 billion Anzac ship contract was the largest defence contract ever awarded in Australia, and said that the project was almost complete, with the RAN having taken delivery of five of its scheduled eight Anzac ships.
The remaining two ships were built for the RNZN. Senator Hill also said the ships provided the Government and the Navy with a range of capabilities which already had been of considerable value to the nation.
“This serves as an excellent example of what can be achieved if Defence and industry work together as partners,” he said.
He also mentioned the Defence Capability Plan which forecast the building of eight new vessels at a cost of $7 billion-$8 billion.
This included two amphibious transport ships and three air warfare destroyers.
“The future for naval shipbuilding in Australia is an exciting one,” he said. VADM Ritchie told the spectators that it gave him great pleasure to witness the launch of the final ship of the RAN and RNZN Anzac Class ships.
This was the beginning of a new era with the christening of the third ship to bear the name Perth. VADM Ritchie acknowledged the very strong HMAS Perth association and said it was great to see so many from Perth I and II here.
He traced the history of both ships, and added that “we all look forward to HMAS Perth rejoining the fleet”. Launch Lady Ms Margaret Gee is the daughter of Able Seaman First Class Allan Gee, who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth in March 1942 to become a prisoner of war, working on the infamous Burma-Thailand railway.
He was the Captain’s bugler.
At the function afterwards, Launch Lady Ms Gee described feelings of honour, pride, joy, and some heartbreak that her beloved parents Kath and Allan were no longer here to share this momentous occasion.
She felt truly privileged to have known so many of her father’s fiercely loyal and courageous shipmates who served in the Mediterranean, Java Sea, Sunda Strait, and on the Burma-Thailand railway.
“While there is a natural focus on the heroic and tragic stories of Perth I, I am very cognisant of the deeds of Perth II, which served as a frontline RAN warship for 34 years and more than 8000 keen young Australians kept her that way.”
She also paid special tribute to the wives and families of Perth crews who loved and looked after them through some of the difficult days beyond the wars.
The Lord Mayor of Perth, Dr Peter Nattrass, expressed great pride that naming the ship Perth extended right to the heart of the city, in this case the people of Perth.
He was also proud that the Perth Town Hall lobby was home to HMAS Perth’s ship’s bell and a large model of the ship.
HMAS Perth I, the former HMS Amphion, was commissioned into the RAN on 29 June 1939, serving in the Mediterranean, returning to Australia for refit, then serving in the Battles of the Java Sea and Sunda Strait, where she was sunk by torpedoes.
HMAS Perth II was commissioned into the RAN on 17 July 1965 in Boston USA. She steamed more than one million miles in her career and saw three deployments on active service to Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She is still the only RAN ship to be hit by enemy fire in the past 50 years or so.
Group Managing Director Tenix Pty Ltd, Mr Paul Salteri, said that the launch was extra special in that this was the final ship constructed under the Anzac Ship Project contract signed in 1989.
Almost three years’ work remained before the ship was delivered. The launch formalities were concluded with flypasts by a World War 2 Boomerang fighter, three 805SQN Super Seasprite helicopters and a salute from a Seahawk helicopter from 816SQN flying a giant Australian White Ensign.
The last word goes to two members of Perth I, Fred Laslett and Ern Noble, who were among the launch guests. When asked to compare Nuship Perth with Perth I, Fred said: “There are no portholes in the thing.
You have to go on deck to have a look. Ern said: “I’m very impressed.” Both men became POWs after Perth I’s sinking in 1942.
Perth I was in the Mediterranean in 1940 and was involved in the Battle of Matapan and the evacuation of Crete and Greece.