From 23 September to 11 October 2013 the Royal Australian Navy held a series of exercises, meetings and events to celebrate its 100th Anniversary of forming in 1913. The event witnessed aviation flypasts over Sydney Harbour, some of which the scale the public havent seen for years.
A fleet review with many foreign ships, aircraft and helicopters was also held in Sydney alongside a series of tall sailing ships visiting.
100years ago during October 1913 , steaming into the beautiful harbour came 7 grey smoking, brand new warships for the RAN which received a massive welcoming and thus this was the start of the official RAN fleet. Until then Australia had been protected by colony naval units scattered and not fully unified.
A little over 1.5years later the RAN would be in action fighting … in the Pacific coast off Australia sinking a the German navy warship. From WW1 patrols and actions in Europe and Pacific the growth of the RAN began. It lost some ships in the 1920s to treaties and peace intentions.. RAN submarines were also active in WW1 with one sunk in Turkey and becoming famous in doing so.
During WW2 the RAN took again to the high seas to stop the German and Japanese from invading other counties. Sadly WW2 saw many tragic events for the RAN happen with horrific loss of life and men in some cases such as the sinking of HMAS Sydney with the whole ships crew of over 600 Australians sailors dying and not one ever found… off Western Australia by a German raider … both wrecks were only found in last few years. Other events saw RAN warships sunk in Pacific by the Japanese Navy in ferocious night time gun battles such as Battle of Savo. The RAN fought also in Europe providing protection in convoys and around Australia. Women also served in Navy during WW2 and this lead the framework where it is now common in 2013 to see many women in all different navy jobs. During WW2 in 1942 Sydney Harbour itself was targeted by the Japanese who launched submarines into the Harbour to get RAN and US Navy ships. Sadly 19 RAN sailors died on a ferry hit by a Japanese torpedo…. all the submarines were either scuttled or sunk shortly afterwards in Sydney or up coast a short distance away.
The Korean War 1950 – 1953 saw Australia send its first ever aircraft carrier into battle – HMAS Sydney. It had Sea Furies and Fairy Fireflies used in combat missions over Korea. Winter storms and harsh climate hit both the carrier and its fleet of escorts. Men toiled in harsh snow and cold winds to ensure aircraft were flyable. The 1950s also saw more carriers and ships join the RAN as it expanded its fleet size. WW2 vessels were scrapped still sadly not worthy of preservation. RAN ships were also used in British nuclear testing roles off the west coast of Australia.
The RAN served in South East Asia in the 1960s off Indonesia patrolling during the low level conflict. The Vietnam War saw the RAN again heavily involved this time providing helicopter support, destroyers for gunfire support and moving of army personnel, supplies, APCS/trucks to Vietnam. Many of the new DDG destroyers were active alone side the DE Destroyer Escorts. The RAN came under North Vietnamese gunfire at times off the coast. One sad incident saw a USAF F-4 Phantom jet fire a missile which hit the HMAS Hobart on one patrol mission.
After Vietnam the RAN was involved in support with Cyclone Tracey in 1974 which was Australia’s worse cyclone ever to that time. Massive movement of people and support saw RAN involved with helicopters, ships and moving supplies.
By 1980s the RAN was becoming a formidable and very large scale blue water navy force with many ships ranging from aircraft carriers, DDGs, DEs, FFGs, landing ships, supply ships and patrol boats to protect Australia. Carrier and naval aviation fixed wing assets were removed in mid 1980s and since then only helicopter support operations has been the main aviation tasks beside some limited fixed wing training HS 748s now retired.
In the 1990s the RAN was called to help take part in Gulf War liberating Kuwait and saw many rotations of ships and personnel. Operations in Middle East continue to 2013 and are used to patrol and intercept any vessel or threat they deem necessary to investigate. Helicopters such as S-70B Seahawk fly frequently and were supported by Sea Kings but these were retired in 2011. New assets such as MRH-90 and new MH-60R Seahawks now serve alongside FHG and new vessels to cone online such as AWD and LHDs, will again transform the RAN in the future.
Below are some of my photos from the RAN 100th celebration and remembrance taken on October 5 2013. It is estimated maybe up to 1.5m people visited Sydney Harbour just to see the celebration event…..and there was a sea of people as shown in the photos. The fireworks / light show and flare drop was one of the best events ever seen in Sydney since the 2000 Olympics fireworks some have suggested.
The end of the show and evening light settled in
At 740pm the fireworks and lightshow began….
Show over going home…90mins to get on a train…sea of people…