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Not too far from here you should be able to see the bridge of the guided missile destroyer HMAS Brisbane. A few metres away is the ‘standard’ missile launcher which was the principle anti air weapon system onboard capable of firing numerous types of anti air and anti surface missiles from a magazine of over 20 missiles.
HMAS Brisbane (D 41) was a Perth class guided missile destroyer, built in the U.S. and commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in 1967. She served in the Vietnam War and in the first Gulf War, and was decommissioned and sunk as a dive wreck off the Queensland coast in 2001.
She was christened by the wife of the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, who delivered a message to the United States and to the builders at the shipyard thanking them for their efforts. Over 5000 people witnessed the launching. While the ship was building, many crew members came to Bay City to train on the ship and prepare the ship for commissioning. Some brought along their wives and families with them. However, there was a housing shortage in the area at the time, so a call went out to local residents to assist in providing housing for these crewmen. Her nickname was the Steel Cat, although she was also known as the Blue Canoe.
During the conflict in Vietnam Brisbane served as plane guard for carriers (pick up any aircraft or crew that go into the sea during flying operations) on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf, participated in Sea Dragon and Market Time operations, patrolled on search and rescue duties, and carried out Naval Gunfire Support missions(Bombardment with 5in shells onto land from about 8-14 nm offshore. She also escorted the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne when participating in NATO exercises in the Atlantic.
Brisbane was also notably one of two Australian warships that deployed in November 1990 to the Persian Gulf as a part of Operation Damask, the liberation of Kuwait. Brisbane underwent numerous modifications prior to her deployment; including the fitting of two Vulcan Phalanx Close-in weapon systems, the upgrading of technical communications systems, the installation of chaff launchers, the fitting of extra detection aids and the fitting of Radar Absorbent Material Panels. During this campaign Brisbane served in a number of roles, primarily, in the role of plane guard for the USS Midway Carrier Task Group, which operated in the Northern Persian Gulf. Brisbane was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation by the Australian Government.
Brisbane paid off on 19 October 2001, and was marked to be sunk as a dive wreck off the coast of Queensland. Her bridge was removed to be the focal point for an interesting cache and preserved at the Australian War Museum in Canberra.
On a personal note, Brisbane was my first sea posting in 1979 and I was thrilled to discover the bridge and Anti Air Platform located at the War Memorial in Mitchell. My mum and I were able to walk through the back gate one weekend and after a few minutes I was able to confirm that it was the Brisbane’s bridge (HMAS Perth and Hobart were of identical design) I was able to recognise the signalmans desk and manoeuvering board (clear board used to plot the fleets positions and call-signs) still in place. I sailed on many great deployments on Brisbane but the most memorable was my six month deployment to the NW Indian Ocean following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Apparently, the bridge section is being restored for part of the War Memorial’s Vietnam display.
Look for an item that is used every day onboard every Australian warship, especially when on watch on the bridge.