Australian ships posted to the Far East Strategic Reserve in the early 1960s were involved in plenty of interesting action with fast anti-submarine frigate HMAS Queenborough or ‘Queen B’, as she was known to her ship’s company, no exception.
Quarterdeck lockerman Ordinary Seaman, later Lieutenant, Joe Kroeger (ret’d), of Canberra, remembers his ship’s visit to South Vietnam in January 1963, before Australian forces were committed there.
“Our first port of call was Nha Trang, a bay well to the north of Vung Tau and Saigon,” Lieutenant Kroeger said.
“It was home to a large Vietnamese Rangers unit.
“We had no sooner finished anchoring the ship before a request to provide a tennis team was received.
“I was just 18 and able to hold my own on a tennis court, so I was first cab off the rank,” he said.
Lieutenant Kroeger said they were issued flak jackets and helmets as soon as they stepped ashore at the Nha Trang jetty.
“Then it was into the back of a covered truck, complete with escorts – jeeps with fully armed soldiers – to the front and rear of our convoy, and away we went,” he said.
“We arrived at a stadium consisting of a single clay court with large stands and seating, all manned by South Vietnamese armed forces.
“The scenario was completed by a military brass band, who continued to play during our hit-up and prep for the event.
“We were expecting an afternoon of social tennis and were faced with the best Vietnamese players available to compete in a Davis Cup format in front of a large Vietnamese audience.”
Lieutenant Kroeger said the next day was spent steaming south to Saigon to establish a navigational channel for large ships.
“The majority of our trip up the Mekong was an eye-opener. We steamed past rows and rows of what appeared to be largely derelict vessels but all, or most, appeared to be manned.”
Some months later, on 8 May 1963, while Queenborough was on anti-submarine exercises off Jervis Bay, the ship was involved in a minor collision with HM submarine Tabard.
Lieutenant Kroeger said both vessels were well aware of each other’s positions.
“For Tabard to come to periscope depth with Queenborough pounding along above – we must have sounded like a freight train to the crew of Tabard – is beyond belief,” he said.
Able Seaman Writer John Trafford, of Adelaide, served in Queenborough from August 1962 to July 1963, and recalled the collision.
“I was in the junior sailors supply branch mess at the time and was looking through the port scuttle when this bloody pommy sub ‘attacked’ us not 20 feet away as it came out of the water,” he said.
Queenborough paid off in July 1963, at Williamstown Dockyard, recommissioning in July 1966 and serving as a training ship, finally paying off in April 1972, after combined Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy service, just six months short of 30 years.