April 2, 2017 – The call of ‘last line!’ meant a little more than normal as HMAS Darwin slipped from the wharf at Fleet Base West and set sail for Sydney recently.
It signaled the end of the warship’s long association with the west coast of Australia, unlikely to return before she decommissions at the end of the year.
The Adelaide class frigate called Western Australia home for almost 13 years from 18 December 1993, before being relocated to Fleet Base East on 21 April 2006.
Darwin’s Maritime Logistics Officer, Lieutenant Commander Chris Duke, served aboard the warship during the change of home port and the final visit to Fleet Base West.
“This is the third time I have been posted to Darwin. In 1993 I was an Able Seaman Writer, conducting personnel management and administration functions,” he said.
“I returned to Darwin from 2010 to 2011 as Deputy Supply Officer and now I am the Maritime Logistics Officer, ensuring the ship is well supplied.”
While home ported at Fleet Base West, Darwin deployed to the Middle East twice and border protection duties four times as part of Operation RELEX.
RELEX was the name of Australian Defence Force border protection operations in the country’s northern approaches conducted between 2001 and 2006.
Darwin also rescued French woman Isabelle Autissier from a stricken yacht in the Southern Ocean in 1995.
Reflecting on his time onboard, Lieutenant Commander Duke said he had enjoyed a number of personal highlights.
“In 1994 we went to RIMPAC and in 2011 we were attached to the US Navy’s 7th Fleet.
“In 2016 we conducted a successful deployment to the Middle East where we seized a large cache of illicit weapons and narcotics,” he said.
“But my fondest memories are of the people I have served with and the sense of accomplishment that I have felt in getting the job done.”
Darwin will decommission in December. Until another ship bearing the name Darwin commissions, it was most likely the last time the west will see Darwin.
Darwin had been in Western Australia to conduct Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER, a multinational exercise designed to train the fleet in high end warfighting.
Three new destroyers will replace the Adelaide class frigates.