HMAS Sydney

HMAS Sydney

Mention 'The Vung Tau Ferry' to any Vietnam veteran and they will immediately recall HMAS Sydney, the former aircraft carrier that was later converted as a fast troop transport and destined to become the mainstay of naval logistic support operations for Australian forces in Vietnam.
 
 Commissioned in 1948, HMAS Sydney was a keystone in the development of Australia's post war naval aviation capability and served with distinction in the Korean War. HMAS Sydney was converted for troopship duties in the early 1960s and began her first voyage to Vietnam in May 1965, transporting the First Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, from Sydney to Vung Tau in southern Vietnam.
 
 Between 1965 and 1972, HMAS Sydney undertook 25 voyages to Vietnam and transported 16,094 troops, 5,753 deadweight tons of cargo and 2,375 vehicles. On her first voyage four days were taken to unload cargo in Vung Tau. On subsequent voyages this turn around time was reduced to a matter of hours.
 
 On every voyage HMAS Sydney was ably supported by at least one escort that provided a measure of protection against potential hostile forces. She had up to four escorts in 1965 and 1966, including at times the flagship HMAS Melbourne. Other escorts included HMA Ships Anzac, Derwent, Duchess, Parramatta, Stuart, Swan, Torrens, Vampire, Vendetta and Yarra.
 
 In 1966 the Vietnam supply line was supplemented by two Australian National Line (ANL) cargo ships, Jeparit and Boonaroo. These ships were chartered by the Department of Shipping and Transport on behalf of the Australian Army to transport military vehicles, ammunition, aid and canteen supplies.
 
 In March 1967 members of the Seamens' Union refused to man Jeparit and Boonaroo. To overcome this difficulty, Boonaroo was immediately commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy with a full naval crew for one return voyage to Cam Ranh Bay and Singapore.
 
 In the case of Jeparit, existing crew who were prepared to continue to serve in the ship were supplemented by a Royal Australian Navy detachment. She made 21 voyages under the Red Ensign with a combined Merchant Navy / Royal Australian Navy crew. Further industrial action in December 1969 prompted the Federal Government to commission Jeparit as one of Her Majesty's Australian Ships. HMAS Jeparit made a further 17 incident free voyages under the Australian White Ensign. In all she carried 175,000 deadweight tons of cargo to Vietnam before returning to ANL control in March 1972

 

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