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HMAS STUART (I)

Date: 1933-1947
Dimensions:
Overall: 221 x 341 x 2 mm
Overall (Photograph only): 151 x 263 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Tammy Foy
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00051281
Related Place:England, Tubruq, Mediterranean Sea, Kríti, Garden Island, New Guinea,

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    Description
    Photograph of HMAS STUART, a Scott class destroyer flotilla leader built between 1917 and 1919 for the British Royal Navy. Along with four other ships, it was loaned to the Royal Australian Navy in 1933 by the Admiralty to replace the 'S' class destroyers due for scrapping. These five ships were to be given the moniker the 'Scrap Iron Flotilla' by the Nazi propaganda machine but all played significant roles in the Mediterranean and the Pacific areas of operations.
    SignificancePhotograph of HMAS STUART, part of the 'Scrap Iron Flotilla' which played a significant role in the Mediterranean during World War II. This included providing support to the Australian troops at Tobruk and participation in the battle of Matapan.
    HistoryHMS STUART was a Scott class destroyer flotilla leader built between 1917 and 1919 for the British Royal Navy as part of the government's Wartime Emergency Construction Programme. STUART was not commissioned until 21 December 1918 after the hostilities of World War I had ended. Between December 1918 and May 1933 STUART was most often stationed in the Mediterranean as a unit of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla.

    The Admiralty agreed in 1933 to loan the Royal Australian Navy five ships as replacements for their 'S' class destroyers that were due for scrapping. Four 'V' class and one 'W' class destroyers (VAMPIRE, VENDETTA, VOYAGER and WATERHEN) along with STUART were commissioned into the RAN on 11 October 1933 at Portsmouth. The ships reached Australia in December 1933. STUART served on the Australia Station until it was paid off in June 1938. The vessel was re-commissioned briefly during the Munich Crisis between 29 September and 30 November 1938. With the outbreak of World War II STUART was brought back into service in September 1939. Under the command of CMDR HML Waller the vessel's first wartime duties were Sydney based anti-submarine patrols. However by October STUART, still under the command of Waller, headed a flotilla of ships destined for the Mediterranean that included the other British ships leant to Australia: VAMPIRE, VENDETTA, VOYAGER and WATERHEN. Nazi propaganda named the group the 'Scrap Iron Flotilla' due to the age of the ships. From 2 January 1940 they formed the 19th Destroyer Division.

    The Australian destroyers began this period by performing routine escort and patrol work from one end to the other of the Mediterranean. By the end of May 1940 the 19th and 20th Destroyer Divisions combined forces with the 10th Destroyer Flotilla under the command of CMDR Waller of HMAS STUART. Within days of this force combining Italy entered the war and before the month of June was out France surrendered to the German occupiers. The situation in the Mediterranean had changed rapidly from a relatively safe and allied controlled arena to a dangerous sea surrounded by enemies with only a small number of safe outposts such as Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, Palestine and Cyprus. Added to this was the significant threat from a strong enemy Italian naval fleet and later the German Luftwaffe. STUART and the Scrap Iron Flotilla took part in the struggle to possess the sea route connecting east and west, and were almost constantly at sea in an exhausting round of escorts, patrols, operations and campaigns. These included Western Desert, Greece, Crete and Syria, taking part in coastal bombardments and providing support to British armies ashore. In July 1940 STUART took part in the Battle of Calabria, the first fleet engagement in the Mediterranean since the time of Lord Nelson.

    On 22 January 1941 STUART, VAMPIRE, VOYAGER, gunboat HMAS GNAT and the monitor HMS TERROR supported the 6th Australian Division when it captured Tobruk. A couple of months later in March, STUART was part of the fleet engaged in the Battle of Matapan (Greece), a turning point in the battle for control of the Mediterranean. The Italian navy was defeated; a number of their vessels were sunk and they did not seek battle with British ships again.

    In June and July 1941 STUART worked the regular 'Tobruk Ferry Service' which provided supply and reinforcement for the Australian garrison stationed there, competing 24 runs in those two months alone. By this time the vessel had survived more than fifty air attacks and was in dire need of an extensive refit. On 22 August the vessel sailed for Australia, steaming on one engine as the port engine was out of commission. Between 27 September 1941 and April 1942 STUART underwent refit in Melbourne. By the end of April STUART was back on escort duty, this time confined to the Australian east coast and later between Queensland and New Guinea. In 1945 the vessel was converted to a store and troop carrier, and continued to travel between Australia and New Guinea.

    HMAS STUART was paid off on 27 April 1946 and was sold off to T. Carr and Co of Sydney to be broken up in February 1947. Since commissioning for war service in September 1939 the vessel had spent more than 17,000 hours underway and never lost a life on board through enemy action. The badge of the HMAS STUART is included in one of the memorial windows at the Naval Chapel on Garden Island in Sydney.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: HMAS STUART (I)

    Assigned title: Mounted photograph of HMAS STUART (I)

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