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The choir at the launch of HMAS ARUNTA (I)

Date: 30 November 1940
Medium: Emulsion on nitrate film
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Nitrate negative
Object No: 00020002
Place Manufactured:Cockatoo Island Dockyard
Place Manufactured:Cockatoo Island

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    Description
    This photograph shows very wet choir boys and girls at the launching of HMAS ARUNTA (I), the Tribal class destroyer, at Cockatoo Island dockyard, Sydney, New South Wales. They are standing behind temporary barriers and were part of the religious aspect of the ceremony.
    SignificanceHood’s maritime photographs are one of the most significant collections of such work in Australia, recording harbour activities from the 1890s through to the 1950s; in this case the war-time launch of a much-needed destroyer, HMAS ARUNTA, by Lady Gowrie.
    History"WHO else wants this" asked Mrs. J. G. Crace, aboard the Show Boat on Saturday morning. "This" was a tea-towel, borrowed from the galley to mop the ankles and shoes of those who had just watched Lady Gowrie christen the new Australian-made destroyer, H.M.A.S. Arunta."

    This quote comes from the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 December 1940 and continues: "The Governor-General Lord Gowrie, and the Governor Lord Wakehurst both availed themselves of the offer when they boarded the Show Boat after the ceremony. Mrs G. C. Muirhead-Gould wielded the towel effectively over Lord Wakehurst's dripping boots. Rain was falling steadily as the Show Boat deposited its passengers near the slim grey hull of the Arunta. But while they stood in the open for the ceremony the downpour surpassed all previous efforts."

    "Long lines of umbrellas, spokes locked together were an ineffectual bulwark. Footwear squelched in the mud. Mackintoshes abound. Optimists who had arrived without them smiled ruefully and wrung out their jackets. Choir-boys and choir- girls taking part in the religious blessing of the ship, clung to sodden scraps of paper which had been music. The only people unmoved by the deluge were the naval guard of honour, who stood like statues with rain trickling down their faces.
    A huge umbrella sheltered Lady Gowrie as she entered the little tent where hung a bottle of champagne festooned in red, white and blue ribbons. A few minutes later she cut the ribbon with gold scissors, the bottle clashed against the prow of the Arunta, and the crowd cheered as the vessel began her journey seawards. Then, with "Rule Britannia" in their ears, everybody turned tail and made for the Show Boat."

    "On the Showboat seven maids with seven mops could not have dried them, but no one cared. The tea-towel went the rounds. Mrs. Crace cheerfully straightened the brim of her small white hat, and tweaked the veil which by that time was clinging
    to her face. Lady Gowrie covered her navy blue gown - coin spotted in white on the corsage - with a transparent raincoat, and added a navy hat trimmed with white flowers. Lady Wakehurst also wore a waterproof with her brown ensemble and
    toque."

    "Guests at the official table included the chairman Mr. G. F. Davis and Mrs Davis; the Minister for the Army, Mr. Percy Spender and Mrs Spender; Lieutenant General and Mrs C. G. N. Miles, Mr and Mrs Norman Frazer, Commodore G. C. Muirhead-Gould, the Hon Henrietta Loder, and the Hon Christopher Loder."

    In the war years 1939 to 1945 Sydney's Cockatoo Island Dockyard constructed three Tribal class destroyers, named ARUNTA, WARRAMUNGA and BATAAN. ARUNTA was launched on 30 November 1940, and served in most of the South-West Pacific campaigns earning the following battle honours: Pacific 1942-45, New Guinea 1942-44, Leyte Gulf 1944, Lingayen Gulf 1945, and Borneo 1945.

    ARUNTA commissioned on 30 April 1942 and soon commenced operational duties as a convoy escort between east coast Australia and New Guinea. In 1943 ARUNTA assisted in the evacuation of guerrilla troops from Timor and later joined the RAN/USN Task Force 74. Other duties included escorts, patrols, troop landings and evacuations, and bombardment tasks during the amphibious campaigns in New Guinea, Bougainville and New Britain. In October 1944 ARUNTA took part in the reconquest of the Philippines, including bombardments at Leyte Gulf and the Battle of Surigao Strait. Further involvement in the Philippines campaign occurred in 1945, including supporting the landings of Australian troops at Wewak, Brunei Bay and Balikpapan. After the war ARUNTA served in Japanese waters as part of the occupation force.

    ARUNTA returned to Cockatoo dockyard in 1950 for a modernisation refit and then served in Korean waters, as well as part of FESR (Far Eastern Strategic Reserve) and finally a deployment to northern Australian waters for fishery patrols. On 21 October 1956 she paid off into Operational Reserve, finally being sold for scrap in November 1968. On 13 February 1969 ARUNTA sank 65 miles off the NSW coast while under tow to Formosa.

    ARUNTA is named for the Arrernte people of central Australia; and its motto is Conquer or Die. HMAS ARUNTA (II) is an ANZAC class frigate launched in 1996.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Launching of ARUNTA Cockatoo dock

    Web title: The choir at the launch of HMAS ARUNTA (I)

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