Sydney refuelling USS St. James Owen, DD776

The US destroyer comes up starboard of Sydney to get in position to receive the fueling line

Refueling at sea can be a precarious and arduous task and requires expert seamanship from both skippers for such a manouevre.

During working up exercises in the English Channel the Melbourne was damaged by a freak wave. However, the ships programme was unaffected by the damage. Rubbish (Gash Chute) was crushed, the bulk head and doors of a motorboat workshop buckled. The hulls of two motorboats were damaged. And more than 240 feet of an electrical circuit was spoiled. Members of the crew suffered no injuries.

Perhaps one could look back on the career of the Melbourne, was this prelude to events that occurred later on. Two collisions at sea caused heavy loss of life. On 10 February 1964 HMAS MELBOURNE collided with H.M.A.S.Voyager, 82 sailors were lost. And yet again on June 3rd 1969 74 sailors were lost in a similar collision with the USS Frank E Evens. The Melbourne was not responsible for either collision.

One doesn.t have to be in a war or operational waters for this type of loss. It is the hazards that servicemen endure constantly during their time in the service.

Photo and annotation courtesy of Jim Reardon

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