Duchess and her SMGs come out to play

Commissioned on 23 October 1952, the Daring-class destroyer, HMS Duchess (D154) served in the RN during the Suez campaign and later transferred to the Pacific, transferring on loan to the Royal Australian Navy after the tragic loss of the RAN’s own Daring-class destroyer, HMAS Voyager after her collision with the aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, on the night of 10 February 1964.

HMAS Duchess after her loan to the RAN, escorting the fast troop transport HMAS Sydney to Vietnam in November 1969.

Duchess was  AC-powered and partially air-conditioned. In addition, Duchess was already serving in the Far East as part of the Indonesian Confrontation, which made her an easy solution.

Homeported in Sydney, Duchess was soon used to help escort Australian troops to Vietnam, a trip she repeated several times from 1965-71.

This called for a heavily armed topside watch:

Note the bosun‘s whistle on the cord. R63871 Ordinary Seaman George A Lester, steel-helmeted and armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, on alert as an upper deck sentry on board the Daring class destroyer HMAS Duchess. He is on alert against enemy underwater sappers or other attacks. As a safety precaution, the magazine has been removed from the weapon, and will only be fitted in the event of a confirmed threat. His ship is escorting the troop transport HMAS Sydney carrying soldiers and cargo to Vietnam. This is a side trip for HMAS Duchess during its deployment to the Indonesian Confrontation. Vietnam: Vung Tau Special Zone, Vung Tau Sept. 1965

Writer Colin Richardson, steel-helmeted and armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, stands to guard onboard the Daring class destroyer HMAS Duchess. He is on alert against enemy underwater sappers or other attacks. As a safety precaution, the magazine has been removed from the weapon, and will only be fitted in the event of a confirmed threat. His ship is escorting the troop transport HMAS Sydney carrying soldiers and cargo to Vietnam. This is a side trip for HMAS Duchess during its deployment to the Indonesian Confrontation.

In 1966, Australia began to replace the old WWII era Owen and Thompson subguns with their locally-made F1. The 28-inch SMG was good for 640-rounds per minute as long as the 34-round Sterling magazine held up and, since it weighed eight pounds, had little recoil.

July 1967 Corporal Les Lindsay, of Mareeba, via Cairns, Qld, is alert with his F1 sub-machine carbine. A member of 8 Battalion, Royal Australian regiment (8RAR)

This meant new burp guns for Duchess.

What a motley crew! During the Vietnam War, RAN Daring class destroyer HMAS Duchess (D154) has been serving as an escort to troop transports. On a voyage to join the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, crew members wait to fire at moving targets during an F1sub machine gun firing practice. Left to right: unidentified; R52105 Able Seaman Weapons Mechanic (ABWM) Keith MacDonald, of Bowraville, NSW; R65589 ABWM Gerald Francis (Gerry) Smith, of Lidcombe, NSW; R103428 ABWM Dennis Arthur Aldridge, of Enfield, NSW; and R66097 ABWM William Hillis. The ship is making its way to Singapore. The date is circa November 1969 AWM#NAVY20638

The tattoos! The gut! This is a great image! On a voyage to join the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, R65060 Able Seaman Quartermaster Gunner (ABQMG) Robert John Budd (right), of Liverpool, NSW, shoots at a moving target in the water, during an F1sub machine gun firing practice. ABQMG Budd is firing from the forecastle of the Duchess. Unidentified crew members stand at the left. The ship is making its way to Singapore AWM#NAVY20641

Duchess became a training ship in 1975 and was decommissioned on 23 October 1977, one day after the 25th anniversary of her original Royal Navy commissioning. She was sold on 7 May 1980 and towed from Sydney Harbour on 9 July bound for Taiwan, where she was broken up by the Tung Ho Steel Enterprise Corporation.

As for the F1s, they were increasingly marginalized with M16s taking over their use in the 1970s and were replaced completely in 1991 by the locally made variant of the Steyr-Aug. The liberal Australian government torched the remnants after the great gun control crusade of the 90s and tossed the scrap in deep Pacific water.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

3 responses to “Duchess and her SMGs come out to play”

  1. Tony A says :

    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsThat is not a Boatwsain’s Pipe or whistle hanging from his chain. It’s a regular whistle. I blew a pipe when I was a Boatswain Mate in the US Coast Guard.

  2. Sam L. says :


    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI always read that “NSW” as NorthSouthWest, having read, years ago, of some US broadcaster saying it that way, not knowing it means New South Wales.

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