Navy Week – Chief Petty Officer Claude Choules

Navy Week is an annual event conducted in South Australia to draw attention to the presence and work of the Royal Australian Navy in South Australia.  The week is chosen to coincide with the presence in Port Adelaide / Outer Harbor of a visiting Royal Australian Navy warship.

HMAS Choules arrives in Adelaide at 10.00am on 4 October 2018 and departs at 10.00am on 8 October 2018.  There will be an Open Day on HMAS Choules between 10.00am and 3.00pm on Sunday 7 October 2018 with performances by the RAN Band South Australia to entertain waiting visitors.

HMAS Choules arrived in Western Australia in December 2011 following service in the United Kingdom and was commissioned on 13 December 2011.  The ship is named after the late Chief Petty Officer Claude Choules,a former Royal Navy World War I and Royal Australian Navy World War II veteran.

Born in Pershore, England on 3 March 1901, Claude joined the Royal Navy on 10 October 1916, and served in the training ship HMS Impregnable situated at Devonport dockyard. The Impregnable had been a 140-gun square-rigged wooden battleship prior to becoming a training ship.  In 1917, Claude joined the battleship HMS Revenge, flagship of the First Battle Squadron.  While serving in Revenge Claude witnessed the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at the Firth of Forth in November 1918, 10 days after the Armistice.  He also later saw the scuttling of the German Fleet by the Germans at Scapa Flow.

In February 1926 Claude came to Australia on loan as an Instructor at Flinders Naval Depot and later decided to transfer permanently to the RAN.

Claude took his discharge from the RAN in 1931 and the family moved to Western Australia. In 1932 he rejoined the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer Torpedo and Anti Submarine Instructor at the Naval Training Depot in Fremantle. During World War II Claude was the Acting Torpedo Officer, Fremantle and also the Chief Demolition Officer for Western Australia.  Early in the war Claude was flown to Esperance, on Western Australia’s southern coast, to identify a mine washed ashore nearby.  The mine was identified as German and Claude then disposed of the first mine to wash up on Australian soil during World War Two.

After retirement from the Naval Dockyard Police Claude purchased a cray fishing boat and spent many years fishing off the Western Australia coast. Claude Choules died in Perth, WA on 5 May, 2011 aged 110, and was acknowledged as the last veteran who had seen active service from World War I. On 13 August, 2011 Prime Minister Julia Gillard and then Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, announced that the recently purchased vessel, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Largs Bay, would be renamed HMAS Choules.

HMAS Choules enhances the Australian Defence Force’s amphibious capability to embark a sizeable group of personnel and vehicles, transport them to a destination, land them safely ashore without relying on the availability of shore infrastructure, and sustain the group for a period of time. The force might include a mix of military vehicles, cargo and support vehicles, as well as Navy and Army helicopters.

The military lift includes the capacity to load and transport up to 32 Abrams tanks or 150 light trucks. HMAS Choules can carry a normal load of 356 troops or overloaded with 700.  Depending on the situation Choules can operate either close in shore or over the horizon using helicopters and landing craft to get personnel and equipment ashore.

The amphibious capability is a key element of future Australian Defence Force’s military operations and provides the ability to conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief throughout the region.