Mururoa 1973




Mururoa Bomb

Licorne Test Mururoa Atoll July 1973

A test of the French TN 60 missile Warhead, {Yeild 914kt}
Bomb photo courtesy of Gerry Wright ex: RNZN

"Ode' to a Tankerman"

Tankermen are not born, but are certainly unrouled to follow the "T" pattern for its a well know fact that words starting with "T" can usually be akined to a tankerman including such words as TOUGH and lets not forget TACTFULL whenever the word "Oil spill" is mentioned.

In the later half of 1973 we received final word from the powers that be, requesting our presence, by our sheep loving mates across the Tasman, so after the crew briefing by our beloved skipper 'Captain Loosli we were asked to volunteer for this deployment to Mururoa Atoll, because of the dangerous nature of the mission whereby most of the crew stayed except for a few married sailors who stepped ashore to cushy drafts. We proceeded to store ship in a big way where we received copious amounts of "Black Oil, Beans and Bullets". But most important of all was the stock of beer for our daily issue as can be seen by the following photo.

Stowing the Beer Issue in the fwd hold

I can never forget the time we spent alongside the sponsons at Middle Head Sydney Harbour, three days in all while we topped up our tanks with more Black Oil but quiet apart from Black Oil, Beans and Bullets and the fanatical ravings of the Buffer, we have driven winches during 'RAS' operations in all weather and at any time of the day, even done one at 2am one morning.

Come sailing time one Monday morning we were guided through the Heads by a lone Albatross floating on the winds that sultry day.

Farewell Supply

Outward Bound Sydney Heads 1973 - Photo courtesty of SMH

To those who were there and cant remember, that dam Albatross stayed with the ship through the whole voyage and no wonder when you take into account all the great fodder it received each night when "LCK Jerry Rowlands" fed him behind No3 Mess. I must admit that the Albatross was adrift from muster for quiet a long time after the bomb was set off, maybe them Albatross's ain't silly after all.

First RAS with HMNZS Otago

Duty bound we headed off to help our Kiwi mates who we met up with on June 29th. First to arrive was the sleek greyhound of the seas HMNZS OTAGO who we RAS'd with for the first time.

The third and final RAS was completed on Tuesday July 3 at 1600 hrs before Otago headed towards the test area.


More familiar to many aboard Supply was the daily visits by that lone Reconnaissance aircraft from the French Maritime Surveillance unit attached to the Mururoa operation. These Frenchies must have thought we were a weird lot as they flew past each morning.

Commander Alan Tyrrell RNZN, CO Otago, facing 30 knots of wind during the RAS. B/W photos taken of Supply are from the book written by Gerry Wright called "Mururoa Protest"
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They were always on the receiving end of a lot of arm waving profanity and mooning from the crew on deck, to the disgust of the Buffer who threw a tantrum every time this happened.

Chief Bosun's Mate 'Dusty' Millar

We spent approximately two and a half months steaming around in circles keeping the Kiwi's going and by the end of the deployment we had broken all previous records held for the most amount of Replenishments in one year (1972), by completing over 270 RAS's during the whole of 1973.


Rarotonga Farewell

Most of the crew of Supply got to enjoy the sunshine of Rarotonga Is and the hospitality of its people who put on a farewell concert on the RAS deck the morning we sailed for home. Rarotonga is well remembered for a lot of things especially the local passion for 'Orange Beer', a wild and hairy brew not unlike the colour of Fanta but about 100 proof with a faint odour of Kero. One of our crew suffered severly from the over consumption of this stuff as could be asertained by his blood shot eyes when he returned aboard.

Many friends were made and hearts broken, the day we sailed for home.


The frigate Canterbury met the Supply at 1100 on the day, about 200 miles south of Rarotonga. In rough seas the first attempt to pass the fuel hose was abandoned as both vessels plunged and rolled heavily and took seas over their bows. The two Captains decided to break off, turn about and run with 22 knot winds and breaking swells This method of refuelling, is not normally used because vessels are more difficult to control, worked perfectly and the Canterbury spent an hour withing 100 yards of the Supply taking on 218 tons of blackoil. It was the last rendezvous between the two ships before they both headed home, the 26,000 ton Supply to Sydney and the Canterbury to Auckland. The Supply with its oil tanks half empty refuelled Otago eight times with a total of 1113 tons and the Canterbury, five times with 1098 tons of oil. The Supply also jackstayed, across to the frigates, more than 23,000 lbs of provisions, stores and equipment, during the 45 days at sea.

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Last RAS near Mururoa Atoll
Last RAS near Mururoa Atoll - HMAS Supply to HMNZS Canterbury
Wednesday 8 August 1973

With a parting gift of a framed aerial photograph of the ships transferring fuel taken from Canterbury's helicopter and three cheers from the frigates crew, the two ships parted and headed for their respective home ports.

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After our duties in the South Pacific we headed home with a short stop over at Norfolk Island for a picnic, where the skipper made the mistake of letting half the ships company ashore for rest and recreation, what a stuff up that was, They proceeded to seriously deplete the Island's liquor supplies to the stage where they left only a few cartons of beer for the locals by the time they were herded onto the liberty boat for the ride back to the ship anchored in the bay, and the hair raising job of those left onboard to get all the intoxicated riff-raff aboard without loosing them in the scrambling nets that were dangling over the side for this purpose. Rank excluded they were all blind.

Recovering the crew Norfolk Island 1973

By 15:30 that afternoon we were once again underway with Norfolk disappearing slowly over the horizon.

Early the next morning we steamed through Sydney Heads to a rousing welcome from friends and family alike and some well earned leave.

Our safety was a high Priority thanks to the good work of ABSE 'JD' Woodmansey.

ABSE 'JD' Woodmansey
ABSE 'JD' Woodmansey

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Welcome to the fold gentlemen

The RNZN Mururoa Veterans

Gerry Wright ex: LCDR
Henare Hawe ex POEW (SHW) HMNZS Canterbury 1973
Kevin Corles ex:MID HMNZS Canterbury 1973
Bob Overton ex: ARD HMNZS Canterbury 72-74
Anthony 'Stretch' Kennedy ex: T/LEW HMNZS Canterbury
Charlie Edgarton ex: HMNZS Canterbury
John Titmus ex: HMNZS Canterbury
Wayne O'Donnell ex: ME1 HMNZS Canterbury
Wayne Abel ex: ORD RP HMNZS Canterbury

If anyone can help bring this list up to date please contact the Tankermen Association Secretary as soon as possible.

Mururoa Veterans Reunion

Mururoa Veterans Church Parade

Reunion Cake

"No amount of Radiation is considered SAFE"

Who remembers using this stamp while writing home?

Also thanks to all those who have contributed to the information on this page.

Naval Tankermen Association( Secretary/Treasurer )
108 East Street
Bega NSW 2550

Home: 02 64923060
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