Just before midnight on May 26, 2017, the crew members of HMAS Maryborough were woken from a deep sleep – the ship’s engine room was on fire.
What happened next has earned them widespread praise.
While it was a close call, Lieutenant Commander Tom Mobbs, who was commanding officer that night, said the crew’s efforts were magnificent.
“They are professional war-fighting mariners,” Lieutenant Commander Mobbs said.
“When the alarm sounded, they knew what to do and responded well within Fleet standard times.”
"Maryborough’s engine room fire did not become a major tragedy thanks to the swift, professional and selfless response of its crew."
The crew of Maryborough had a mantra: “Train hard and fight easy” because the next time it might be for real.
“It’s an attitude that came in handy that night,” Lieutenant Commander Mobbs said.
“We conducted daily damage control exercises and the team was about as good, if not better, than any I’ve seen in my 17 years of service.”
Sub Lieutenant Dominic Harradine navigates HMAS Maryborough into the port of Jakarta, under the watchful eye of the navigator, Lieutenant John Chipper and the Commanding Officer, (then) Lieutenant Tom Mobbs, during a South East Asia Deployment in 2017.
The ship’s training focus not only saved the ship, but their actions were also commented on positively by the subsequent Maritime Safety Bureau inquiry, which found that all involved had “operated very effectively”.
The ship's damage control officer, Chief Petty Officer Michael O’Donnell even received a Conspicuous Service Cross for his outstanding devotion to duty that night.
"The team was about as good, if not better, than any I’ve seen in my 17 years of service."
Two years later, Lieutenant Commander Mobbs and the crew came together again in spirit, when an article in The Australian newspaper appeared to question their actions during the incident.
The headline “HMAS Maryborough blaze chaos revealed” stunned all involved.
“I read it with interest, then shock and then literally bristled with anger,” Lieutenant Commander Mobbs said.
“Yes, there were several complicating factors that occurred and the article was written with the element of truth. However, I suspect that the author either didn’t understand the contents of the MSB investigation report received under FOI, or he sought to twist the truth to paint a picture of the story that was distorted to the point of abstract.”
The Maryborough crew was also supported Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan.
“As the professional head of Navy, I know that Maryborough’s engine room fire did not become a major tragedy thanks to the swift, professional and selfless response of its crew,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.
Lieutenant Commander Mobbs said he and his former shipmates were extremely grateful for the Chief of Navy's quick response.
“I think back on that night with pride,” Lieutenant Commander Mobbs said.
“Overseeing the whole ship response and watching the ship’s company overcome the complications we faced that night was the most professionally satisfying event of my Naval life.”