Australia’s largest museum vessel HMAS Vampire takes to the Harbour once more

Australian National Maritime Museum

The Australian National Maritime Museum’s Daring class destroyer, the HMAS Vampire, will cross the Harbour tomorrow morning, heading to Garden Island Defence Precinct for essential maintenance, passing spectacularly beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge and drawing the eyes of Sydney.

Sydneysiders will catch a rare sight of the famous vessel, celebrated as being the last of Australia’s big gun ships, as it plies the waters from its home in Cockle Bay. The decommissioned Vampire will be manoeuvred from its dockside home in a delicate operation and towed in state, attended by three tugboats and a pilot vessel. The passage will be managed by the Museum’s Fleet Team, the New South Wales Port Authority, and Thales Australia – which oversees operations on the dock and other services at Garden Island Naval Base.

Built on nearby Cockatoo Island, the Daring class were the largest destroyers built in Australia. Now housed in Cockle Bay, visitors can walk aboard Australia’s largest museum vessel and access naval operational areas including the messes, sleeping quarters, engine rooms, hospital, bridge, gun turrets and radio rooms, gaining a fascinating insight into naval life.

Museum CEO and Director Daryl Karp said ‘Vampire’s place in our museum is important, partly because of the hundreds of intersecting stories associated with the vessel, which brings to life our maritime heritage.

‘Many of our Museum volunteers share history with the Vampire, including several ex-servicemen who served aboard on the sister ship, Voyager, as well as boilermakers, electricians and others with an historic connection to shipbuilding on Cockatoo Island.

‘Sharing their stories with museum visitors deepens our knowledge of national naval and maritime heritage, which is a very special part of our culture at the Museum. We are looking forward to Vampire’s return, refreshed and open again to the public on February 17, 2023.’

The Vampire will spend a month in the dry dock at Garden Island, undergoing hull repair and conservation that will enable the vessel to resume its place as the largest museum vessel in Australia. At around $3 million, the operation will be carried out at the Captain Cook Graving Dock on Garden Island. Completed towards the end of World War II, it is one of the largest ‘dry docks’ in the Southern Hemisphere – and a key part of Sydney’s working maritime heritage.

HMAS Vampire fast facts

  • HMAS Vampire is Australia’s largest museum vessel
  • It is a Daring Class destroyer, the largest destroyers built in Australia
  • Vampire served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1959 to 1986
  • Vampire had a peaceful career, even while escorting troops to Vietnam in the 1960’s
  • Vampire was built on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, its keel laid in 1952
  • In 1977, Vampire was RAN escort for HMY Britannia during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee tour of Australia
  • In 1980, it was refitted as a RAN training ship
  • In 1997 it was transferred to the Australian National Maritime Museum

Vampire’s arsenal included:

  • 3 twin turrets housing 6 x 4.5-inch guns (still in place)
  • 2 single-gun and 2 twin-gun Bofors anti-aircraft guns (still in place)
  • 5 anti-ship torpedo launchers (removed in 1970)
  • surface to subsurface anti-submarine mortar (removed in 1980)

Machinery: Two Foster Wheeler three drum super-heated boilers; two English Electric Company geared steam turbines, generating 40,284 kW (54,000 hp); twin screws and rudders

/Public Release.