A visit to HMAS Darwin… the quilters’ say…

Written by AHQ

27 August 2017

Visit to HMAS Darwin.

As a reminder, last Thursday a group of Aussie Hero Volunteers visited HMAS Darwin and delivered 250+ laundry bags made by volunteers all over the country.   After 33 years of loyal service HMAS Darwin will be decommissioned at the end of this year and our laundry bags will be a special memento in her honour.

The following is feedback from some of the ladies who visited her on Thursday. 

On Thursday with Jan-Maree’s car packed to the rafters….er roof with laundry bags, fabric and WPH ladies we were off to visit HMAS Darwin docked at Wooloomooloo Wharf. Seeing this majestic piece of steel up close, and knowing that after the next deployment it will be decommissioned, was quite emotional for me! If only that ship could speak …what a story it would tell! 

I was assigned to Aaron, a good looking seaman, to accompany me to the ship. He told me a bit about himself and I discovered he grew up just round the corner from me…..small world! We were welcomed aboard by Phill Henry the CO, 

and lovely spread of tea and cake was offered. Bridget, Joan and I were given a tour of the ship by Glenn S, a very informative and knowledgeable seaman. It is really quite an experience to see how the personnel and hardware go into making it all work and pull together. They are all exceptional men and women. It makes me very proud to be Australian! 

We then all met up again on the deck for our presentation. 

The CO told us how morale boosting it was when they received our parcels and thanked AHQ profusely for all of our contributions!  Jan- Maree was on form as usual and was warmly thanked by all the recipients as she handed out the laundry bags…..

lots of hugs….and some tears!

On behalf of all AHQ sewers who couldn’t be there I want you to know that the work we all do is so important and appreciated.

Thank you

Bev U

Yesterday was amazing. I was very impressed by the respect given to us by the crew. Our afternoon tea was a joy, even the lovely pastries were warmed as the day was a little chilly. It was a day of firsts for me – a visit to Garden Island,  a tour of the ship, and beaut personal escort being top of the list.  Brandon was attentive, courteous and answered my never ending questions without hesitation. It was interesting to be a part of the muster and award ceremony at the end. Many thanks to all involved. Stay safe all the young lads & ladies who serve our country in many ways. Cheers Keryn


I was wondering how to thank those we met on HMAS Darwin.  It was great to meet  young men (mainly) and women who are keen to serve their country in ways I had not realised, like the drug surveillance of the seas.  They are away from home for a long time.  

I too was fascinated by the missile systems and the gun, and the friendly rivalry between the crew members over the efficacy of these things.

I enjoyed my escort Brad, and, like him hope that we do not need to go to war and to use the defensive and offensive weapons at all.  
And, I was so impressed and encouraged by seeing the laundry bags.  So much variety.

The visit encourages me to do my 2-3 quilts and maybe laundry bags each year.   It was good to meet other quilters too and from such a wide area of the Eastern Coast.

And the warm cinnamon rolls were delicious.  They were much appreciated on the cold day.

Thank you to you and to the Darwin,


It was such a special visit yesterday. I have never been that close let alone boarded and shown around a ship before. Have only ever been on ferries! It was such an honour to visit crew quarters. They are so proud of their quilts and bags. To see the joy on the faces of the recipients was wonderful and to hear the comments of the rest as well. 

Ships are so very compact I am now even more in awe of our navy personnel. They were so welcoming and informative. To be part of the presentation was so  special as well. 

I am lost for words to describe it all but dare say will tell anyone who will listen about it for weeks. It was also wonderful to meet others members and hear how far some came — Awesome.

Thank you very much Jan-Maree
Margaret B
PS The name badges are so GOOD.

It was really worth travelling from Wollongong to have the opportunity to inspect HMAS Darwin and to see the smiling faces of the crew when they were presented with AHQ laundry bags. I am always interested to see the great array of designs made by so many of us sewers out there – very inspiring. Lots of happy recipients had their photos taken showing off their brand new laundry bags detailing the HMAS Darwin’s time. 

Hot coffee and tea and hot pastries and biscuits were available and much appreciated as it was quite a cool day.

Abel Seaman Thompson showed us around the ship – up and down stairs (more like ladders to me!!!) through corridors/breezeways and along The Esplanade (named after one of the main streets in Darwin (city). We peered into the shower block (3 small stainless steel cubicles except without doors) and checked out the bunk beds (incredibly ‘cosy’), and the gym and recreation rooms. The admin area is much like any ‘cubicled’ office but on a much smaller scale. No rooms with views on this hard working ship. On our way up to the bridge and just passing the Captain’s quarters we were pulled aside by the Captain and he showed us part of his living quarters – how lucky were we. 
The Captain invited us all to stay for the presentation of promotions and service medals to some of the crew – another interesting part of life on board a ship.
What a great day out for us – interacting with the wonderful navy personnel of HMAS Darwin.

Helen & Garry C

What an amazing opportunity to able to board a Navy Ship & meet with crew members while they are preparing for their departure to Asia.

I was escorted on board by the lovely Brooke. Luckily Brooke is friends with Sarah, a girl I had made a quilt for whilst they were deployed to the Middle East. Sarah had thanked me with a beautiful gift and email and I was hoping to meet her in person to thank her for her kindness. After Brooke introduced me to Sarah I received the biggest hug and a warm welcome.  It was the best feeling to hear what the quilt and bag had meant to her. Then Sarah produced the quilt from her bunk for our photo opportunity.

Both girls gave a couple of us a tour of the ship. Happily answering questions no matter how silly they might sound. They discussed the impact on family, their job roles, places they had visited and life on the ship. We saw photos of drugs that were seized in the Middle East and heard about the weapons haul.

We then watched as some of the crew received Commemorative laundry bags followed by long service awards & promotions.
It was a marvellous day, everybody made us feel welcome and treated us with respect. It was an honour to be on board.


I was fortunate to be in the group that visited HMAS Darwin on Thursday. It was certainly the highlight of my year and an inspiring experience. To have met the captain and crew of a ship who all radiated appreciation to all of us at Aussie Hero Quilts, and to have had a personal tour of the ship, speeches, photographs and tears – well, what a red letter day!

The captain’s purpose in inviting us was that he wanted us to see for ourselves how much our efforts are appreciated. Not only do servicemen and women enjoy getting a parcel, of course, but what really touches them is how much we really care and support them. 

They just can hardly believe it and it means so much to them – you can see it in their faces and with the respect that they treated us. The captain said there is such an increase in productivity and moral when the parcels arrive, that he is very grateful to us for it.

AHQ has twice gifted the crew of the Darwin with our precious hand made gifts on overseas deployments, and they have not forgotten. At least one crew member met her quilt benefactress and there were hugs all round. I saw quilts on some of the bunks in the crew’s quarters, and they brighten and personalize the drab areas beautifully. When the crew received the specially made laundry bags, which celebrate the life term of the Darwin, there was much excitement and joy. 

They showed each other what they had received, including a letter, laughed and cried and clutched those bags to them closely. If you made a laundry bag for this purpose, know that you could have hardly done anything better with your time!

For myself, I have a renewed interest in getting busy and making as many quilts as I can, because I know exactly how valued they will be!

Lynn C

Seamstresses from all over Australia had contributed to over 230 laundry bags for each member of the crew as a reminder of the FFG 04 HMAS Darwin prior to decommissioning. The women were met by a group of sailors at the gangway and were escorted onboard. Once aboard we were greeted with tea, coffee, biscuits and pastries and chat. The sailors were great hosts and talked to us about their time in the Navy, their plans for the future and generally made us all feel very welcome.
After a tour of the ship, that included a visit to the gun, which I now know how to load, we congregated back on the flight deck for a Clear Lower Deck and to distribute the bags to the ships company. What is a Clear Lower Deck I hear you ask? It is a gathering of the full ship’s company to hear announcements which affect the ship. It provides an opportunity for the Captain to present promotions or citations to crew members and generally bring everyone up to date. It was wonderful to watch at Commander Henry promoted three young Seamen to Able Seamen, the smiles on the faces of the recipients as they start their journey through the ranks of the RAN were a pleasure to behold.
Commander  Phillip Henry addressed the crew and gave his thoughts and thanks for the good work of AHQ for sending bags and quilts to the crew whilst deployed. He explained the effects of a crew member receiving a parcel was immeasurable to the moral of the crew.  He really reinforced to us, all around the country, the value of what we do. He emphasised that all parcels were received with joy and thanks.
This was visible as we watched the sailors on board receive a specially made laundry bag, 

the joy, the smiles, the expressions of “look at mine” “what have you got?” was heartwarming. My escort was kind enough to express his disappointment at not receiving a bag made by me but was full of joy and appreciation of the bag he received.

All in all a wonderful boost to not only the ships morale but to the morale of those present who represented the large AHQ family around the country and proves the worth of AHQ (and Laundry Bags).


We would like to say a very big “thank you” to the officers and crew of HMAS Darwin who gave us such a warm welcome last Thursday. It was a privilege to be escorted on board by such caring and professional young people who are an absolute credit to their commander and to themselves.

We enjoyed afternoon tea and a fascinating tour of the ship before Jan-Maree presented those present with their very special “Darwin” laundry bags and then hand over hundreds more to be given out to the rest of the crew.

While we know our sewing efforts are always appreciated, it was a special treat to see the reactions of the recipients (bought a little tear to my eye!) and to hear how the arrival of quilts and laundry bags are such a morale booster to all those serving overseas. So congratulations to all those who contributed to the day; your efforts are appreciated more than you could know.

Anne S

Carol N

Along with about 15 other representatives of Aussie Hero Quilts, I was privileged to be able to accept an invitation to visit HMAS Darwin alongside at Garden Island in Sydney. Once on board, we were escorted to the Flight Deck. Despite the chilly wind blowing, we were warmly welcomed by Commander Henry, before the “business end” of our visit was conducted – presenting some special HMAS Darwin laundry bags to the CO and some of the crew.

A welcome cuppa followed, along with some delicious pastries made by the cooks. During afternoon tea, we mingled with some of the crew and had the opportunity to find out about life at sea and especially life at sea during deployment.

The Logistics section, for example, is expected to have a ready supply of just about anything you could think of, available at any time of the day or night, to enable repairs or replacements to be made to keep the ship functioning at its full capacity.

We were invited to stay for “Clear Lower Decks”, an occasion not usually witnessed by outsiders, so we took our seats again and enjoyed seeing a more formal side of naval life – lots of saluting, standing at attention and at ease – while some well-deserved presentations were made to some of the crew.

All too soon, it was time to leave, but not before getting a hug and a kiss on the cheek from one of the sailors at the top of the gangway!

If any of the other ladies who attended on Thursday want to add their comments please email me and I will add them to Tuesday’s post. 

Till next time….. keep spreading the word and happy stitching!

Jan-Maree xx

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