HMAS Canberra

This site is dedicated to all Royal Australian Navy and Australian Defence Force personnel who have served in HMAS CANBERRA.


HMAS CANBERRA (1) D 33 from the 9th of July 1928 until she was sunk in action off Savo Island on the 9th of August 1942.


HMAS CANBERRA (2) FFG-02 from the 21st of March 1981 until Decomissioning on the 12th of November 2005.


HMAS Canberra (3) LHD-02 from Commissioning on the 23rd of November 2014.



3 Mess HMAS Canberra 1987- 1990


The TOP JACK theme was a very successful way of promoting comradeship and fun into 3 Mess in HMAS Canberra. The Mess members were know in the Fleet as "TOP JACKS"

The mess was made up of 60 personnel of the Executive Branches in the ship, this included the Communicators, Gunnery rates, Radar Plots, Underwater Control, Coxswains, Safety Equipment, Physical Trainers, METS, General Duties and Aviation Sailors.


3 Mess HMAS Canberra


A mess fund was set up and everyone in the Mess agreed to be members of TOP JACK and contributed to the fund, in return a mess function was organised in location that provided drinks, food and entertainment.

A TOP JACK mess function was organised for Mess members in each major port the ship visited, including Manila in the Philippines, Hobart in Australia (Ocean Child) , Auckland in New Zealand (Rugby Club) and Hawaii. The mess functions normally had a theme, in Auckland we had a hat night.


TOP JACK Function - Auckland Rugby Club 1988


The TOP JACK theme became extremely popular, merchandise was produced for members of Top Jack and made great gifts and souvenirs for the crew to hand out, this included T-Shirts, Singlets, Wind Cheaters, Beer Glasses and the famous " Top Jack Win on business cards".

TOP JACKS were not permitted to step ashore without a "TOP JACK win on card" and had to produce them whilst we were ashore. It was also important that TOP JACKS look after each other ashore and ensure their ship mates returned to the ship safely and in a timely manner.



TOP JACK was the brain child of Leading Seaman John "Blue" Richardson, it was based on the successful1986 movie TOP GUN which was a cult Movie in the Mess at the time, the actual brainstorming for the TOP JACK took place at Hong Kong in the HMS Tamar swimming pool where the screaming of a irate local chef yelling "HAMBURGER CHIPS" was to be heard over the PA system.

LSUC Phillip Mac McDonald was the primary TOP JACK function organiser, LSRP Lee "Bickies" Webster was the treasurer, LSRP Brian Brennan, LSRP "Blue" Richardson and other key mess Leading Seaman assisted in the organisation and support of TOP JACK.


Presenting the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer with TOP JACK T-Shirts

L to R: Phillip Mac McDonald, CO- Simon Harrington, XO- Les Pataky, Lee Webster (CPOQMG Shelly Shelvidine looking on) 1988


It was great time to be in the ship during the TOP JACK era, it was the golden era of the Royal Australian Navy, the entire Ships Company was great, from the Commanding Officer, Officers, Senior Sailors and Junior Sailors were just great people to work with, the ship had some great deployments to the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

TOP JACKs along with the other members of the Ship's Company held the Commanding Officer Simon Harrington in very high regard, he was a excellent leader and the crew appreciated his commitment to them. It was not usual for members of the crew to take portraits of him ashore to enjoy a beer with him, he once went to a hotel overseas where the barman knew who he was, and discovered a portrait of him was behind the bar where the TOP JACKS had left it the evening before, this culminated in the crew organising a carefully planned 40th Birthday Party in Sydney which involved a ruse that he had to report to Maritime Headquarters where he was cleverly diverted to a Pub in Woolloomooloo.


The Commanding Officer Simon Harrington ashore with TOP JACKS Solomon Islands

The ship also had a very important role in the 1988 Australian Bicentennial Celebrations, the Tallships Race was officially started by the Prime Minister of Australia Bob Hawke embarked in HMAS Canberra at Stormy Bay in Tasmania, the ship escorted the Tall Ships Race vessels from Hobart to Sydney, being the centre piece of the Australia Day celebrations in Sydney Harbour and firing a 88 Gun Salute prior to the fireworks display.


Bicks, Bob and Box, Stormy Bay, Tasmania 1988


The ship had the honour of escorting the Royal Yacht HMY Britannia with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II embarked from Sydney to Newcastle and then onto Brisbane for Expo 88 and was the centre piece of the International Naval Review in September 1988.

HMY Britannia and HMAS Canberra, Brisbane River 1988


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Australia - Bicentennial Images 1988

HMAS Canberra played a major role in Australia's Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988, she escorted the Tall ships from Hobart, Tasmania to Sydney Harbour, fired a 88 Gun salute prior to the fireworks display to celebrate Australia Day 1988 and escorted Her Majesties Royal Yacht Britannia with the HRH Queen Elizabeth embarked from Sydney to Brisbane to celebrate Expo 88...More

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Top Jack 1987-1988

Top Jack was created in 3 Mess HMAS Canberra in 1987, it was a very successful and enduring association of the Sailors that served in HMAS Canberra, it was a great way of having fun and included all members of the Mess...More

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