New chapter for commanding officer

Outgoing Commanding Officer of HMAS Stirling Captain Ainsley Morthorpe, left, hands command to Captain Gary Lawton on the quarterdeck at Fleet Base West, Western Australia. Photo: Leading Seaman Ronnie Baltoft

New chapter for commanding officer

When Captain Gary Lawton was selected as the new Commanding Officer of HMAS Stirling, it felt more like a homecoming to his favourite city than another Navy posting.

“It’s wonderful to be back at Stirling. It is a beautiful base with a sense of space, the ocean and fabulous beaches. It really is home to me,” he said.

Captain Lawton previously served for many years on the island with Navy’s Submarine Force and said he was looking forward to the next chapter in his  career.

“The opportunity to come back to Western Australia and work with the great people at Stirling in supporting our Fleet, and helping our sailors and officers flourish, was one I was not going to pass up,” Captain Lawton said.

“I look forward to the challenge of overseeing the safe redevelopment of the establishment over the next few years and in terms of a personal challenge, in any spare time I have, you’ll find me swimming, cycling and training for the next Busselton Triathlon.”

Captain Lawton assumed the role during a small ceremony on the Stirling Quarterdeck on December 4, 2020, taking the reins from Captain Ainsley Morthorpe after almost two years.

Captain Morthorpe’s efforts at Stirling were rewarded recently with the base awarded the Governor’s Cup for the shore establishment that has excelled in all aspects of operations, safety, training, and support to the Fleet for 2020.

Speaking fondly of his time as Commanding Officer, Captain Morthorpe recalled the beauty and wildness of the landscape, something he used to his advantage when exploring his passion for photography.

“It has been my great pleasure to be able to steward the wonders of our incredible and historic island, including the ospreys, little penguins, tammar wallabies, and not to forget the tiger snake,” Captain Morthorpe said.

“I’ve enjoyed learning the stories of the island from the ancient Wadjuk tribe’s Dreamtime stories to Captain Stirling and Fremantle’s adventures on the island before the colony of Perth was established. There is so much history that I have been able to share with visitors and the community.”

Captain Lawton and Captain Morthorpe agreed the diverse teams, units, personnel and operations at Stirling were an amazing demonstration of the integrated capabilities offered by Navy nationwide.

Captain Morthorpe summed up his time at the base in a heartfelt message to personnel.

“The most amazing thing about Stirling is that almost everything the Navy does collectively is also done right here on the island,” he said.

“It has been a real privilege and joy to be able to play a leadership role in all of this. I have looked forward every day to coming to work on this base.”

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