- Moffatt, Allan (Shorty)
- Ship histories and stories, Post WWII
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Teal, HMAS Hawk, HMAS Curlew, HMAS Gull, HMAS Snipe, HMAS Ibis
- June 2006 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Their displacement was 375 tons. They were 153 feet long and had a speed of 16 knots. Armament consisted of two single, 40mm Bofors, one mounted on the forecastle and the other behind the funnel, and they also carried small arms. Their normal complement was 33, which comprised three officers and 30 sailors, but at times during Confrontation, they would sometimes carry a Malaysian Navy person or a Policeman. This was because when apprehending sampans during ‘stop and search’ operations, the interrogation of the occupants had to be carried out in a Malaysian dialect.
They were not good sea boats, moving in every direction in anything but the smoothest conditions. During a period of our assignment to Confrontation, having completed our service in Borneo, we were granted seven days R & R in Hong Kong. We also met up with another sweeper from the Royal New Zealand Navy, HMNZS Santon at Subic Bay in the Philippines. During the passage to Hong Kong, the weather really deteriorated, so for several days, we were battered by heavy seas and winds. It was a case of do your watch and go and try to lie on your bunk. The upper deck was strictly out of bounds and cooking in the galley was a no-no.
We worked a three-watch system, which sounded good in theory, but when a ‘stop and search’ operation took place, everyone had to turn to, even though just coming off watch. One particular incident whilst serving on Snipe, we had no sooner started our night patrol with HMS Houghton than a radar contact was detected, closing fast. All hands were piped to ‘Action Stations’. The contact was found to be a Russian ‘Kronstadt’ Class patrol boat from the Indonesian Navy. Throughout the night, the patrol boat kept station with us, remaining out of touch, just inside territorial Indonesian waters. It was a long night for all.
HMAS Curlew paid off into Reserve in December 1966, followed by HMAS Hawk and Gull in May 1967, and remained laid up until February 1968. Curlew was later converted to a Minehunter. Snipe underwent a similar conversion.
Hawk, Gull and Curlew carried out minesweeping operations in West Malaysian waters with units of the RN, Malaysian and Thai Navies during April 1969. Curlew, Snipe and Teal carried out minesweeping around New Guinea between February and November 1972 to clear any remaining WW II mines. A few years later, Hawk, Gull and Teal were placed in Reserve, Snipe and Ibis were laid up during 1983 – 84. Curlew remained in service till 1990 when she was finally sold.
These ships had a very interesting, busy and varied life during their period in commission and it was privilege to have been part of the crew of HMAS Snipe during 1965 and 1966.
Prime Minister’s message on the occasion of the unveiling of the plaque dedicated to the 16th Minesweeper Squadron at the Australian War Memorial.
I am delighted to send this message to mark the unveiling of a Plaque commemorating the service of the 16th Minesweeper Squadron during the Indonesian Confrontation from 1964 -1966. Members of this squadron served a country which, due to the sensitive nature of the Confrontation, was largely unaware of their efforts. This is a time to remember and show gratitude for their Service.
The Squadron played a vital role in this conflict. The unit patrolled water surrounding Malaysia interrogating suspicious vessels and making arrests. On several occasions, Australian ships came under enemy fire. The members of the Squadron served in difficult conditions; they served bravely and valiantly.
As we remember the contribution of the Squadron during the Confrontation, we think of our servicemen and women overseas, in particular in the Solomon Islands. They are contributing to the same important task of ensuring ongoing stability and security in our region.
The Indonesian Confrontation posed a real threat to the peace and stability of our immediate region yet it received very little coverage in the Australian press. We are grateful for the contribution of the members of the 16th Minesweeper Squadron. Today, we remember and honour their service to this country.