- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- Ship design and development
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Snipe, MSA Wallaroo, HMAS Rushcutter, HMAS Ibis, MSA Bandicoot, HMAS Warrnambool I, MSA Salvatore V, HMAS Swan II, HMAS Waterhen, MSA Koraaga, HMAS Bungaree, HMAS Colac, HMAS Yarra II, HMAS Fremantle I, HMAS Doomba, HMAS Whyalla I, HMAS Tolga, HMAS Castlemaine, HMAS Teal, HMAS Durraween, HMAS Geranium, HMAS Hawk, HMAS Shoalwater, HMAS Marguerite, HMAS Curlew, HMAS Mallow, HMAS Gull, HMAS Orara
- September 1993 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Minefields known to have been laid by German raiders included the area off Albany, Western Australia, between Newcastle and Sydney and the eastern and western approaches to Bass Strait. Two hundred and forty moored contact mines were eventually laid by German ships, causing the loss of three vessels, totalling 18,000 tons. Additional minefields were laid by Japanese submarines in New Guinea waters and in the approaches to the port of Darwin.
The RAN’s principal minelayer, H.M.A.S. BUNGAREE, successfully laid over 18,000 defensive mines along the Australian coast, with most being swept by the Bathurst class Australian Minesweepers after the end of hostilities.
The auxiliary minesweepers not purchased outright, were chartered from their owners for varying amounts; H.M.A.S. DURRAWEEN costing 121 pounds 19 shillings per month and H.M.A.S. TOLGA, 109 pounds per month. Following the commissioning of larger numbers of Bathurst class corvettes, the remaining auxiliary minesweepers were converted to other support roles. By December 1941, 29 were in service and on V.J. Day, eleven plus eight others operating in various roles.
Australian Minesweepers – 56 Bathurst Class Corvettes
Although built for the minesweeping role, the Bathurst class corvettes also performed such tasks as convoy escort, anti-submarine patrol, evacuation and shore bombardment. Three of the class were lost during the Second World War, with a fourth, H.M.A.S. WARRNAMBOOL during sweeping operations off the north Queensland coast in 1947.
The peak of minesweeping activity in Australian waters occurred in 1941-43, only reducing as the deployment of enemy fleet units diminished. As a result the mine countermeasure forces were allotted new roles, including protection of shipping as well as port and harbour defence.
Members of the Bathurst class which remained in commission during the late 1940s were employed to clear Australian and New Guinea waters. In the 1950s the survivors were used at the end of their careers for reserve training, both at sea and alongside. Five units were transferred to Turkey in 1945 and another eight to the Netherlands.
By the mid 1950s the Navy had effectively ceased operating a minesweeper force. The last operational RAN corvette, H.M.A.S. FREMANTLE was paid off on 22nd June, 1959. H.M.A.S. CASTLEMAINE remained in use, but as alongside training vessel until 1973 while COLAC was employed as a tank cleaning vessel from 1962 to 1983.
Two RAN corvettes have been preserved in Australia, CASTLEMAINE at Williamstown in Victoria and H.M.A.S. WHYALLA at Whyalla in South Australia.
TON Class – A New Squadron
To help bridge the widening gap in both mine warfare ships and techniques, arrangements were concluded with the Royal Navy for the transfer by sale in 1961 of six Ton class minesweepers to form the RAN’s new generation squadron. All received modifications for Australian service, including new diesel engines, air-conditioning and stabilisers.
During the mid 1960s the six vessels served with Royal Naval units in Malayan and Borneo waters, conducting anti-infiltration patrols during the Indonesian Confrontation period. H.M.A. Ships HAWK, GULL, CURLEW, IBIS, SNIPE and TEAL, originally formed the 16th Minesweeping Squadron and from the late 1960s operated as the First Minecountermeasures Squadron. CURLEW (1967-68) and SNIPE (1969-70) were converted to minehunters featuring new twin rudders for low speed manoeuvring and a high definition sonar. Crew numbers increased by four to 38 officers and men.
HAWK and GULL were sold in 1976, TEAL in 1979, IBIS and SNIPE in 1985. The final unit, CURLEW remained in commission to support trials and evaluation of the prototype MHCAT until 1990, completing 28 years of service in the RAN when she decommissioned on 30 April.
Mine Warfare Ships Data
|Units||Displacement (tons)||Length/Beam (feet)||Speed (knots)||Crew|
|Flower||3||1250 full load||267.9/33.6||16||80|
|Ton||6||445 full load||152/29||14||34|
|Rushcutter||2||170 (tonnes)||31/9 (metres)||10||14|
|Bandicoot||2||242 (tonnes)||29.6/8.5 (metres)||11||10|
As an island nation, the surrounding maritime areas are of great strategic value to Australia with the coastal shipping lanes carrying general cargo and minerals and the overseas trade routes responsible for the vast majority of both exports and imports. To provide the RAN with its required strength of mine warfare ships to ensure a continuation of seaborne trade, a new class of vessels is being considered for entry into Naval service from the mid 1990s.