The HMAS Whyalla

The HMAS Whyalla

HMAS Whyalla (I)
was one of sixty Australian Minesweepers (commonly known as corvettes) built
during World War II in Australian shipyards as part of the Commonwealth
Government’s wartime shipbuilding programme. Twenty (including Whyalla (I))
were built on Admiralty order but manned and commissioned by the Royal
Australian Navy. Thirty-six were built for the Royal Australian Navy and four
for the Royal Indian Navy.

 

Whyalla(I) commissioned at Whyalla on 8 January 1942 under the command of LEUT Leslie N.
Morison RANR(S).

Following
commissioning and a work up period, Whyalla (I) went into service on escort and
patrol duty on the Australian east coast. She was in Sydney Harbour on the
night of 31 May / 1 June 1942 when the Japanese midget submarine attack took
place and was one of a number of ships allocated as escorts when Australian
coastal convoys were instituted on 8 June 1942.

On 12 June 1942,
with the United States destroyer USS Perkins, she was escorting a convoy of
eight ships bound from Newcastle to Melbourne when the straggling Panamanian
ship Guatemala was torpedoed and sunk. Whyalla (I) continued east coast coastal
convoy escort duty until December 1942. No further losses were suffered by any
of the convoys of which she was one of the escorting units.

In December 1942
Whyalla (I) proceeded to New Guinea where she took part in the operations
leading to the capture of Buna at the end of the year. In 1943 she continued
operations in the New Guinea theatre, operating as a survey ship. On 2 January
1943, in McLaren Harbour, Cape Nelson, New Guinea, Whyalla (I) and the small
survey vessels HMA Ships Wareen (I) (Stella) and Polaris (I) were attacked by
six dive bombers escorted by twelve fighters. All bombs missed their targets
and except for minor damage from near misses and two sailors wounded by
splinters, Whyalla (I) escaped unscathed.

Whyalla (I)
continued the hazardous work of surveying the inadequately charted New Guinea
waters until the end of April 1943, when she was relieved by HMAS Shepparton
(I). She was at anchor in Milne Bay on 14 April when assembled shipping was
attacked by forty to fifty bombers and about sixty fighters. Again the ship
escaped serious damage but other vessels were not so fortunate. The Dutch
merchant ship Van Heemskerk was a total loss. Whyalla (I) and her sister ships
HMA Ships Kapunda (I) and Wagga (I) drew praise from the Naval
Officer-in-Command ashore for their rescue and salvage work, remarking that ‘we
were indeed fortunate to have the assistance of the three corvettes.’

In June 1943
Whyalla (I) returned to Australia for a major refit and was then reallocated for
east coast convoy escort duty. She was engaged constantly on this service until
February 1944, followed by a period on Sandy Cape anti-submarine patrol
interspersed with escort duty, before further service in New Guinea waters from
June 1944. In December 1944 she was attached to the British Pacific Fleet as a
unit of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla, consisting of nine Australian
minesweepers.

In 1945 until
the end of hostilities Whyalla (I) served on escort and anti-submarine patrol
duty. During the period of March to May 1945 she escorted shipping between
Manus and the Philippines

before returning
to Australia for refit in June. This period included participation in the
operations for the capture of Okinawa (March to May).

The ship proceeded
to Manus on 2 July 1945 for further escort service to the forward areas. In the
immediate post war period the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla proceeded to Hong
Kong. Whyalla (I), however, served only briefly in Chinese waters. In October
she returned to Australia having steamed some 111,000 miles on war service.

Whyalla (I) paid
off at Brisbane on 16 May 1946. On 10 February 1947 Whyalla (I) was sold to the
Victorian Public Works Department. On 8 November 1947 the tug HMAS Reserve
departed Brisbane for Melbourne with Whyalla (I) in tow. The vessels arrived at
Melbourne on 14 November. Whyalla

(I) was handed
over to her new owner and renamed RIP, being employed as a lights maintenance
vessel.

She ceased service as RIP in 1984. When the Whyalla City Council became
aware that the ship was to sold as scrap, successful negotiations resulted in
the Council purchasing her for $5,000. She returned to Whyalla under her own
power later in 1984.

Between February and April 1987, Whyalla (I) was slowly moved up the
slipway from which she was launched in 1941, and then relocated two kilometres
inland and placed on permanent foundations, becoming the centrepiece for the
Whyalla Maritime Museum which was officially opened on 29 October 1988.
em>Whyalla (I) is one of only two Bathurst Class preserved as museum ships,
the other being HMAS Castlemaine in Willia

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