HMAS
Bathurst
(I)

HMAS Bathurst (I)
Class
Bathurst Class
Type
Australian Minesweeper
Role
  • Minesweeping
  • Patrol
  • Convoy escort
Pennant
J158
Motto
Strike Hard
Builder
Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co Ltd, Sydney
Laid Down
10 February 1940
Launched
1 August 1940
Launched by
Mrs Doyle, wife of the Engineer Manager, Garden Island Dockyard
Commissioned
6 December 1940
Decommissioned
27 September 1946
Fate
Sold for scrap on 21 June 1948
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement
  • 665 tonnes (standard)
  • 930 tonnes (full war load)
Length 56.69 metres
Beam 9.45 metres
Draught 2.59 metres
Performance
Speed 15 knots
Complement
Crew 85
Propulsion
Machinery Triple expansion engine, 2 shafts, 2,000 hp
Horsepower 2,000
Armament
Guns
  • 1 x 76mm gun
  • 1 x 40mm Bofors
  • 2 x 20mm Oerlikons
Awards
Battle Honours

HMAS Bathurst (I) was the first 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 Bathurst (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.

HMAS Bathurst lent it's name to a versatile class of ships that soon became known as 'maids of all work' their design was simple and they could be constructed in a relatively short period of time.
HMAS Bathurst lent it's name to a versatile class of ships that soon became known as 'maids of all work'. Their design was simple and they could be constructed in a relatively short period of time.

Bathurst (I) was launched on 1 August 1940 and commissioned at Sydney on 6 December that year under the command of Lieutenant Commander A.V. Bunyan RANR(S).

HMAS Bathurst being launched at Cockatoo Island Dockyard on 1 August 1940
HMAS Bathurst takes to the water for the first time at Cockatoo Island Dockyard on 1 August 1940.

Bathurst (I) began her career in January 1941 as a unit of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla (RAN), operating on the east Australian coast. In March 1941 she left Australian waters for Malaya, where she operated as a patrol vessel based on Singapore until 26 May 1941.

Bathurst undergoing sea trials prior to commisioning. Note the red ensign flying from her mainmast indicating that she is still in the hands of the builders and yet to be handed over to the RAN.
Bathurst undergoing sea trials prior to commisioning. Note the red ensign flying from her mainmast indicating that she is still in the hands of the builders and yet to be handed over to the RAN.

On 3 June 1941 she arrived at Colombo and there joined the Eastern Fleet for escort and patrol duties. At the close of June, Bathurst (I) entered the Red Sea, spending a month in those waters before docking at Alexandria on 4 August 1941.

On 25 August 1941 Bathurst (I) returned to Aden, and then began a period of three and a half months on patrol in the Gulf of Tajura (French Somaliland), with the mission of preventing dhow traffic and blockade maintenance of the African coast. On 18 October 1941 she captured the French launch HERON, and dhows on 5 September and 14 November 1941.

Red Sea patrols ended on 16 December when Bathurst (I) proceeded to Colombo, arriving on 29 December. Throughout 1942 she was based on Colombo for escort and patrol duties in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. On 18 October 1942 Lieutenant Commander Bunyan was relieved by Lieutenant Commander C. MacDonald RANR(S), after almost two years in command. At this stage of her career Bathurst (I) had steamed 70,000 miles and escorted more than 1,000,000 tons of shipping without loss.

Christmas Day was an important celebration for ships deployed on far-flung operations away from family and friends.
Christmas Day was an important celebration for ships deployed on far-flung operations away from family and friends.

Convoys between Bombay, the Persian Gulf and Aden kept Bathurst (I) almost constantly at sea during the period of January to August 1943. Interspersed with anti-submarine patrols she escorted twenty eight convoys safely across the Arabian Sea.

HMAS Bathurst flying her Australian National Flag and White Ensign.
Bathurst's main mast proudly flying the Australian National Flag and multiple white ensigns.

In September 1943, with 102,000 miles steaming behind her, she began refitting at Colombo. Convoy escort duty between Colombo and Bombay resumed in November, and the year closed with Bathurst (I) at sea en route for Calcutta.

Escort duty between Colombo to Bombay continued into 1944. At Bombay on 14 April Bathurst (I) played a worthy role in the rescue and salvage work that followed the explosion of the munition ships FORT STRIKINE and JALAPADMA. Fifteen ships were gutted by the resulting fires and large numbers of the local population killed and injured.

On 7 August 1944 Bathurst (I) reached Colombo after escorting her last Indian Ocean convoy. Three weeks later, on 29 August, she sailed for Australia, ending almost three and a half years Indian Ocean – Red Sea service. On 20 September 1944 she entered Fremantle harbour.

Australian coastal anti-submarine patrols kept Bathurst (I) in home waters until April 1945 when she proceeded to New Guinea waters. At this stage of the Pacific War, with the Philippines in American hands, there remained only routine patrols for her until the end of hostilities in August 1945.

The war ended, Bathurst (I) proceeded to the Far East as a unit of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla (eleven Australian minesweepers) attached to the British Pacific Fleet. Based on Hong Kong the Flotilla carried out sweeping operations on the Chinese coast until mid November 1945.

On 9 December 1945 Bathurst (I) returned to Sydney, bringing her seagoing career to an end. She had steamed 160,165 miles. On 27 September 1946 she was placed in Reserve for disposal. Bathurst (I) was sold on 21 June 1948 to T. Carr and Co of Sydney as scrap.

Further Reading

  1. The Corvettes: Forgotten Ships of the Royal Australian Navy by Iris Nesdale. Published by the Author, October, 1982.
  2. Corvettes - Little Ships for Big Men by Frank B. Walker. Published by Kingfisher Press, NSW, 1996.