HMAS
Cairns
(I)

HMAS Cairns (I)
Class
Bathurst Class
Type
Australian Minesweeper
Pennant
J183
Builder
Walkers Ltd, Maryborough
Laid Down
31 March 1941
Launched
7 October 1941
Launched by
Mrs Weber, wife of Works Manager, Walkers Ltd
Commissioned
11 May 1942
Decommissioned
17 January 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 650 tons
Length 186 feet
Beam 31 feet
Draught 8 feet 6 inches
Performance
Speed 15 knots
Complement
Crew 85
Propulsion
Machinery Triple expansion, 2 shafts
Horsepower 2,000
Armament
Guns
  • 1 x 12-pounder gun
  • 1 x Bofors (later)
  • Machine guns
Other Armament
  • 3 x Oerlikons (later 4)
  • Depth charge chutes and throwers
Awards
Battle Honours

HMAS Cairns 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 Cairns) 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.

Cairns commissioned at Maryborough on 11 May 1942 under the command of LEUT Edward MacMillan RANR(S).

HMAS Cairns was launched on 7 October 1941 by Mrs R.D. Weber, wife of the Works Manager, Walkers Ltd.
HMAS Cairns was launched on 7 October 1941 by Mrs R.D. Weber, wife of the Works Manager, Walkers Ltd.
Cairns takes to the water for the first time
Cairns takes to the water for the first time
Cairns afloat and ready for the process of fitting out
Cairns afloat and ready for the process of fitting out

Until 16 October 1942, when she departed Fremantle to join the Eastern Fleet, Cairns was engaged in escort, anti-submarine and minesweeping duties in Australian waters.

On 14 November 1942 Cairns arrived at the fleet base at Kilindini, Kenya, to begin a period of Indian Ocean patrol and escort duties. In mid 1943 she was transferred temporarily to the Mediterranean. Whilst serving in that theatre, Cairns and her sister ships, HMA Ships Cessnock, Geraldton and Wollongong, were at Sicily on 13 July, three days after the start of the Allied invasion. They had gone to the island as part escort of a convoy from Alexandria. They spent the day carrying out an endless chain patrol of the beach and saw an American Liberty Ship blown up in an air raid. Cairns returned to the Indian Ocean in September 1943.

The ship's work in the Indian Ocean was mainly uneventful convoy escort duties, but on 11 February 1944 she was a unit of the escort of a convoy which was attacked by the Japanese submarine RO-110. After one ship, Asphalion, had been torpedoed, a concerted attack by Cairns' sister ships, HMA Ships Launceston and Ipswich, and the Indian sloop HMIS Jumna, destroyed the submarine.

A depth charge exploding in the ship's wake
A depth charge exploding in the ship's wake

Following a refit at Adelaide from May 1944, Cairns rejoined the Eastern Fleet in July 1944 and, based on Colombo, resumed escort duties, mainly between Indian ports and Aden at the entrance to the Red Sea.

In January 1945 Cairns returned to Australia to begin operations with the British Pacific Fleet. After a brief period in home waters she reached the New Guinea theatre in late March to begin escort duties between Manus and Leyte in the Philippines. During March to May she was one of the Australian units operating with the British Pacific Fleet for the invasion of the island of Okinawa (Operation 'Iceberg'). At the end of these operations Cairns proceeded to Fremantle for refit.

In October 1945 the ship proceeded to the Far East where, as a unit of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla, she took part in sweeping operations in Chinese waters. She returned to Australia in December 1945 for paying off and at Brisbane on 17 January 1946 she was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Navy and was renamed Ambon. She was transferred to the Indonesian Navy on 6 April 1950 and renamed Banteng. She was broken up in April 1968.

HMAS Cairns
HMAS Cairns was based in Fremantle and operated as a convoy escort, anti-submarine patroller, and minesweeper.

 

Further Reading

  1. Notable Service to the Empire: Australian Corvettes and the British Pacific Fleet 1944-45 by Hugh Campbell - published by Naval Historical Society of Australia Inc, Garden Island, 1995.
  2. The Corvettes: Forgotten Ships of the Royal Australian Navy by Iris Nesdale- published by the Author, October, 1982.
  3. Corvettes - Little Ships for Big Men by Frank B. Walker - published by Kingfisher Press, NSW, 1996.