HMAS
Fantome

HMAS Fantome
Class
Sloop
Builder
Sheerness, England
Laid Down
8 January 1900
Launched
23 March 1901
Commissioned
27 November 1914
Decommissioned
14 January 1919
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 1070 tons
Length 185 feet
Beam 33 feet
Draught 11 feet 3 inches
Performance
Speed 13.5 knots
Complement
Crew
  • 114 (RN)
  • 160 (RAN)
Propulsion
Machinery Twin Screws
Horsepower 1,400
Armament
Guns
  • 6 x 4-inch guns
  • 4 x 3-pounder guns
  • 3 x 12-pounder guns

HMS Fantome and her sister ship HMS Merlin were built for the Royal Navy Survey Service. She arrived in Australian waters in 1907 to continue the Barrier Reef survey begun by HMS Penguin in 1905.

From 1907 until the outbreak of World War I, Fantome was almost continuously engaged on survey operations in Australian waters. For some four years she was commanded by Commander F.C.C. Pasco RN, a grandson of Crawford Pasco who served in HMS Beagle under John Lort Stokes and who was a son of Lieutenant Pasco, Nelson’s signal officer in HMS Victory at Trafalgar.

HMAS Fantome was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in 1914 to be used as a patrol vessel
HMAS Fantome was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in 1914 to be used as a patrol vessel

She was manned by and commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Fantome on 27 November 1914, under the command of Lieutenant George P.M. Fitzgerald RN, and despatched to New Guinea in early December. She returned to Sydney on 21 February 1915 to pay off.

In July 1915 Fantome was armed with two 4-inch and four 12-pounder guns, again manned by the Royal Australian Navy and recommissioned on 27 July 1915, under the command of Commander Lewis T. Jones RN, for service in the Persian Gulf. However, on arrival in Singapore on 4 September, she was detached for Blockade Patrol service operating mainly in the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

In January 1916 patrols in the Bay of Bengal were discontinued and Fantome began patrols in the seas east of Singapore, based at Sandakan in Borneo. Except for a period refitting in Hong Kong, the sloop remained in constant service on Far East Patrol until the end of August 1917. She returned to Sydney in September 1917 after an absence of two years in tropical waters under extremely trying conditions of service.

In November 1917 Fantome was sent to the western Pacific and for the remainder of the war and until December 1918 assumed the police duties in the islands undertaken in pre war days by Royal Navy ships of the China or Pacific Stations. For most of the period she was based at Suva.

Fantome paid off at Sydney on 14 January 1919 for return to the Royal Navy. Refitted and with guns removed, Fantome recommissioned in the Royal Navy at Sydney in April 1920 for service as a survey ship. She served in Australian waters until late 1923. On 9 January 1924 the sloop returned to Sydney to pay off after completing a survey of the western approaches to Endeavour Strait and the Prince of Wales Channel. On 17 April 1924 she paid off for disposal and was sold to William Waugh Ltd of Balmain, Sydney, for breaking up.

HMAS Fantome dressed ship
HMAS Fantome dressed ship

The name Fantome was first borne by a Royal Navy ship in 1809. The third ship of the name, a sloop smaller but similar to HMAS Penguin, served in the Pacific between 1874 and 1878. She was a sister ship of Sappho, Egeria and Flying Fish, all of which served on the Australia Station, the last two as survey ships.