HMAS
Waree

HMAS Waree
Type
Tug
Pennant
W
Builder
Cockatoo Docks & Engineering Co Pty Ltd, Sydney
Laid Down
4 July 1938
Launched
21 January 1939
Commissioned
18 September 1942
Decommissioned
17 October 1946
Fate
Lost at sea 17 October 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 233 tons
Length 95 feet
Beam 25 feet
Draught 11 feet 4 inches
Performance
Speed 11.5 knots
Complement
Crew 2 Officers, 11 Sailors
Propulsion
Machinery Single screw triple expansion steam engine
Horsepower 860
Armament
Guns 2 x .303 Vickers machine guns

The steam tug HMAS Waree was built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard as ship number 125, for the Waratah Tug Company. It was laid down on 4 July 1938, launched on 21 January 1939 and completed on 12 April 1939. She was requisitioned for naval service on 4 September 1942 and commissioned at Sydney on 18 September 1942 under the command of Commissioned Warrant Officer E.S. Macpherson, RANR(S).

On 23 September she departed Sydney for Port Morseby where she was based until 30 January 1945. From February 1945 until September 1946 Waree operated in North Queensland and Northern Territory waters.

HMAS Waree stuck fast on the Yamba sand bar.
HMAS Waree stuck fast on the Yamba sand bar.

Waree sailed from Thursday Island on 20 September 1946 for Sydney with full bunkers and 31 tons of deck cargo, leaving her with a mere 18 inches of freeboard. The vessel had been built for harbour duties and when she encountered heavy seas during her passage south, her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant C.M.(Bill) Boas, RANR(S) found maintaining headway almost impossible.

Before long, sea water was pouring into the lower deck compartments and the fore-peak became flooded when water entered through the wardroom skylight. With her pumps working continuously the tug struggled on with its head well down and with steering almost impossible. The situation was exacerbated when the accumulation of ash in flooded coal bunkers clogged the already straining pumps.

At 07:30 on Thursday, 17 October, wireless contact was established with shore authorities and assistance requested. HMAS Macquarie was subsequently diverted to provide help but was to arrive too late to do so. An attempt followed to find a safe anchorage in the vicinity of Woody Head but it was found to be unsatisfactory. It was then decided to proceed to Clarence Head for the night.

Proceeding at only 2 knots, Waree attempted to cross the bar but due to the effect of a South, South-Easterly swell the ship grounded. Attempts to free the vessel were in vain and the order was consequently given to 'abandon ship' at 12:40.

Lieutenant M.C. Hordern, RANVR with Lieutenant C.M. Boas, RANR (S.) Hordern was appointed as a Provost Marshal for Boas' trial and given the duty of escorting him to and from the proceedings.
Lieutenant M.C. Hordern, RANVR with Lieutenant C.M. Boas, RANR (S.) Hordern was appointed as a Provost Marshal for Boas' trial and given the duty of escorting him to and from the proceedings.

All of Warees crew escaped the stricken tug and after a swim of approximately one and a half miles through cross seas they reached the safety of the shore at Iluka Beach. Only one member of Warees crew, Sub Lieutenant G.T. Bethell, RANR, sustained minor injuries when he washed up on a breakwater. The crew was later recovered from the beach by motor launch and carried to safety. Two of Warree's crew were singled out for special mention for their conduct during the abandonment of the tug. Stoker S.H. Mansell and Telegraphist R. Haskard each assisted other members of the crew who got into difficulties during their lengthy swim to safety.

HMAS Waree operating in calm waters in northern Australia. Note the vessel’s low freeboard.
HMAS Waree operating in calm waters in northern Australia. Note the vessel’s low freeboard.

The Waree, battered by the heavy seas, was deemed a total loss and was abandoned as a wreck. The stern is visible under Yamba's northern breakwater projecting about 60 feet into the Clarence River.

A Court Martial was subsequently convened to investigate the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Waree. A guilty finding was returned against Boas, for 'hazarding and stranding' his ship, for which he received a reprimand.

Waree's bell, binnacle and helm which were removed from her wreck can be found on display in the Yamba Museum, River St, Yamba, NSW.