HMAS Yarra (III)
River Class
Destroyer Escort
DE 45
Williamstown Naval Dockyard, Melbourne
Laid Down
9 April 1957
30 September 1958
Launched by
Lady McBride, wife of the Minister for Defence
27 July 1961
22 November 1985
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 2,200 tons
Length 370 feet
Beam 41 feet
Draught 17 feet
Speed 30 knots
Crew 250
Machinery Geared turbines, two shafts
Horsepower 30,000
  • Seacat Guided Missile System
  • Ikara Anti-submarine Missile System
  • 2 x 4.5-inch guns
  • 2 x 40mm Bofors (later removed)
Other Armament 2 x Limbo triple-barrelled anti-submarine mortars (1 later removed)
Inherited Battle Honours
Battle Honours MALAYSIA 1964–66
HMAS Yarra (III) Badge

HMAS Yarra (III) was one of six Modified Type 12 frigates built in Australia between 1957 and 1971. Her sister ships were HMA Ships Parramatta (III), Derwent, Stuart (II), Swan (III) and Torrens (II).

The Modified Type 12 frigates built for the Royal Australian Navy were generally similar to that of British Type 12 anti-submarine frigates, modified to incorporate improvements in equipment and habitability. They were later redesignated by the Royal Australian Navy as Destroyer Escorts.

Final preparations are made before the  launching of Yarra (III) in Williamstown.

Final preparations are made before the launching of Yarra (III) in Williamstown.

Yarra (III), the third Australian ship to bear the name, was laid down at Williamstown Naval  Dockyard on  9 April 1957. She was launched by Lady McBride, wife of the Minister for Defence on 30 September 1958 and commissioned on 27 July 1961 under the command of Commander James L.W Merson RAN.

After her sea trials and workup, Yarra transferred to the operational and administrative command of the Flag Officer Commanding HM Australian Fleet on 1 November 1961 and became a member of the 2nd Division, 1st Frigate Squadron. Yarra exercised with her sister ship Parramatta for the remainder of the year and made her first operational visit to New Zealand in November and December.

The launching of Yarra (III) by Lady McBride, wife of the Minister for Defence on 30 September 1958.

The launching of Yarra (III) by Lady McBride, wife of the Minister for Defence on 30 September 1958.

Yarra in Port Phillip with Voyager, Parramatta & Queenborough

Yarra in Port Phillip with Voyager, Parramatta & Queenborough

Yarra healing over during speed and acceptance trials.

Yarra healing over during speed and acceptance trials.

A short refit at Williamstown in early 1962 was a prelude to service with the Far East Strategic Reserve between April and October, during which Yarra visited four Japanese ports plus Singapore, Hong Kong and Penang . After returning to Australia in mid October 1962, Yarra spent the remainder of the year at Williamstown Dockyard.

Yarra again sailed for the Strategic Reserve in March 1963 and participated in the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) Exercise SEA SERPENT during the deployment. The remainder of the year was spent in Australian and New Guinea waters. Yarra was also involved in the search for missing junior officers from HMAS Sydney (III) in the Whitsunday Passage during October 1963.

Yarra began her third Strategic Reserve deployment in February 1964. On her return to Australia in July, Yarra commenced a five month refit at Williamstown Dockyard. Concurrent with the refit work was the installation of the SEACAT anti-air guided missile system. Post refit trials and training on SEACAT occupied the early months of 1965 and by April 1965, Yarra once again departed for service with the Strategic Reserve. During this deployment, which was completed in September 1965, Yarra spent two months conducting anti-infiltration patrols in Malayan and Borneo waters during the Indonesian Confrontation.

In June and July Yarra was employed on guardship duty off the Tawau area. During this period she conducted shore bombardments as a deterrent against possible Indonesian incursions. Prior to this, and while on passage from Singapore to Manila in May to participate in the SEATO Exercise SEA HORSE, Yarra located the wreck of HMS Repulse about 45 miles to the north of Pulau Tioman. On return to Australia, local area exercises and training occupied the remainder of the year.

The period of January to March 1966 saw Yarra participate in Joint Unit Control exercises in the Sydney and Jervis Bay areas before departing for the Far East Station in late March. This was a three month deployment which encompassed the SEATO Exercise SEA IMP, escort duty for HMAS Sydney (III) to Vung Tau, Vietnam, and the usual port visits.

Yarra conducting a replenishment at sea.

Yarra healing over during speed and acceptance trials.

Yarra entered an eight month refit at Williamstown Naval Dockyard in July 1966. Work undertaken included the installation of the IKARA missile system. Post refit trials began in February 1967. The subsequent months were taken up with sea acceptance trials on IKARA. Following a period of self maintenance and final deployment preparations, Yarra departed Sydney in September 1967 on a six month deployment to the Far East Station.

During the deployment Yarra assisted HMS Ajax in the search and rescue of personnel from a Royal Air Force Shackleton which had ditched west of Sumatra, escorted HMAS Sydney (III) to Vietnam and visited the Indian Ocean. Yarra arrived back in Australia in March 1968 and after an intermediate docking at Williamstown participated in Exercise LONGEX 68 in New Zealand waters.

Yarra (III) at sea.
Yarra (III) at sea.

Because of a delay in replacing a gun mounting on HMAS Derwent (I), Yarra again departed for the Strategic Reserve in September and was away for six weeks before being relieved by Derwent (I) and returning home for Christmas.

The first half of 1969 was taken up with a refit at Williamstown, with sea trials and local area exercises occupying the period of July to October. Yarra departed Sydney on 10 October 1969 for the Strategic Reserve and participated in the SEATO Exercise PX41 before escorting HMAS Sydney (III) to Vietnam .

In 1969 the RAN adopted pennant numbers from block allocations found in ACP 113, and at the same time introduced bold style ship's pennant numbers on the hulls of its warships.

In 1969 the RAN adopted pennant numbers from block allocations found in ACP 113, and at the same time introduced bold style ship's pennant numbers on the hulls of its warships.

Her return to Australia in April 1970 was short lived and after a three month mid cycle docking Yarra again departed for Strategic Reserve service in September 1970. This deployment saw her proceed to the Far East via Guam and Kwajalein to Pearl Harbor where she conducted IKARA firings on the local United States Navy range. Escort duty for HMAS Sydney (III) to Vietnam and participation in Exercise FEBEX off Singapore in February 1971 followed. Yarra returned to Sydney via Western Australia in April 1971.

After several months of local area exercises Yarra departed Sydney for Hawaii in October 1971 to participate in the first of the RIMPAC exercises, RIMPAC 71. This was a prelude to a main refit which commenced in December 1971 and saw Yarra in dockyard hands until October 1972. Post refit trials and a visit to New Zealand for Exercise AUCKEX 72 completed the year.


Yarra departing Pearl Harbor to participate in the first RIMPAC exercise.
Yarra departing Pearl Harbor to participate in the first RIMPAC exercise.

Yarra departed for an ANZUK deployment to the Far East in June 1973 after a workup period and local area exercises. In August 1973 Yarra collided with No 4 buoy on the approach to Victoria Basin in Hong Kong , and had to undergo a starboard propeller change at Whampoa shipyards. Exercises in the Singapore area and visits to Thailand and Indonesia completed the deployment. Yarra arrived in Sydney in late November for a leave and self maintenance period.

July 1974 saw Yarra at Williamstown Dockyard to be fitted with MULLOKA sonar. This refit lasted until early 1975 and Yarra was utilised almost exclusively for the remainder of 1975 and most of 1976 as the MULLOKA trials ship. Preparations for her half life refit commenced in September 1976 and Yarra (III) decommissioned on 11 October 1976 for refit at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney.

Yarra recommissioned on 16 December 1977 under the command of Commander W. Sam G. Bateman. Shakedown trials and workup followed. Once again Yarra was almost exclusively used for MULLOKA trials during 1978 and 1979, these trials being interspersed with Australian and New Zealand port visits.

Commander W. Sam G. Bateman

HMAS Yarra recommissioned on 16 December 1977 under the command of Commander W. Sam G. Bateman.

Early 1980 saw Yarra depart for Exercise RIMPAC 80 which was conducted in both Hawaiian waters and during transit from Hawaii to the west coast of the United States . Visits to San Diego , Long Beach , Esquimalt, Vancouver and San Francisco followed and Yarra returned to Australia in June via Pearl Harbor, Suva and Apia . During July 1980 Yarra visited Port Vila for the New Hebrides Islands Independence celebrations.

Preparations for refit were commenced in October 1980 and Yarra began a ten month refit at Sydney in November. This refit was completed in September 1981 and the remainder of that year was taken up with post refit trials and workup. The first half of 1982 saw Yarra participate in local area exercises and deploy to Hawaii for Exercise RIMPAC 82.

On 27 July 1982 Yarra celebrated her 21st birthday. Her Report of Proceedings for July stated 'July 27 was the 21st Anniversary of commissioning of Yarra (III) by Lady McBride, Williamstown Dockyard, 1961. During these years Yarra (III) was at sea on 1,808 days and steamed 612,270 miles including 9 visits to South East Asia, 5 visits to USA and one deployment in the Indian Ocean . The ship has undergone 9 refits and 13 dockings. There have been 20 Commanding Officers of which 10 are still serving in the RAN.

Yarra departed Sydney on 23 August 1982 for a South East Asian deployment in company with her sister ship HMAS Swan (III). After port visits to Manila , Hong Kong , Singapore , Penang and Jakarta, Yarra (III) underwent a two week Self Maintenance Period at HMAS Stirling before participating in Exercise SANDGROPER 82 with other fleet units. She returned to Sydney on 10 December 1982 after a four month deployment.

Yarra preparing to conduct a replenishment at sea. This is indicated by flying flag romeo close up.
Yarra making a replensihment approach in SE Asian waters.

Early 1983 was an exercise period for Yarra, with participation in a Fleet Concentration Period and Exercise SEA EAGLE 83. A South West Pacific deployment followed in March and April, and in May Yarra departed for South East Asia to take part in a Five Power Defence Agreement exercise, STARFISH 3/83. Arriving back in Australia in July, Yarra underwent a five month extended Intermediate Docking at Williamstown before returning to Sydney on 20 December 1983.

The first part of 1984 was a repeat of early 1983 and Yarra was involved in MULLOKA sonar trials and acceptance trials for the new Sydney degaussing range. The final South East Asian deployment for Yarra commenced in August 1984 when she departed Sydney as a member of Task Group 627.2. During the deployment Yarra was involved in a collision with HMAS Sydney (III) during a jackstay transfer and suffered minor damage. Visits to Balikpapan , Manila , Shanghai , Hong Kong, Bangkok and Surabaya followed before participation in Exercise SANDGROPER 84 off Western Australia . Further exercises with Indonesian naval forces were conducted in the Darwin area during November and Yarra (III) arrived back in Sydney on 29 November 1984 after an absence of 16 weeks.

The final year of Yarra's long career began with trials of the Sonar Acquisition Display System (SADS) with HMAS Otway (II). These were followed by participation in local area exercises. Yarra visited Brisbane in March 1985 as part of a combined Royal Austraian Navy / United States Navy task group which had exercised off the Australian east coast.

Yarra visited Newcastle in July 1985 to participate in the commemoration of the 43rd anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Yarra's final overseas deployment commenced in August 1985 and saw the ship visit Port Vila and Port Moresby, the latter for the 10th anniversary of Papua New Guinea Independence. She returned to Sydney in late September.

Yarra's last day at sea was 8 November 1985, when she sailed for the day with seven survivors from HMAS Yarra (II) on board. She decommissioned on 22 November 1985 after a 24 year career and having steamed 714,054 nautical miles.