HMAS Kapunda (I)
Bathurst Class
Australian Minesweeper
Poole & Steel Ltd, Sydney
Laid Down
27 August 1941
23 June 1942
Launched by
Mary Lily May Quirk, member for Balmain in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
21 October 1942
14 January 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 768 tons
Length 186 feet
Beam 31 feet
Draught 8 feet 6 inches
Speed 15.5 knots
Crew 77
Machinery Triple expansion, 2 shafts
Horsepower 1800
Guns 1 x 4-inch HA/LA gun
Other Armament
  • 3 x Oerlikons
  • 50 depth charges
Battle Honours

HMAS Kapunda 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 were built on Admiralty order but manned and commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy. Thirty six (including Kapunda) were built for the Royal Australian Navy and four for the Royal Indian Navy.

Kapunda commissioned at Sydney on 21 October 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Commander DA Menlove DSO RANR(S).

A plaque presented to the crew of HMAS Kapunda from her namesake city in December 1942. It now forms part of the WWII display in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
A plaque presented to the crew of HMAS Kapunda from her namesake city in December 1942. It now forms part of the WWII display in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Kapunda began operational duty as a convoy escort vessel on the east coast of Australia, between Sydney and Brisbane. Until January 1943 the enemy were not active, but in that month Japanese submarines began their second sortie into Australian waters. Attacks on coastal shipping followed and eleven ships were lost before the enemy finally abandoned their attempt to halt the flow of supplies to forward areas.

HMAS Kapunda was one of sixty Australian Minesweepers built for service during World War II
HMAS Kapunda was one of sixty Australian Minesweepers built for service during World War II.

No ships were lost while under escort by Kapunda. She was, however, concerned in the rescue on 18 January 1943 of survivors from the torpedoed and badly damaged tanker Mobilube off Sydney.

On 26 January 1943 at Sydney, the Mayor of Kapunda, Councillor Rees, on behalf of the residents on Kapunda, made a presentation to the ship comprising five pewter mugs for the wardroom, four irons and four toaster for the messdecks, and a bronze plaque.

In March 1943 Kapunda began escorting convoys from Queensland ports to Port Moresby and Milne Bay in New Guinea, a duty which kept the ship almost constantly at sea for the following twelve months.

In the same month Kapunda experienced her first engagement with the enemy when a flight of eight Japanese bombers escorted by twelve fighters attacked the Milne Bay bound convoy she was escorting. Her fire and that of her sister ship HMAS Bendigo diverted the attackers from their targets and the bombs fell harmlessly into the water.

Left: Signaller Petty Officer William Coley Bradbury, RANR, is cutting Signaller Roderick William Campbell's hair. Bradbury is cutting hair in the port waist section of Kapunda (Roy Hodgkinson - AWM ART21727). Middle: Drawn in the sick bay of Kapunda. It is an order that all personnel who have been swimming in the harbours will report to sick bay to have their ears attended in order to prevent infection. The patient, Leading Supply Assistant L Lopsely, is holding the kidney tray. On the left is Sick Berth Attendant Malcolm Gregory 'Doc' Williams (Roy Hodgkinson - AWM ART21358). Right: Although routine orders forbid the peeling of potatoes, this has to be done in forward areas owing to the rough handling of potatoes in transit. Drawing done in the waist of Kapunda. L-R: Able Seaman Emmet Joseph Orchard Dwyer, Able Seaman John Walter Coop, Cook Eli Arthur Landow and Able Seaman Robert Victor Hall, all Royal Australian Naval Reserves (Roy Hodgkinson - AWM ART22768).

On 12 April 1943, in New Guinea waters, an enemy formation of thirty-seven aircraft attacked MV Gorgon, one of the ships of Kapunda's convoy. One of the planes was shot down by Oerlikon fire from Kapunda and another hit by anti-aircraft fire from the merchant ship, but the others pressing home the attack scored several hits, setting Gorgon on fire. Kapunda's Commanding Officer, however, took his ship alongside the burning vessel, put fire fighting parties aboard, and after a long struggle subdued the flames and brought the damaged ship safely to port.

On 1 April 1944 Kapunda arrived at Lae in New Guinea to begin operations in new Guinea waters. Thereafter until she returned to Sydney for refit in October 1944, she was engaged in the forward areas escorting, patrolling, including in the Solomon Sea, and furnishing bombardment support to Australian troops ashore.

The refit at Sydney was completed on 20 November and on 2 December Kapunda returned to New Guinea. Operational mainly in the Morotai and Biak Island areas she resumed patrol, bombardment and escort duty.

In June 1945 she proceeded to Darwin for docking and then returned to Morotai for escort duty to Borneo. On 29 July, en route to Balikpapan in Borneo, Kapunda steamed her 100,000th mile since commissioning.

Naval guard on Kapunda waiting to receive Brigadier TC Eastick DSO, ED, Commanding Kuching Relief Force, as he comes aboard to receive the surrender of Major General Yamamura, the Japanese representative. (Left: AWM 041069, right: AWM 041068)
Left: Major General Yamamura signing the instrument of surrender on Kapunda (AWM 116174). Right: The surrender ceremony captured by war artist Douglas Watson. (AWM ART25662)
The Allied terms of surrender insisted that all Japanes officers and senior NCOs were to relinquish their swords. Many of these may now be found on display in museums and memorials around Australia.

Following the end of the hostilities, Kapunda assisted with the evacuation of Allied prisoners of war from Kuching where she was also present for the official surrender ceremony of the Japanese forces in the area. Major General Yamamura signed the instrument of surrender on board Kapunda.

Left: An afternoon tea party was held on Kapunda for mothers and children who had been interned at the prisoner of war camp Kuching, circa September 1945 (AWM 118701). Right: Japanese prisoners of war being moved from an ambulance to Kapunda which is moored alongside the wharf. The prisoners, captured at Madang Airfield, are being transferred from the 111th Casualty Clearing Station to the 106th Casualty Clearing Station at Langemak Bay. Wounded Australians were moved with the Japanese. (AWM 073382)
Kapunda at anchor in Ranai Bay c.1945 (AWM 120645).
Kapunda at anchor in Ranai Bay, circa 1945. (AWM 120645)

When her work connected with the re-establishment of British authority in Borneo was completed, Kapunda returned to Australia, reaching Sydney on 17 November 1945. This marked the end of her seagoing career after four years of war service during which she had steamed 110,177 miles and had been nearly 12,000 hours under way.

Kapunda paid off into Reserve on 14 January 1946. After being declared for disposal on 30 December 1960 she was sold for scrap to Kinoshita (Australia) Pty Ltd on 6 January 1961.


Further reading

  • 'HM Australian Ship Kapunda: A fine little fighting ship' by Mal (Doc) Williams - published by Wally Glover and Ray Burton.
  • 'The Corvettes: Forgotten Ships of the Royal Australian Navy' by Iris Nesdale - published by the author, October, 1982.
  • 'Corvettes - Little Ships for Big Men' by Frank B Walker - published by Kingfisher Press, NSW, 1996.
  • 'The Australian Centenary History of Defence Volume III, The Royal Australian Navy' edited by David Stevens, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2001.