HMAS Kiama (I)
Bathurst Class
Australian Minesweeper
J353, M353
Evans Deakin & Co Ltd, Brisbane
Laid Down
2 November 1942
3 July 1943
Launched by
Mrs Lawson, wife of Minister for Transport
26 January 1944
3 April 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 650 tons
Length 186 feet 2 inches
Beam 31 feet
Draught 8 feet 6 inches
Speed 15 knots
Crew 85
Machinery Triple expansion, 2 shafts
Horsepower 2000
Guns 1 x 4-inch HA gun
Battle Honours

HMAS Kiama 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 Kiama) were built for the Royal Australian Navy and four for the Royal Indian Navy.

HMAS Kiama was laid down at Evans Deakin & Co Ltd, Brisbane, Queensland on 2 November 1942. She was launched on 3 July 1943 by Mrs Lawson, wife of the Minister for Transport and was the first RAN warship to carry the name of the NSW coastal town, 120 kilometres south of Sydney in the Illawarra region. 

Kiama commissioned at Brisbane on 26 January 1944 under the command of Lieutenant Samuel J Bensen RANR(S). 

Kiama began her operational wartime career in March 1944, when she arrived at Milne Bay for service in New Guinea waters. The first three months of duty were almost entirely occupied in escorting New Guinea coastal convoys. In June 1944, she was engaged on anti-submarine patrols in the Solomon Sea. In July 1944, New Guinea convoy duties were resumed.

Kiama taking on stores and provisions during World War II.

In September 1944 Kiama was engaged in troop transport operations between New Guinea and New Britain and on the New Guinea coast. In October 1944 the escorting of convoys was resumed and continued almost without break to the end of the year. At the close of 1944, Kiama had with the exception of a brief visit to Cairns, served continuously in New Guinea waters for a period of more than eight months. During that time the ship steamed some 30,000 miles and was at sea for more than 3000 hours.

On 21 December 1944 Kiama arrived in Sydney. On Christmas Day the ship's company was recalled from leave to go to the assistance of the American ship Robert J Walker, which had been torpedoed and was sinking off the New South Wales coast. Anti-submarine patrols followed until the close of the year. On 3 January 1945 she reached Adelaide and commenced a period in refit.

Left: Engineer Lieutenant JD Davidson and the ship's parrot (AWM 078150). Middle: Ratings checking the rewinding wire ropes on the winch drum (AWM 078158). Right: The officer of the watch aboard Kiama. (AWM 078159)

Kiama resumed service in February 1945, arriving at Fremantle on the 14th of the month. She spent the next two months in Western Australian waters exercising with American submarines based at Fremantle.

On 7 May 1945 she arrived at Port Moresby to begin a further period of service in New Guinea waters. Later in May she carried out a series of coastal bombardments of eastern Buka Island and north eastern Bougainville areas. Bombardments of the same area were repeated in June 1945.

Left: His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester, Governor-General of Australia, coming in on a launch at Motupena Point for an inspection of 3 Division Area, circa July 1945. L-R: unidentified; unidentified; His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester; Lieutenant-General VAH Sturdee, General Officer Commanding First Army; unidentified; Lieutenant-General SG Savige, General Officer Commanding 2 Corps. Kiama can be seen in the background (AWM 093678). Right: The bridge and mast of Kiama, as seen from the forecastle. (AWM 078155)

In July 1945 Kiama, at Torokina, embarked His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester for passage to Mutupina Point in the Solomon Islands. Later in the month she was troop carrying between Torokina and the Treasury Islands. At the close of July, she left New Guinea waters for Brisbane where she arrived on 5 August.

A navy church service being conducted on board Kiama in Bougainville, circa July 1945. The service was conducted by Chaplain FO Hulme-Moir, Headquarters 2 Corps. Personnel from HMAS Lithgow and HMAS Dubbo also attended the service. The organist was Lieutenant-Colonel RR Winton, deputy assistant director of medical services, Headquarters 2 Corps. (AWM 093765)

Left: An Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit Administrative Headquarters was set up at Kavieng with Captain FNW Shand, Angau district officer in charge, to operate in New Ireland and surrounding smaller islands. A RAN detachment from Kiama, shown, marching to the flagpole site for the ceremony of hoisting the Australian Flag, circa October 1945. (AWM 098434)  Right: An Australian RAN rating from Kiama about to hoist the Australian Flag on a Japanese rigged flagpole at the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit Administrative Headquarters. Officers of the AIF, RAN and RAAF are in the background. (AWM 098347)

On 24 August 1945 Kiama returned to New Guinea waters and for the next five months was occupied with troop and store carrying, sweeping and general duties. On 29 January 1946 she arrived in Sydney and on paid off into Reserve on 3 April 1946. In her two years and two months of service Kiama steamed 60,882 miles and was underway for 6369 hours.

Kiama in Sydney Harbour during World War II. The RAN's corvettes proved to be very versatile ships and considered 'Maids of all Work' by those who served in them.

In May 1952, without again being brought into seagoing commission, Kiama was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy. She paid off from the Royal New Zealand Navy on 19 August 1976 for disposal.

HMNZS Kiama alongside at Kiama, NSW, during a visit to Australia, circa 1969.

Further reading

  • '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.