Bathurst Class
Australian Minesweeper
Mort's Dock & Engineering Co Ltd, Sydney
Laid Down
23 September 1940
15 March 1941
Launched by
Mrs Durnford, wife of the Second Naval Member
23 July 1941
11 September 1953
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 650 tons
Length 186 feet
Beam 31 feet
Draught 8 feet 6 inches
Speed 15 knots
Crew 85
Machinery Triple expansion, 2 shafts
Horsepower 1750
  • 1 x 4-inch gun
  • 1 Bofors (later)
  • Machine guns
Other Armament
  • 3 x Oerlikons (later 2)
  • Depth charge chutes and throwers
Battle Honours
HMAS Mildura (I)

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

HMAS Mildura was laid down at Morts Dock Engineering Company, Balmain, Sydney, NSW on 23 September 1940. She was launched on 15 March 1941 by Mrs J (Marie) Durnford, wife of the Second Naval Member and was the first RAN warship to carry the name of the north west Victorian regional city. By the war's end Mort's Dock had constructed fourteen of the sixty Bathurst Class corvettes.

A chaplain blesses Mildura prior to being launched at Mort's Dock, Balmain, Sydney on 15 March 1941. (AWM 006593)

After fitting out, Mildura commissioned at Sydney on 23 July 1941, under the command of Lieutenant George EVG Owen RANR(S).

The ship joined the 20th Minesweeping Flotilla on 29 August 1941, and operated as a unit of the Flotilla until it was disbanded late in 1941. Until August 1942 Mildura was engaged in minesweeping, escort duties and anti-submarine patrols in Australian and South Pacific waters.

The dry dock is flooded following completion of the launching ceremony.
Mildura formed part of the 20th Minesweeping Flotilla. 

From September 1942 to December 1943 she operated as one of the escort vessels protecting the movement of Australian east coast convoys. During this period eleven merchant ships were sunk by Japanese submarine off the east coast with a loss of 407 lives.

Left: Mildura. Right: HMAS Mildura wearing her wartime disruptive pattern camouflage paint.
Two contrasting views of HMAS Mildura. Left: Working up wearing the standard Admiralty pattern grey paint scheme. Right: The ship as she appeared wearing her wartime disruptive pattern camouflage.

In January 1943 Mildura assisted in the salvage and tow to Sydney of the disabled American vessel SS Peter Burnett which had been torpedoed some 530 miles east of Sydney. Several attacks were made on convoys escorted by Mildura. The Australian vessel SS Iron Knight was torpedoed without warning and sank in two minutes, with the loss of 37 lives on 8 February 1943.

From January to July 1944, Mildura served on anti-submarine patrol duty in Queensland waters and as escort to convoys proceeding from Townsville to New Guinea. In August 1944 she was transferred to the operational control of the Naval Officer-in-Charge, Fremantle, arriving at that port on 30 August. Until the end of the year she joined with other ships to provide escort and anti-submarine patrols, mainly in the approaches to Fremantle.

Ship's company of Mildura assembled on the fore deck in front of the 4-inch gun in Fremantle, circa 1944. L-R front row: Reg Hill, Norm 'Fonts' Wells, Jack 'Mickey' Finn and Ken 'Chips' Sawers. Second row: Stan 'The Ferret' Parkhill, Noel Herrin, Wally Jarman, 'Pop' Morrison, Lieutenant Reg 'Guns' Nolan (Gunnery Officer), Lieutenant George Sangster (First Lieutenant), Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Little (Captain), Lieutenant Bob Frame, Max Choat, Dave Waite and Alf Graham. Third row: Stan 'Grandad' Lees, Lindsay 'Admiral' Bourke, Bill Dunlop, Ian 'Mac' McDonald, Darrell 'Tim' Timothy, John Robson, Col Kroemer, Harold 'Fanny' Medwin, Ross Kalin, Joe Carey, Ernie Morrison, Lennie Melrose and Tommy Fletcher. Fourth row: George 'The Count' Wood, Doug Lidden, Jack Sangster, Len 'Bungy' Williams, Bill Peterson, Eric 'Chuffy' Dalton, Tommy Jones, Des 'Mac' McPherson, Bob Nelson, Jeff 'Mac' McFarlane, Gordon 'Bluey' Smyrell, Jack Pantry, Dick Bullen, Ron 'Doc' Endersby and Bob McGuire. Fifth row: Raymond 'Snowy' Moore, Harry 'Scrubby' Little, George 'Dungy' Burns, Lach 'Pittsy' Pitts, Jack 'The Ghoul' Coulter, Allan 'Tubby' Walsh, Jack 'Lasher' Hansen, George 'Bomb Head' McClure, Dave 'Spud' Tait, John 'Sandy' Sanderson, Allan 'Doc' Prentice, Max 'Bluey' Herring, Allan 'Snowy' Forbes, Jack 'Dadda' Morey and Stan 'Pappy' Provis. Back row: Geoff 'Ollie' Twist, Bernie 'Lofty' Lowe, Laurie Codell, George Green, Albert Marley, Brian 'Paddy' Doyle, Gordon 'Woffa' Steel, Jim 'Jacko' Jackson, Albert 'Butch' Freer, Phill Leonard, Alf 'Speed' Thiele, Charles 'Slaggy' Bennetts, Jim 'Diamond' Radburn, Jim Stark and Nigel Plozza. (AWM P02066.002)

Following a refit at Fremantle, Mildura transferred to the control of the Naval Officer-in-Charge, New Guinea, on 14 March 1945. Proceeding via Darwin she arrived at Port Moresby on 28 March 1945, proceeding thence to Morotai. At Morotai she operated as a stationery patrol vessel interspersed with escort duty to Biak.

Members of the crew of Mildura grouped forward of the 4-inch gun off Tarakan Island, circa 1945. (AWM 110293)

On 22 June 1945 she proceeded independently to Tarakan, Borneo, where she carried out dusk to dawn harbour approach patrols, returning to Morotai on 1 July. En route a party was landed on Makelhi Island to search for the crew of a wrecked Catalina flying boat sighted on the beach. Six natives who emerged from the bush reported the rescue of the airman by another aircraft. Anxious to leave the area to escape the ‘Japan man's' attentions, they were given passage to Morotai. The remainder of July was spent at Morotai interspersed with escort duty between Zamboanga and Borneo.

Following two week of patrols and guardship service at Balikpapan, Mildura proceeded to Subic Bay in the Philippines where she joined seven of her sister ships to form a Royal Australian Navy Minesweeping Flotilla. The group arrived at Hong Kong on 30 August 1945.

Following a period of boiler cleaning, patrolling, rounding up enemy small craft and taking over the Hong Kong brewery from the Japanese, Mildura was allocated as a unit of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla in mid September 1945. Minesweeping operations with the Flotilla in Chinese waters continued until 17 October 1945. On 20 October, at Hong Kong, she proceeded ‘on the first stage of the long and keenly awaited return to Australia'. She reached Sydney on 19 November 1945 after an absence of two years and seven days.

Left: An informal group portrait of the communications ratings on Mildura, taken on the deck. Standing, from left: Signalman L Williams, Coder K Wischusen, Telegraphist J Robson. Sitting, from left: Telegraphist W Peterson, Leading Telegraphist N Marryat, Signalman A Waugh and Telegraphist J Coulter. (AWM P02064.003). Right: Sailors conducting a gun drill, loading the 4-inch gun on the forward deck. (AWM P02064.006)

Following a refit Mildura resumed service in February 1946 as a unit of the 20th Minesweeping Flotilla. Operations with the Flotilla clearing minefields in Australian, New Guinea and Solomon Islands waters kept her fully occupied until October 1947. On 16 January 1948 she reached Fremantle, where she paid off on 21 May 1948.

Mildura recommissioned at Fremantle on 20 February 1951 for service as a training ship, under the command of Lieutenant John Ferguson DSC RAN. In this capacity she served in Western Australian waters, training National Service Trainees, until 1953, after which she proceeded to Melbourne.

Mildura (Allan C. Green, State Library of Victoria).
Mildura in Port Phillip Bay, circa 1945. (Allan C Green, State Library of Victoria)

Mildura paid off at Melbourne on 11 September 1953, having steamed 208,132 miles since first commissioning in July 1941. On 8 December 1954 the tug HMAS Sprightly departed Melbourne with Mildura in tow. The vessels arrived at Brisbane on 15 December. At Brisbane Mildura served as an immobilised reserve training ship.

Mildura was sold for scrap on 8 September 1965 to Brisbane Non-Ferrous Pty Ltd.

Mildura's ship's bell is now held in the former council chambers, now the committee room, of the Mildura City Council.
Mildura's ship's bell is now held in the former council chambers, now the committee room, of the Mildura City Council.

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.