HMAS Swan (I)
River Class
Torpedo Boat Destroyer
Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney
Laid Down
22 January 1915
11 December 1915
Launched by
Lady Creswell, wife of the first Naval Member
16 August 1916
15 May 1928
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 700 tons
Length 250 feet 9 inches
Beam 24 feet 3 inches
Draught 8 feet
Speed 26 knots
Crew 66
Machinery Parsons turbines
Horsepower 10,600
  • 1 x 4-inch gun
  • 3 x 12-pounder guns
Torpedoes 2 x 18-inch torpedo tubes
Battle Honours

HMAS Swan was one of six River Class torpedo boat destroyers built for the Royal Australian Navy between 1909 and 1916. During the First World War they formed the Australian Destroyer Flotilla. Her sister ships were HMA Ships Huon (I), Parramatta (I), Torrens (I), Warrego (I) and Yarra (I).

HMAS Swan was laid down at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, NSW on 22 January 1915. She was launched by Lady Creswell on 11 December 1915 and was completed on 3 July 1916.

Mrs Pearce at the keel laying, 22 January 1915.
Left: Swan under construction on the slipway, 23 April 1915. Right: Officers of HMAS Swan and dockyard managers.
Left: Swan under construction on the slipway, 23 April 1915. Right: Officers of HMAS Swan and dockyard managers.
Swan was launched on 11 December, 1915 by Lady Creswell at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
Swan was launched on 11 December, 1915 by Lady Creswell at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.

She commissioned in the RAN at Sydney on 16 August 1916 under the command of Commander Arthur Bond, RN.

Swan began her seagoing service as a unit of the British Far East Patrol. She departed Sydney on 28 August 1916 in company with Torrens (I) and arrived at Sandakan in Borneo on 17 September 1916. Here they joined their sister ship Huon (I) and relieved HMA Ships Warrego (I) and Fantome.

Swan pictured with her sister ships.
Swan nested with her sister torpedo boat destroyers.

Based first at Sandakan and later at Singapore, Swan helped to maintain patrols in the Malayan Archipelago until the end of June 1917.


Stoker H.M Mitchell passed away during Swan's time in Singapore. His grave can be found in Kranji war Cemetery. (Swinden Collection)
Stoker H.M Mitchell passed away during Swan's time in Singapore. His grave can be found in Kranji war Cemetery. (Swinden Collection)

Swan left Singapore on 2 July 1917 to proceed to the Mediterranean in company with Huon (I) and Torrens (I). On 7 July at Cocos Island the three Torpedo Boat Destroyers joined Warrego (I), Parramatta (I) and Yarra (I) to form the Australian Destroyer Flotilla under the command of Commander William Warren RN in Parramatta (I).

From Cocos Island the Flotilla proceeded to Diego Garcia to search the archipelago for survivors of two British ships, Jumna and Wordsworth, which had disappeared without trace early in 1917; both vessels had actually been sunk by the German raider SMS Wolf. Nothing was found and the destroyers continued their voyage to the Mediterranean, arriving at Port Said on 9 August 1917. Swan and Warrego (I) detached to carry out escort duties to Alexandria, rejoining the flotilla at Malta on 21 August.

Following refits at Malta and combined anti-submarine exercises, the Australian Flotilla was based in October 1917 at Brindisi on the heel of Italy and assigned the task of maintaining patrols in the Strait of Otranto. The purpose of the patrol was to prevent the passage into the Mediterranean of enemy submarines based at Austrian Adriatic ports. Operating in two divisions the Australian Destroyer Flotilla maintained patrols on the basis of four days at sea, four days in harbour.

Swan in Brindisi, October 1917.

Joined first by a French flotilla and later by Royal Navy destroyers, the Australian ships eventually became part of an anti-submarine force of more than 200 vessels. During the early period of their tour of duty, the enemy, whose submarines were based in Pola at the head of the Adriatic, was fairly active and detection and the subsequent hunt was a common occurrence. Later, however, the enemy effort diminished and eventually the patrol become routine uneventful steaming. Huon (I), Parramatta (I) and Yarra (I) were fitted with captive observer balloons whose object was to detect the lurking submarine while another destroyer stood by ready to act as 'killer'.

In April 1918 the Australian destroyers became part of the British 5th Destroyer Flotilla (Captain GK Chetwode CB, RN). As a result, Commander Arthur Bond RN, who had succeeded Commander Warren (who had accidentally drowned in Brindisi Harbour), assumed command of the flotilla for personnel, pay, medical treatment and 'good organisation and conduct of the vessels' only.

Swan continued her anti-submarine duties in the Adriatic and Mediterranean until the close of October 1918. On 2 October Swan took part as one of the ships used to screen the forces at the bombardment of Durazzo on the Albanian coast, carried out by combined Italian, British, French and American forces. On 17 October the 5th Flotilla left Brindisi for Mudros, leaving Swan (Commander (D)) and Warrego (I) of the Australian Flotilla behind. On 25 October the two destroyers were ordered to Port Said to assist the Japanese naval forces escorting troopships to Salonica.

A rare image of Swan's crew, among the RAN members are a number of foreign allies. A common occurence during WWI. c.1918.


Following the Armistice, Swan embarked a British attache and two Greek officers for passage to Constantinople. She then rejoined the 5th Flotilla at Ismid on the Sea of Marmora, leaving Warrego (I) at Salonica. Swan, with Parramatta (I) and six British destroyers, then joined an allied force at Constantinople. On 25 November, as part of this force, she passed the Bosphorus en route to take over Russian anti-Bolshevik naval units at Sebastopol.

In December 1918 Swan and the French destroyer Bisson were chosen to carry out a mission of inquiry at the Cossack (anti-Bolshevik) headquarters at Novocherkassk on the Don, with orders to report on conditions at Marioupol Taganrog and the surrounding country in the eastern Ukraine. The shallowness of Kertch Strait precluded the use of anything but shallow draught vessels.

Embarking the Russian Admiral Kononoff and an interpreter, the two destroyers visited Kertch before proceeding to Marioupol. Commander Bond with three other Australian officers and six ratings travelled by train on 8 December to Rostof and then to Novocherkassk and were met there by General Krasnoff the Ataman.

The Ataman, in his capacity as locally elected Viceroy, decorated Commander Arthur Bond RN with the Order of St Vladimir (4th Class with swords); Lieutenant Commander GW Bloomfield RAN, Lieutenant JG Boyd RANR and Paymaster Sub Lieutenant D Munro RAN with the Order of St Anne, 2nd Class. The six ratings were decorated with the medal of the Order of St Anne.

The local leaders making plain that they desired the mission to be construed as a sign of willingness by the Allies to contribute military support, feted the Australian and French delegates, who were obliged to maintain the attitude of un-empowered sympathetic enquirers. They were shown the training camp and were on their way to the Cossack fighting front some 300 miles north of the Sea of Azov when a sudden break through by the Bolshevik forces caused the abandonment of the investigation.

Returning south, they visited an ammunition factory at Taganrog, then Ekatwrinodau where a British mission had arrived, rejoined Swan at Marioupol and proceeded for Sebastopol. Here the destroyer helped to guard the railway station at the head of the Valley of Inkerman.

Following assembly at Gibraltar, the Australian Flotilla sailed for England on 3 January 1919 in preparation for the return to Australia. The Australian Flotilla became separated in a storm off Cape St Vincent, with Torrens (I) and Warrego (I) taking refuge in the Tagus - they arrived in Devonport in company on 11 January 1919.

Finally, after many delays, the six destroyers assembled at Malta and in the company of HMAS Melbourne (I) sailed for home waters on 17 March 1919. Proceeding via Singapore and Darwin, Swan entered Sydney Harbour under the command of Commander Burrows on 21 May 1919, after an absence of two years and nine months.

Swan in Sydney Harbour c.May 1920
Swan in Sydney Harbour, circa May 1920.

Swan remained in commission in Australian coastal waters until 18 June 1920 when she paid off into Reserve.

Portside view of Swan in Melbourne c.1920.
Portside view of Swan in Melbourne, circa 1920.

She recommissioned in 1925, spending much of the following two years in Tasmanian waters. On 15 May 1928 she paid off for disposal at Sydney and was stripped of useful fittings and equipment, in 1930, at Cockatoo Dockyard and her hulk towed to the Hawkesbury River.

Swan and her sister ship Parramatta were then used a accommodation vessels, by the NSW Department of Prisons, for men working on road repair in the nearby region. This usage of the vessels met with public outcry and was soon stopped. Both vessels were then moored in the river for a period. In early February 1934 Swan was being towed down the Hawkesbury River, on her way to be scrapped, when she foundered near Juno Point. Her wreck still lies there today in approximately ten metres of water.

HMAS Swan in the Mediterranean (Naval Heritage Collection)