Armament Stores Issuing Ship
Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Greenock Scotland
20 September 1944
31 January 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 2812 Tons (Gross)
Length 91.4 metres
Beam 13.5 metres
Draught 6.6 metres
Speed 11 Knots

Yunnan was built by Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Greenock, Scotland in 1934 for the China Navigation Company and named for the province in south west China. She operated in Chinese waters until late 1941 when she sailed to Australia, following the outbreak of war in the Pacific, arriving in Fremantle on 23 December 1941.

She sailed to Melbourne on 1 February 1942 where she was fitted out as a stores issuing ship. The conversion was completed by 27 April 1942 and the following day Yunnan sailed for Sydney where she was formally requisitioned by the RAN on 22 June 1942. Her initial armament was a 4-inch gun and two .303 Vickers machine guns that were manned by RAN Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship (DEMS) ratings. The bulk of her crew were Merchant Navy personnel consisting of British and Australian officers and Chinese deck and engine room ratings.

Yunnan spent most of 1942 and 1943 in northern Australian waters before proceeding to Milne Bay in mid-August 1943 to act as a stores issuing ship. This created problems for the ships officers as the Chinese crew refused to operate the ship in New Guinea waters. The Chinese ratings were quickly replaced by RAN personnel from the Brisbane depot (HMAS Moreton) who embarked in Townsville to allow the ship to sail.

In June 1944 Yunnan returned to Sydney to undergo a refit and conversion to an ammunition stores issuing ship. She was also fitted with a 40mm Bofors guns and two 20 mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns. Yunnan was commissioned at Sydney on 20 September 1944 under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Hehir, RANR (S) and returned to New Guinea at the end of October where she joined HMAS Poyang in Task Group 77.7 (Service Force Seventh Fleet). 

In December 1944 Yunnan sailed for Leyte Gulf serving there from late December 1944 until early May 1945 supporting Allied ships involved in the Lingayen Gulf landings, of January 1945, and subsequent operations in the liberation of the Philippines. 

During May – August 1945 she operated in the waters around New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands, Morotai and the Sulu Archipelago. In June 1945 she resupplied ammunition to the light cruiser HMAS Hobart and the destroyer HMAS Arunta, at Tawi Tawi, following their involvement in the bombardment of Brunei Bay while supporting the landing of Australian troops. Leading Stores Assistant Martin Voake (who served in Yunnan from April 1945 until February 1946) recalled;

We were loners. Ammunition ships were not good company.’

Yunnan returned to the Philippines after the cessation of hostilities where she suffered her only fatal casualty when Able Seaman Francis Cyril Little drowned, at Manila, on 3 October 1945. He was buried in the US war cemetery in Manila but was subsequently re-interred at Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery in Hong Kong. Yunnan sailed for Sydney in mid-October 1945 and was decommissioned on 31 January 1946.

She was then used by the British Ministry of War Transport for cargo movement duties. After being returned to her owners, in May 1946, she returned to operating in South East Asian waters with occasional visits to Australia. In September 1959 she was sold to the Thai Navigation Company and renamed Hock Ann and later resold and renamed several times.

She is believed to have been broken up for scrap in 1971. Yunnan was one of four ships operated by the RAN or crewed by Australian Merchant Mariners during World War II that were known as the ‘China Fleet’