Home' Navy News : September 12th 2013 Contents THE only Australian warship
sunk by a mine was actually
lost two years after the end
of WWII, and in Australian
HMAS Warrnambool, a Bathurst-
class corvette, struck the mine about
4pm on September 13, 1947, near
Cockburn Reef in north Queensland.
Four crewmen lost their lives in
the incident and another 29 were
The officer of the watch was blown
out through the bridge window and the
CO, CMDR Alan Travis, was struck
by shards of glass and knocked uncon-
The ship's bow lifted into the air
and the mast collapsed across the
One of those wounded was Milton
Fuller, now 83 of Brisbane, who was
18 at the time.
Mr Fuller said he had just finished
work as the duty signalman on the
afternoon watch when Warrnambool
struck the mine.
"I was blown off the ladder to the
flag deck, concussed, had a cut to my
head and was unconscious for a short
while," he said.
Warrnambool's engine room took
the brunt of the explosion and a locker
torn from its mounting crushed stoker
Ron Garrett who died shortly after-
Garrett had been in HMAS Vampire
when she was sunk off Ceylon (Sri
Lanka) in 1942 with the loss of the
CO and eight crew and HMAS Hobart
when she was torpedoed near New
This month marks the
66th anniversary of
the sinking of HMAS
Dave Morley reports.
Corvette's final sweep
Hebrides (Vanuatu) in 1943 with the
loss of 13 crew.
ORDSMN John Hyland died of a
fractured skull and AB Donald Sigg
died at Cairns Hospital four days later.
Mr Fuller said signalman Norman
Lott either jumped or was blown over
the side and was dragged away by a
strong current and was later posted as
missing, presumed dead.
"Norm was a great bloke, a friend
and a mentor," he said.
"He was a fully-fledged signalman
who taught me all about being a 'bunt-
Warrnambool rolled over and sank
in 25 metres of water about an hour
after striking the mine.
In the days before the incident,
Warrnambool, her sister corvettes
HMA Ships Mildura and Katoomba
and the sloop HMAS Swan had swept
a large number of mines.
Mr Fuller remembers the mines
going off, "left, right and centre after
being cut free by mine clearing equip-
"The idea was to blow a hole in
them with the Oerlikon guns or rifle
fire and they'd sink," he said.
"But when a round hit the spike
they'd explode with a massive column
of water going up."
The mine that Warrnambool struck
was one of more than 10,000 laid
around the Australian and New Zealand
coasts by Navy's only minelayer,
HMAS Bungaree, from 1941 to 1943.
Ironically Bungaree, renamed
Eastern Mariner, was lost to a mine on
the Saigon River in South Vietnam on
May 26, 1966.
A Board of Inquiry into
Warrnambool's sinking found no one
was guilty of culpable negligence,
CMDR Travis displayed good seaman-
ship and the crew's conduct was in the
best traditions of the Navy.
FINAL MINUTES: HMAS Warrnambool just moments after hitting the mine on September 13, 1947. Her broken mast, collapsed across the deck, is
Photo courtesy of Sea Power Centre
SBLT Georgie Hicks
THERE were light winds and a slight
swell as Assail Six conducted a transit
towards Darwin on July 29, while
embarked in HMAS Pirie II.
The date was auspicious for the
ship, marking the seventh anniversary
of her commissioning.
The occasion was an opportu-
nity to acknowledge the history and
achievements of her earlier namesake
and was celebrated with a cake crafted
to resemble the ship.
Pirie I was a Bathurst-class cor-
vette commissioned on October 10,
1942, in Whyalla, South Australia.
Soon after commissioning she
commenced escort duties in New
Guinea until she was attacked and
severely damaged by Japanese aircraft
at Oro Bay in an engagement that
killed seven of her crew and wounded
After repairs she continued in
this role until late 1944 when she
was tasked with clearing mines from
Australian waters before joining the
British Pacific Fleet in 1945.
Pirie I was one of the first Allied
ships to enter Tokyo Bay after the
Japanese surrender and was present
for the formal surrender on September
Patrol boat crews help to
carry on a proud name
The Armidale-class patrol
boat Pirie II was named in her
honour, and has had seven years
of successful service under the
After her commissioning
in Port Pirie in 2006, she was
involved in UAV trials at Port
Hedland and participated in
Exercise Mako Moon and SASR
trials in Cockburn Sound the fol-
In 2008, Pirie II joined HMA
Ships Melbourne and Toowoomba
and RSS Vigour and Vengeance
for Exercise Singaroo.
She was present at the Chinese
International Fleet Review in
2009, the Timor Fleet Review in
2010 and Exercise Cassowary in
Kupang, Indonesia in 2010.
In April last year she returned
to Kupang for Operation Corpat
and spent time in company with
KRI Kapop and Tongkal.
In addition to these exercises,
Pirie II has actively contributed
to Australia's border protection
operations since November 2006.
More recently she has been
home to the Assail Division and
assigned to Operation Resolute.
During Resolute, she has
served at Ashmore Reef,
Christmas Island and the Joint
Petroleum Development Area, as
well as other regions off the north-
west coast of Australia.
www.defence.gov.au/news/NAVYNEWS September 12, 2013
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