HMAS Katoomba

HMAS Katoomba (J204/M204), named after the tourist resort of Katoomba, New South Wales, was one of 60 Bathurst-class corvettes constructed during World War II, and one of 36 initially manned and commissioned solely by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).[1]

Namesake: Town of Katoomba, New South Wales
Builder: Poole & Steel
Laid down: 9 September 1940
Launched: 16 April 1941
Commissioned: 17 December 1941
Decommissioned: 2 August 1948
Honours and
Fate: Sold for scrap
General characteristics
Class and type: Bathurst-class corvette
Displacement: 650 tons (standard), 1,025 tons (full war load)
Length: 186 ft (57 m)
Beam: 31 ft (9.4 m)
Draught: 8.5 ft (2.6 m)
Propulsion: triple expansion engine, 2 shafts
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) at 1,750 hp
Complement: 85
Armament: 1 × 12-pounder gun, 3 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannons (1 later replaced with 1 × Bofors 40 mm gun), Machine guns, Depth charges chutes and throwers

Design and construction

In 1938, the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board (ACNB) identified the need for a general purpose 'local defence vessel' capable of both anti-submarine and mine-warfare duties, while easy to construct and operate.[2][3] The vessel was initially envisaged as having a displacement of approximately 500 tons, a speed of at least 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph), and a range of 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km; 2,300 mi).[4] The opportunity to build a prototype in the place of a cancelled Bar-class boom defence vessel saw the proposed design increased to a 680-ton vessel, with a 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph) top speed, and a range of 2,850 nautical miles (5,280 km; 3,280 mi), armed with a 4-inch gun, equipped with asdic, and able to fitted with either depth charges or minesweeping equipment depending on the planned operations: although closer in size to a sloop than a local defence vessel, the resulting increased capabilities were accepted due to advantages over British-designed mine warfare and anti-submarine vessels.[2][5] Construction of the prototype HMAS Kangaroo did not go ahead, but the plans were retained.[6] The need for locally built 'all-rounder' vessels at the start of World War II saw the "Australian Minesweepers" (designated as such to hide their anti-submarine capability, but popularly referred to as "corvettes") approved in September 1939, with 60 constructed during the course of the war: 36 (including Katoomba) ordered by the RAN, 20 ordered by the British Admiralty but manned and commissioned as RAN vessels, and 4 for the Royal Indian Navy.[2][7][8][9][1]

Katoomba was laid down by Poole & Steel at Balmain, New South Wales on 9 September 1940.[1] She was launched on 16 April 1941 by Mrs. Lloyd, then deputy mayoress of Katoomba, and was commissioned into the RAN on 17 December 1941.[1]

Operational history

Katoomba entered active service with an assignment to Darwin, where she arrived on 19 December 1941.[1] The next day, Katoomba, along with sister ships Deloraine and Lithgow, and the United States destroyer Edsall, was involved in the prosecution and successful sinking of Japanese submarine I-124, the first enemy submarine sunk in Australian waters.[1] Katoomba was present during the Japanese bombing of Darwin on 19 February, but was not significantly damaged.[1]

At the end of June, Katoomba was reassigned as a convoy escort and anti-submarine patrol ship in the waters of northern Queensland and New Guinea.[1] On 14 August, Katoomba was sent to assist United States submarine S-39, which had run aground on a reef off Rossel Island.[1] Attempts to refloat the submarine were unsuccessful, and on 16 August, the corvette left Rossel Island with S-39’s entire crew of 47 embarked.[1] The submarine was gutted and left to break up naturally.[1] On 28 November, Katoomba and sister ship Ballarat were attacked by a force of ten Japanese dive bombers.[1] The corvettes escaped without serious damage.[1] Katoomba was attacked again during January 1943, when a force of six Japanese aircraft attacked the corvette and the Dutch merchant ship Van Heutz.[1] Katoomba escaped serious damage, but the merchantman was hit, with one man killed and three injured.[1]

In February 1944, Katoomba ended her escort duties, and after a short period on patrol, was sent to Sydney for refitting.[1] Upon her return to New Guinea waters in early May 1944, the corvette was assigned as an anti-submarine patrol ship.[1] She remained in this role until the start of March 1945, although during this period she was occasionally used as an escort ship.[1] The corvette returned to Australian waters, spent three months in Fremantle, then was assigned to Darwin, where she operated until the end of World War II.[1]

After the war's end, Katoomba was sent to the Japanese surrender at Timor, before assignment to mine-clearance duties throughout New Guinea waters.[1] She returned to Sydney in October 1946, and was prepared for decommissioning, but was instead reactivated to help clear the coast of Queensland of mines.[1]

Katoomba received three battle honours for her wartime service: "Darwin 1942", "Pacific 1942–45", and "New Guinea 1942–44".[10][11]

Decommissioning and fate

Katoomba arrived in Fremantle on 16 January 1948, and was paid off into reserve on 2 August.[1] She remained in reserve until 2 May 1957, when she was sold for breaking up as scrap to the Hong Kong Rolling Mills.[1]


  1. "HMAS Katoomba (I)". HMA Ship Histories. Sea Power Centre – Royal Australian Navy. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2008.
  2. Stevens, The Australian Corvettes, p. 1
  3. Stevens, A Critical Vulnerability, p. 103
  4. Stevens, A Critical Vulnerability, pp. 103–4
  5. Stevens, A Critical Vulnerability, pp. 103–5
  6. Stevens, A Critical Vulnerability, p. 104
  7. Stevens, A Critical Vulnerability, pp. 105, 148
  8. Donohue, From Empire Defence to the Long Haul, p. 29
  9. Stevens et al., The Royal Australian Navy, p. 108
  10. "Navy Marks 109th Birthday With Historic Changes To Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  11. "Royal Australian Navy Ship/Unit Battle Honours" (PDF). Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012.


  • Donohue, Hector (October 1996). From Empire Defence to the Long Haul: post-war defence policy and its impact on naval force structure planning 1945–1955. Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs. No. 1. Canberra: Sea Power Centre. ISBN 0-642-25907-0. ISSN 1327-5658. OCLC 36817771.
  • Stevens, David (2005). A Critical Vulnerability: the impact of the submarine threat on Australia's maritime defense 1915–1954. Papers in Australian Maritime Affairs. No. 15. Canberra: Sea Power Centre Australia. ISBN 0-642-29625-1. ISSN 1327-5658. OCLC 62548623.
  • Stevens, David; Sears, Jason; Goldrick, James; Cooper, Alastair; Jones, Peter; Spurling, Kathryn, (2001). Stevens, David (ed.). The Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Centenary History of Defence (vol III). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-554116-2. OCLC 50418095.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
Journal and news articles
  • Stevens, David (May 2010). "The Australian Corvettes" (PDF). Hindsight (Semaphore). Sea Power Centre – Australia. 2010 (5). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2010.

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