Q: What was HMAS Inverell?

A: One of 60 Bathurst class minesweepers built in Australian shipyards during the Government’s World War II shipbuilding program.  Inverell seems an odd name for a warship, doesn’t it?  Well, the corvettes – as the class was more often called – were named after Australian regional cities and towns.

Inverell was built at Mort’s Dock in Sydney and commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1942 having been launched by Mrs T S Punch, Mayoress of Inverell.  Based in Darwin, Inverell rescued the crew of a US Army Air Force bomber which had crashed on Croker Island.  From September 1944 she operated out of Fremantle, training with USN and RN submarines, and also doing convoy escorts and patrols. This deployment lasted until May 1945 when she was sent back to Darwin for minesweeping duties.  In July she was based in Morotai and used as a patrol vessel until the end of World War II.  Inverell received two battle honours for wartime service: Darwin 1943, and Pacific 1942-45.

Post-war duties included assisting in the transfer of Dutch East Indies territories from Japanese to Allied control; and a month operating off the coast of Queensland before arriving in Brisbane on 25 December 1945 for decommissioning.  Inverell was paid off into reserve on 14 June 1946 and in November was towed to Sydney by sister ship HMAS Echuca

Preparing HMAS INVERELL for transfer to the RNZN

Preparing HMAS INVERELL for transfer to the RNZN

On 5 March 1952, Inverell and three other Bathurst class corvettes (HMA Ships EchucaKiama and Stawell) were transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).  The museum’s photographic collection includes a series of 15 photos taken by the Samuel J Hood Studio of HMAS Inverell being made ready for handover to the RNZN.

The date was Thursday 10 April 1952. And it was raining. But that didn’t stop the last minute preparations in making the ship presentable for the official ceremony. The Hood photos capture the event succinctly – The Minister for Defence, Phillip McBride and the New Zealand High Commissioner Mr G Alderton each making a speech; the transfer of flags on the jackstaff; and the ship and crew looking spick and span. Of interest is the third government official – the then Minister for Navy and Air, William McMahon.

The official handover

The official handover

Inverell served in NZ until 1976; she was scrapped the following year.  If you’d like to see a corvette in real-life you can find ex-HMAS Whyalla in Whyalla, South Australia; ex-HMAS Castlemaine is in Williamstown, Victoria; and HMCS Sackville (a Flower class corvette in the Canadian Navy) is at Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Hood photographic collection is a treasure trove of snapshots of maritime life and events on Sydney Harbour. This has been one of them.

Lindsey Shaw, Senior Curator

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