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HMAS Whyalla Celebrates Seventy

The World War Two era Royal Australian Navy corvette, HMAS Whyalla, was built by BHP at Whyalla 70 years ago and the launch will be commemorated on 8 January 2012.

Whyalla was initially engaged in convoy escort duty of the eastern coast of Australia. The ship was present in Sydney Harbour during the Japanese midget submarine attack.

In December, the corvette was assigned to surveying in the Milne Bay area of New Guinea Whyalla undertook the dangerous task of surveying the unchartered passage from Milne Bay to Oro Bay for the famous Australian attack on Buna. The ship than took part in the landings at Oro Bay.

While surveying McLaren Harbour on Cape Nelson peninsular, the corvette was attacked by Japanese aircraft and suffered damage from near misses, two of her crew being wounded by bomb splinters. A few of the bombs fell co close to her that charts were washed overboard from the bridge.

Whyalla was under attack from the air a number of times as she continued the dangerous task of surveying New Guinea waters, aften under the noses of the Japanese forces ashore.

In April 1943, Whyalla added her anti-aircraft fire in defence against a heavy Japanese bomber raid on Milne Bay in which one ship was lost and another badly damaged.

She joined the British Pacific Fleet in November 1944, serving in a variety of roles including minesweeping, convoy escort, anti-submarine patrols, surveying and shore bombardments during landings. Whyalla was present at the American landings at Okinawa.

After the war, Whyalla was briefly engaged in mine clearing operations off Hong Kong, before returning to Australia and paying off from the Royal Australian Navy on the 16th of May 1946.

The little corvette had steamed 111,000 miles on war service.

Whyalla was sold to the Victorian Government in 1947, renamed The Rip and served until 1984 as a lighthouse maintenance ship in Victorian waters.

She returned to Whyalla under her own power in 1984 after being purchased by the Whyalla City Council for $5,000. After being pulled up onto the same slip she was launched from in 1941, she eventually came to her present position a couple of miles inland as the centre-piece for the Whyalla Maritime Museum.

The story of the 60 corvettes built in Australian shipyards and the yeoman service they provided to this country in wartime is little known. BHP in Whyalla can be proud of the fact that she built four of these durable little ships during World War Two.

On 8th January 2012, the South Australian Branch of the Naval Association is planning a commemoration ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of HMAS Whyalla�s Commissioning. The Whyalla sub-branch of the association will host the ceremony. The contact for the event is:

Allen Lyne,
Vice President,
NNA (SA Branch)
Phone: (08) 8327 4142
Mobile: 0407 605 710
Email: beartwo@bigpond.com

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