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Kiwi Bathurst Tales

Gerry Wright

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Bathurst class corvettes built in Australian shipyards during WW2, ostensibly mineswepers but in practice johnny-all-jobs. Built 60 during war, at 8 Aust shipyards. Three ships were sunk during the war, one in a Japanese air attack, the other two when they collided with a civilian freighter. Another, the HMAS Warrnambool, became the only Australian ship sunk by mines .... one of their own .... in 1947, while clearing mines laid by a sister ship during the war. Mine clearing was regarded as hazardous duty and the sailors got danger money .... an extra sixpence a day.

After the war they were sold off to various other navies, but four were gifted to RNZN for training.

One of the others had a strange history. Sold to the Royal Netherlands Navy, and then on to the Indonesian Navy as KRI Hang Tuah. In 1958 it was bombed and sunk by a Douglas B-26 Invader operated by the CIA supporting rebels opposed to the Gilded Democracy established in Indonesia the previous year.

RNZN took delivery of 4 ships 1952. They were docked for routine painting and then for modernisation. The Echuca had a low priority update from 1958 to 1961 but was never finished, and never went to sea again.

Military Training Act 1949 prescribed compulsory 14 weeks training, then 3 years of part-time service for all male 18 yos. This was replaced in 1961 with a ballot of 20 yos who had to do 3 months training and then 3 weeks every year for next 3 years.

The last of the Bathursts taken out of service 1976.

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