Anniversary extravaganza for HMAS Whyalla

SPECIAL MOMENT: The HMAS Whyalla was launched on May 12, 1941, and had a speed of 14.5 knots, and carried 1 4-inch gun, 3 anti-aircraft guns and 22 depth charges. Photo - Whyalla City Council.
SPECIAL MOMENT: The HMAS Whyalla was launched on May 12, 1941, and had a speed of 14.5 knots, and carried 1 4-inch gun, 3 anti-aircraft guns and 22 depth charges. Photo - Whyalla City Council.

On this day 80 years ago (May 12, 1941), amidst great fanfare, the HMAS Whyalla was launched in the Whyalla shipyards.

The first of 66 vessels built in the Whyalla shipyards, the former HMAS Whyalla now rests on dry land 2 kilometres from the sea and 2 metres off the ground.

The showstopper of the Whyalla Maritime Museum, the ship stands sentinel on the Lincoln Highway as a proud testament to Whyalla's shipbuilding past.

Now the Whyalla City Council are celebrating the 80th anniversary with free entry to the Whyalla Maritime Museum for residents every day for the month of May, and a huge community Open Day this Sunday.

The open day will run from 10am-4pm, with a special flag raising ceremony from 11:30am featuring a performance by the Royal Australian Navy Band.

There'll be a vintage car display including an awesome police interceptor, food and drinks, jumpy castle, clowns and activities for the kids.

Throughout the day the gardens will come alive with jazz and rock music, with the Royal Australian Navy Jazz Group performing in the morning and the Royal Australian Navy Rock Band set to wow the crowd in the afternoon.

The doors to the Maritime Museum building will be thrown open and residents can wander through the treasured collection of artefacts and memorabilia.

There's also a bonus temporary exhibition - BHP Shipbuilding in Whyalla - in one of the galleries to commemorate SA History Month.

The kids will love the wonderful HO gauge model railway with over 400 metres of track and if they look closely they should be able to spot the miniature rabbits and kangaroos dotted on the model railway landscape.

You can tour the land-locked ship at 1pm, 2pm or 3pm (bookings essential for tour numbers - 8645 7900).

HMAS WHYALLA HISTORY

Four corvettes were built in Whyalla under the Commonwealth Government's wartime shipbuilding program - HMAS WHYALLA (launched May 12, 1941), HMAS KALGOORLIE (August 7), HMAS GAWLER (October 4), and HMAS PIRIE (December 3).

The WHYALLA had a speed of 14.5 knots, and carried 1 4-inch gun, 3 anti-aircraft guns and 22 depth charges.

First captain was Lieutenant Commander L N Morrison.

Following commissioning and a "work up" period, The WHYALLA went into service on escort and patrol duty on the Australian East Coast.

She was in Sydney Harbour on the night of May 31, 1942, when the Japanese midget submarine attack took place, and was one of a number of ships allocated as escorts when Australian coastal convoys were instituted on June 8, 1942.

The WHYALLA continued East Coast convoy escort duty until December 1942, when she proceeded to New Guinea.

During this period, she undertook mine sweeping duties and also operated as a survey vessel chartering the approaches to islands north of Australia prior to the Japanese being driven out.

In June 1943, the vessel returned to Australia for a major refit and was allocated East Coast convoy duty until February, 1944. It was then that The WHYALLA was attached to the British Pacific Fleet.

In 1945, and until the end of the war, she served on escort and anti-submarine patrol duty.

During this time, she served briefly in China waters, returning safely to Australia in October 1945 after having steamed 111,000 miles on war service.

The WHYALLA began a new life in 1947 after being sold to the Victorian Public Works Department and renamed The RIP.

It was employed on a continuous program of blasting operations designed to keep clear a dangerous stretch of water called The Rip at the entrance of Port Phillip Bay.

The vessel's duties also included work as a Buoy Maintenance Vessel and attending to the pile lights of Port Phillip Bay, and other ports along the Victorian coast.

In 1984 the City of Whyalla became aware that the ship was to be sold as scrap, but after extensive negotiations it was sold to the Whyalla City Council for $5,000.

The ship was sailed back to its home port from Williamstown in Victoria by a crew comprising mainly of volunteers augmented by professional seamen.