HMAS Benalla (J323)

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HMAS Benalla shortly after she was commissioned. A gun shield was later fitted to her 4-inch gun.
HMAS Benalla shortly after she was commissioned. A gun shield was later fitted to her 4-inch gun.
Career (Australia)
Namesake: City of Benalla, Victoria
Builder: HMA Naval Dockyard in Williamstown, Victoria
Laid down: 24 March 1942
Launched: 19 December 1942
Commissioned: 27 April 1943
Decommissioned: 28 January 1946
Motto: "We Lead Others Follow"
Honours and
Battle honours:
New Guinea 1943-44[1][2]
Fate: Sold for scrap on 20 February 1958
Badge: Hmas benalla crest.png
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) at 1,750 hp
Complement: 107
Armament: 1 x 4-inch gun
1 x 12 pounder gun (temporary installation)
3 x Oerlikons (later increased to 5, then decreased to 4)
Machine guns
Depth charges chutes and throwers

HMAS Benalla (J323/M323), named for the city of Benalla, Victoria, 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).[3]


Benalla was laid down at HMA Naval Dockyard in Williamstown, Victoria on 24 March 1942.[3] She was launched on 19 December 1942 by the wife of Arthur Drakeford, serving Minister for the Air, and commissioned on 28 April 1943.[3]

Despite being part of a class of minesweepers, Benalla was fitted out as an armed survey ship.[3] Minesweeping gear was not installed, and an extension to X deck housed a large chart room.[3] Her role resulted in an increase from the Bathurst class' standard crew complement of 85 to 107.[3]

Operational history

Benalla entered service on 2 June 1943, towing an ammunition lighter from Sydney to Brisbane.[3] She worked her way up the eastern Australia coast to New Guinea, escorting a small convoy between Townsville and Milne Bay, where she would be based as a survey vessel for the rest of 1933.[3] Arriving in New Guinea waters in late June, the corvette was immediately assigned to support the landing of United States troops on Kiriwina Island and Woodlark Island on 30 June; these landings were unopposed as there were no Japanese soldiers on the islands.[3] From July to September, Benalla and sister ship Shepparton led a Survey Group of vessels to perform hydrological surveys of the waters around Lae, Salamaua, and Finschhafen, in preparation of Australian troop landings at these locations.[3] Benalla remained at Milne Bay until early December, when she proceeded to Sydney for refit.[3]

Benalla (right) with HMAS Castlemaine (rear) and HMAS Sleuth (left) off Darwin in 1944.

Returning to survey work New Guinea in February 1944, the corvette was involved in the surveying of Seeadler Harbor and the waters around the Admiralty Islands following their capture by the United States as part of Operation Brewer in March and April.[3] In August, she sailed for Brisbane to undergo a two month refit.[3] On 11 October, Benalla sailed for the Philippines via Hollandia, joining the escort of 20 Liberty ships on the second leg.[3] In November, the corvette assisted frigate HMAS Gascoyne in surveying San Pedro Bay, before resuming work in the New Guinea area.[3] On 6 January 1945, Benalla was sent to Darwin and assigned to a Survey Group operating off the north-western coast of Australia.[3] She spent four months with the group, then was assigned to Fremantle from 3 May to 20 July.[3] Returning to Darwin, Benalla was assigned to a joint Australian-Dutch group heading for Koepang, and was present when the Japanese surrender of Timor was carried out aboard HMAS Moresby on 11 September 1945.[3]

The corvertte was later awarded the battle honour "New Guinea 1943-44" in recognition of her wartime service.[2]

Benalla resumed survey work off the north-west coast of Australia on her return from Timor, a role she would maintain until 2 November 1945, when she was ordered to Fremantle for decommissioning.[3] The corvette was decommissioned into reserve on 28 January 1946.[3] She was transferred from Fremantle to Melbourne, Geelong, then Sydney over the course of 1955 and 1956, and was sold to Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha Ltd of Tokyo on 20 February 1958, who towed the vessel to Japan in April for scrapping.[3]


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