Historical information

This photograph is connected to the first HMAS Warrnambool J202, which was commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy for use as a minesweeper during World War II. The Bathurst Class Corvette, fitted out with a range of armaments, was launched in Sydney 1941.

The ship began service in Bass Strait in 1941. At the end of the year it called into its namesake city, Warrnambool, where the crew paraded for the public marching eastwards along Timor Street. A gift of books for the ship’s personnel and a plaque bearing the City of Warrnambool’s Coat of Arms were presented to the ship.

The ship was involved in evacuating a family of nine from the Dutch East Indies that was later successful in its challenge of Australia’s Immigration Restriction Act (White Australia Polity). The ship had many other appointments around Australia.

On 13th September 1947 HMAS Warrnambool was leading a flotilla of minesweepers in northern Queensland’s coastal waters, clearing mines previously laid to defend Australia. The ship hit a mine, which exploded and very quickly sunk the ship. Boats from the nearby ships rescued most of the seamen although one was killed at the time. The survivors were taken by the HMAS Swan II to Darwin, and they went from there to hospitals in Brisbane and Sydney. Three of these men later died from their injuries.

A number of items were recovered by Navy divers in 1948 including the ship’s bell and a plaque with Warrnambool’s Coat of Arms. In 1972-75 the wreck was sold and other items were salvaged. In 1995 a memorial plaque was erected in Warrnambool near the RSL.

The RAN built a second HMAS Warrnambool FCPB204, launched in 1981 and decommissioned in 2005. There was also a steam ship SS Warrnambool built in London 1892 and broken up in 1926.
[A more detailed history can be found in our Collection Record 3477.]


This photograph is significant for its association with Royal Australian Navy and its vessel, HMAS Warrnambool (j202).

The HMAS Warrnambool played a nationally significant role in overturning Australia’s Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (colloquially known as the White Australia policy). The ship rescued, and brought to Australia, Samuel and Annie Jacob and their family after they evacuated Dutch East India. The family was threatened with deportation and made the first successful appeal to High Court regarding that Act.

The HMAS Warrnambool has
- Local significance for being the namesake of the City of Warrnambool
- Local significance, having docked in Warrnambool Harbour
- Local significance, the crew having paraded in Timor Street, Warrnambool
- State significance for its first patrol being in Bass Strait.
- National significance, being present in Timor at the Japanese surrender
- National significance as part of Australia’s defence force history, being one of only four Bathurst class corvettes lost while in Australian service, the only Bathurst class corvette lost after World War II, the only RAN vessel to be sunk by a mine, and associated with the last four Navy deaths of WWII

Physical description

Photograph, black and white, HMAS Warrnambool J202 in water with land and buildings in background. Ship is flying a dark flag with Union Jack in corner and star below it. Lifeboat suspended above deck in centre of ship. Top of funnel has a black band.