History of HMAS Condamine

History

The first components in the construction of HMAS Condamine were laid down on 30 October 1943 at New South Wales State Dockyard in Newcastle. She was launched just over a year later on 4 November 1944 by Mrs McKell, wife of the Premier of New South Wales and commissioned into service on 22 February 1946 at Sydney.

After her initial work up, the frigate deployed to New Guinea until the end of July. In October HMAS Condamine was based at Darwin for two months before sailing on 13 December to Kangaroo Island in South Australia towing an oil fuel lighter. The journey around the Australian coastline was a long, if somewhat dull task, and was successfully completed without incident on 11 January 1947. Upon release she made for Melbourne where her first refit was planned to start in early March.

On two separate occasions between May and August 1947 and December 1947 and March 1948 HMAS Condamine returned to New Guinean waters serving in the role of the Australian Squadron Representative in the region.

The next few years saw the frigate remain in Australian home waters but always taking the opportunity to exercise with visiting units of the Royal Navy and the US Navy such as the submarine HMS Thorough, which visited Sydney in January 1950.

The Korean War saw HMAS Condamine and her sisters deployed to the war zone region. She reached Singapore on 11 July 1952 before sailing onto base ports in Japan by the end of the month. On 7 August the Australian ship fired her first shots in anger taking aim at enemy positions near to Mudo Island. HMAS Condamine operated initially as part of Task Unit 95.12.4 before transferring to Task Unit 95.12.1 on 8 August relieving the USS Kimberley at the entrance of the River Chinnampo. For the next eight days the frigate laid down a daily barrage of fire against positions near Sokto/Chodo.

HMS St Brides Bay arrived on 16 August to relieve HMAS Condamine, which proceeded from the area to Sasebo. Her arrival at the Japanese port was, however, delayed by the effects of a typhoon that tracked across the region and made the passage rough.

On 22 August she became the first Australian frigate to operate on the East Coast of Korea as part of Task Element 95.22 under the command of Commander Chandler USN in the USS McDermut. Upon her arrival HMAS Condamine relieved HMS Mounts Bay and spent the next few days in support of forces protecting the Yangdo areas, Chongjin and an area south of Chodo.

Targets were scarce for the ships’ gunners during this time and on 11 September she was relieved on station by HMS Charity. After spending ten days at Kure she was back at sea on 22 September and upon arriving at Haeju the next day relieved HMS St Brides Bay. The next fourteen days were spent monitoring movements both in the coastal waters and ashore with day times spent of Taeyongpyong and nights to the east of Taesuop Island. During this time HMAS Condamine took part in an operation on 28 September to land UN guerrilla forces on the Chomi Do peninsula. The resistance was fierce resulting in the frigate evacuating two wounded American personnel.

This, her third patrol in the area, ended on 7 October when she headed for the familiar surroundings of Sasebo. When she returned to the front line later in the month HMAS Condamine served as Commander Task Unit 95.12.2 at Paengyong Do for a few days. Any planned actions against the enemy were postponed due to bad weather that prevented anything other than routine coastal surveillance to be undertaken.

On 26 October her guns were again in action hammering positions a Haeju whilst two days later it was the turn of Mudo to be on the receiving end of 80 rounds of 4” shells.

October ended with a supporting role for UN minesweepers at Sokto and on 8 November HMAS Condamine arrived at Haeju. A week of leave and relaxation was gladly taken at Kure before she returned to Haeju at the end of November. The rest of the year was spent either on patrol or at Sasebo with Christmas spent patrolling Korean coastal waters.

On 5 January 1953 HMAS Condamine attacked gun batteries on the mainland opposite Mudo Island firing a total of 66 rounds of ammunition. The next day she sailed from the area around Haeju for escort duties and patrols off Sokto/Chodo. This mission was completed on 15 March when she finished her final war patrol.

HMAS Condamine returned to Sydney on 20 April and was taken in hand for a refit. The final years of her career were mostly spent in Australian waters protecting the nations’ borders and undertaking surveillance tasks based out of her home port of Darwin. At times HMAS Condamine sailed as far as Japan and Korea but on 14 November 1955 she sailed into Sydney Harbour flying her paying off pennant. She officially paid off into reserve on 2 December.

HMAS Condamine was sold for scrapping to the Toco Mining and Smelting Company Ltd of Hong Kong on 21 September 1961. Three months later, being towed by the tug Reserve, HMAS Condamine left on her final journey together with the River class frigate HMAS Burdekin. The frigates would eventually make their way to Japan where they were broken up by the Mitsubishi Company.

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