History of HMAS Culgoa

Service History

Her Majesty’s Australian Dockyard Williamstown at Melbourne received the contract for the construction of a frigate and laid down the first parts on the slipway on 15 July 1943. The ship was christened HMAS Culgoa when she was launched by Mrs Showers, wife of the Second Naval Member on 22 September 1945. Work slowed considerably on the warship with the end of the Second World War meaning that HMAS Culgoa was not commissioned until 1 April 1947 having spent a lengthy period of time in reserve. When she did finally commission into service it was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Herbert L Gunn DSC RAN. After work up she sailed on 9 June for Japanese waters where she remained until year’s end.

Between April and June 1948 the frigates duties took her to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides. This patrol was, in part, to secure the uneasy peace in the region after the Second World War.

In January 1949 HMAS Culgoa returned to New Guinea with a mission to transport Japanese war criminals from Rabaul to Manus. For the voyage the Japanese were kept under constant guard by armed seamen. Later, on 3 April, she returned to Sydney. After a leave period and work up HMAS Culgoa returned to Japan for a second deployment on 10 August and would continue to patrol the area until late February 1950. The early part of the year was spent in home waters whilst three months from September saw the frigate operating in the Solomon Islands and also near to Noumea.

In the autumn of 1951 the British were conducting a lengthy series of Atomic bomb tests at Monte Bello islands and HMAS Culgoa was used in support of these tests, usually ensuring the range was safe but also conducting a variety of scientific experiments into fallout and radiation.

She joined the Korean War on 3 March 1953 when she sailed from Sydney bound for the Japanese port of Sasebo. On 14 April she relieved sister ship HMAS Condamine on station. Operations started five days later when the frigate arrived off Paengyong Do. Upon arrival she found HMS Whitesand Bay and soon thereafter relieved the British ship allowing her to sail.

During a gun bombardment on 21 April HMAS Culgoa fired 102 rounds of 4” shells killing many North Koreans when forces ashore came under attack. The New Zealand Loch class frigate HMNZS Kaniere subsequently relieved her Australian colleague on 28 April and HMAS Culgoa made for Chodo/Sokto area to join the Canadian destroyer HMCS Haida in providing bombardment support until 3 May.

Two weeks later her guns were once again in action pounding enemy positions on the Amgak peninsula for five days from 18 May. Two days later she helped locate the wreckage of a crashed Sea Fury fighter together with the USS Cocopa.

The welcome sight of HMS St Brides Bay on 23 May meant that HMAS Culgoa’s time at Amgak peninsula was drawing to a close. There was, however, to be no let up in the action because the next day she relieved Sparrow in command of Task Unit 95.1.6, which comprised of six small craft, two minesweepers and three patrol craft that were shepherding a fleet of 700 fishing junks. This task occupied the Australian warship until 7 June when she took passage to Kure.

Two quiet weeks in June were spent patrolling in the Haeju area, but on 23 June HMAS Culgoa, after air raids from the US aircraft carrier USS Bairoko, on Chomi Do, fired her last shells in anger. Thirty seven rounds were targeted at enemy troops invading the island of Yongmae Do.

Five days later HMAS Culgoa handed over her duties to the destroyer HMS Charity and then took passage to Hong Kong. Her role in Korea was, however, not completely at an end, as on 27 July, the Day of the Armistice, she returned to Paengyong Do and relieved HMNZS Hawea as commander of Task Unit 95.1.5.

HMAS Culgoa remained off Korea until 2 November when she sailed for home arriving at Melbourne on 11 December. She was placed in reserve on 15 April 1954 and soon became an accommodation ship for the mine sweeping base HMAS Waterhen at Sydney. She kept this role until sold, on 15 February 1972, to N.W Kennedy Ltd of Vancouver; the company then scraping the ship in Taiwan.

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