History of HMAS Murchison

Service History of HMAS Murchison

The Australian Government ordered a frigate to be constructed from the shipyard of Evans Deakin and Co Ltd of Brisbane with building starting on 3 June 1943. The initial build was swift with the ship being launched and named HMAS Murchison by Mrs Courtice, wife of Senator B Courtice on 31 October 1944. She commissioned at Brisbane under the command of Lieutenant Commander John McLAdams on 17 December 1945.

Her initial service saw the frigate deployed on surveillance missions across the Pacific along with repatriation duties and for a time she operated in support of the War Graves Commission.

In May 1946 HMAS Murchison returned to Australia to assume the vital role of training duties mostly out of Sydney Harbour. She would undertake this role until May 1951 when she sailed for service with the UN forces in Korea. Her first two patrols were uneventful but on 24 July she attacked tanks and vehicles south of Choda Island as well as operating off the mouth of the Yalu River and around Chinnampo.

The next day in a daring move by UN commanders HMAS Murchison, together with HMS Cardigan Bay and the Korean frigate PF62, proceeded up the navigable limit of the Han River in a move trying to impress upon the enemy forces the strength and flexibility of the Allied forces. The charts of the river were severely out of date and after the abortive attempt to probe the river was abandoned and the ships returned to their anchorage where they were joined by HMS Morecambe Bay and six small craft of the South Korean Navy.

This force was given the designation Task Unit 95.12.2 and the next day sailed to anchor in a position in the Han River from where gunfire could be directed at enemy positions on the rivers north shore. The Australian ship remained on this duty until 4 August and maintained a constant barrage night and day eventually firing 1,100 rounds of ammunition. Upon release HMAS Murchison took passage to Sasebo for leave before returning to the war zone with escort duties to Inchon.

HMAS Murchison resumed the Han River bombardment on 10 August and once again rejoined TU 95.12.2 with HMS Cardigan Bay and the South Korean vessel PC62. She would remain there until 15 August.

Escorts were needed for the cruisers HMS Kenya and HMS Ceylon, which were operating in the Mackau Islands group and HMAS Murchison was duly despatched to join them. As if fighting the enemy was not hard enough from 17 to 24 August the UN forces in the region battled the vicious and unpredictable weather wrought by tropical typhoon Marge. Having had an uncomfortable journey HMAS Murchison arrived at Kure on 24 August.

She settled into a ‘usual’ pattern of patrol and rest over the coming months but on 28 September, when patrolling the Han River and with Rear Admiral G Dyer USN and his staff on board, the ship came under attack at 1600 from 75mm guns and 50mm mortars. The frigate quickly responded with deadly accurate 4” fire and silenced the enemy weapons.

Two days later HMAS Murchison returned to the scene of the battle and a second engagement occurred. The Koreans scored several hits holing the frigate in a number of locations and she manoeuvred in the fast tidal river channel. The fight, however, was a decidedly one sided affair and the Australians pummelled the opposition firing 276 4” shells and 500 rounds of 40mm Bofors.

The start of October saw an operation with the New Zealand frigate HMNZS Rotoiti that attacked several positions on the north bank of the Han River. It also marked the end of the patrol when HMAS Murchison sailed for Kure for a docking period.

HMAS Murchison returned to duty on 17 October and escorted RFA Wave Chief en route to a rendezvous with the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney. This was followed by time spent at Inchon, Yalu Gulf and Chinnampo and on 22 October the rescue of USAF pilot 1st Lieutenant F Biessner in dangerous circumstances. At one point during the rescue the ship grounded but with the help of aircraft from HMAS Sydney the frigate was guided through the treacherous sandbanks to be greeted by her relief HMCS Cayuga.

November started with a return to the Han River where she relieved HMS St Brides Bay on the coast off Sokto Island. Between 3 and 5 November she attacked positions on the Amgak peninsula until she left the firing line upon relief by HMCS Athabaskan. Further bombardments took place at Yonan on 10 November before HMAS Murchison sailed for Kure.

From 27 November she patrolled the island of Taewha Do which had come under threat of invasion. Three days later she shifted back to the familiar surroundings of Sokto Island. She would leave on 3 December to provide an escort for a number of aircraft carriers before sailing onto Sasebo and Hong Kong.

It wasn’t until 22 January 1952 that HMAS Murchison returned to Korea’s west coast. Upon arrival she joined the cruiser HMS Belfast off Techong Do as part of TU 95.12.3. After three days of continual bombardments of the Han estuary until 28 January she sailed to Techong Do to provide a defence against a suspected planned invasion of the island of Yuk To. The invasion never materialised and after two uneventful days HMAS Murchison returned to the Han River.

Local intelligence officers boarded the ship and gave the captain a list of thirteen targets suspected to be of importance to the enemy. The frigate went on to fire on each of them expending 154 rounds of ammunition in the process. Such was the proficiency of the gun crews in X turret that they reached a sustained 21 rounds per minute per gun during the bombardment.

Relieved on station she sailed for Sasebo where she arrived on 2 February. HMAS Murchison then sailed for home arriving at Sydney on 19 February.

She was duly refitted to serve as a training ship and was commissioned as such in June 1952. In October HMAS Murchison took part in patrolling the waters around the Monte Bello islands during the first British Atomic bomb tests. From here she returned to Korean waters to undertake Armistice patrols where she remained until July 1954.

Upon her return to Australia HMAS Murchison resumed her training role, which she continued until paid off into reserve on the last day of January 1956. For the next five years she remained in reserve until being sold on 21 September 1961 to the Tolo Mining and Smelting Company Ltd of Hong Kong. She was subsequently resold to the Japanese firm of Amakasu Sangyo Kisen Company Ltd for dismantling. Taken from her moorings at Sydney on 7 September 1968 HMAS Murchison was towed to Japan with HMAS Hawkesbury where she was scrapped.

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