HMAS Curlew

HMAS Curlew (M 1121) was a Ton-class minesweeper operated by the Royal Navy (as HMS Chediston) from 1953 to 1961, and the Royal Australian Navy from 1962 to 1991. During her Australian service, the ship operated off Malaysia during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation during the mid-1960s, then was modified for use as a minehunter. Delays in bringing a replacement class into service kept Curlew operational until 1990, and she was sold into civilian service in 1991.

United Kingdom
Name: Chediston
Builder: Montrose Shipyard, Scotland
Launched: 6 October 1953
Commissioned: 28 September 1954
Fate: Sold to Australia
Name: Curlew
Acquired: 1961
Commissioned: 12 August 1962
Decommissioned: 30 April 1990
Honours and
  • Battle honours:
  • Malaysia 1964–66
Fate: Sold on 17 June 1991
Badge: Ship's badge
General characteristics
Class and type: Ton-class minesweeper
Displacement: 440 tons
Length: 152 ft (46 m)
Beam: 28 ft (8.5 m)
Draught: 8 ft (2.4 m)
Propulsion: Originally Mirrlees diesel, later Napier Deltic, producing 3,000 shp (2,200 kW) on each of two shafts
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 33


The minesweeper was built by the Montrose Shipyard in Scotland, launched on 6 October 1953, and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 28 September 1954 as HMS Chediston.[1]

Operational history

Royal Navy

Between August 1955 and October 1957, the ship was attached to Tay Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.[1] After October 1957, the ship was placed in storage.[1]

Royal Australian Navy

The ship was one of six sold to the Royal Australian Navy for 5.5 million in 1961.[2] Chediston was modified for tropical conditions, and commissioned on 12 August 1962 as HMAS Curlew.[1][2]

During the mid-1960s, Curlew was one of several ships operating in support of the Malaysian government during the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation. This service was later recognised with the battle honour "Malaysia 1964–66".[3][4]

In the late 1960s, Curlew and sister ship Snipe were modified for use as minehunters.[5]

Divers from Curlew inspected the wreck of Japanese submarine I-124.[6]

Decommissioning and fate

The delay in bringing the Bay class minehunters into service kept Curlew operational until 1990.[5] Curlew paid off on 30 April 1990 and was sold on 17 June 1991.[1] In the late 1990s she appeared in the movies Paradise Road and The Thin Red Line.[7]

As of mid-2003, Curlew was operating out of Port Huon, Tasmania as a fishing vessel.[8] The ship was later used for accommodation at Port Huon.[7]

In April 2018 she was purchased for $1. Her new owner intends to use the ship as a floating backpacker hostel in Brisbane.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e Royal Australian Navy, HMAS Curlew
  2. ^ a b Spurling, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 189
  3. ^ "Navy Marks 109th Birthday With Historic Changes To Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  4. ^ "Royal Australian Navy Ship/Unit Battle Honours" (PDF). Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  5. ^ a b Jones, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 222
  6. ^ Fulton, The Fujita Plan
  7. ^ a b c Bevin, Edith (22 July 2018). "Ex-Navy minesweeper HMAS Curlew's new mission as floating backpacker hostel". ABC News. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  8. ^ Australian Sea Heritage, Old ships find a new life



  • Felton, Mark (7 December 2006). The Fujita Plan. Pen and Sword. ISBN 1473819334. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  • Stevens, David, ed. (2001). The Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Centenary History of Defence (vol III). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-555542-2. OCLC 50418095.
    • Jones, Peter. "Towards Self Reliance". The Royal Australian Navy.
    • Spurling, Kathryn. "The Era of Defence Reform". The Royal Australian Navy.

Journal articles

  • "Old ships find a new life". Australian Sea Heritage. Australian Heritage Fleet (75): 6. Winter 2003. ISSN 0813-0523.


16th Minesweeping Squadron (Australia)

The 16th Minesweeping Squadron was a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) minesweeping squadron. It was formed with the purchase of six Ton class minesweepers from the Royal Navy in 1962.

On 19 May 1964, the Squadron, was deployed to Singapore as part of the RAN's commitment to the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation.

Bay-class minehunter

The Bay-class Minehunter Inshores were a class of catamaran-hull mine warfare vessels operating with the Royal Australian Navy from 1986. Also referred to as the MHCAT (MineHunter CATamaran), the class was an attempt to produce a locally designed inshore mine warfare vessel. Two prototype ships were ordered in 1981, with the first ship, Rushcutter, commissioned in November 1986. The two ships experienced delays in construction, and the RAN resorted to acquiring six minesweeper auxiliaries (MSA) under the Craft of Opportunity Program to provide an interim mine-warfare capability, while also keeping Ton-class minesweeper HMAS Curlew in service until 1990, well beyond her intended decommissioning date. The ships did not enter service until 1993, due to problems with the sonar.

Birchills (narrowboat)

Birchills is a historic, ‘Joey’ boat with a small day cabin, built in 1953 by Ken Keay of Walsall. Birchills is one of the last wooden day boats made and was used to carry coal to Wolverhampton Power Station.

This boat is double-ended and the mast and rudder could be changed from one end to the other. This enabled its use in narrow canals or basins where there was no room to turn the boat around.

It is now owned by the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, where it is based and can be seen dockside in the Lord Ward’s Canal Arm. Birchills underwent major restoration in early 2015 following £62,000 worth of donations.

Diamond (narrowboat)

Diamond was built by John Crichton & Co. of Saltney, Chester for Midland and Coast Canal Carrying Company of Wolverhampton. The boat was built in Chester in 1927 and first registered at Wolverhampton in 1928. She was one of six iron boats in the fleet fitted with two cabins for long distance traffic between the Black Country and the ports on the Mersey Estuary. Having been damaged during an air raid on Birmingham in 1944 she was sold for scrap to Ernest Thomas by Fellows, Morton & Clayton who had by then acquired Midlands and Coast. Rebuilt and renamed ‘Henry’ she carried coal until the 1960s when she was resold to ‘Caggy’ Stevens of Oldbury and renamed ‘Susan’.

It is now owned by the Black Country Living Museum, where it is based and can be seen dockside in the Lord Ward’s Canal Arm at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley.

Diamond is on the National Historic Ships register.

HMS Curlew

Nine ships and a base of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Curlew after the bird, the curlew:

HMS Curlew (1795) was a 16-gun brig sloop launched in 1795 that foundered in 1796.

HMS Curlew (1803) was a 16-gun sloop, previously named Leander, purchased in 1803 and sold in 1810.

HMS Curlew (1812) was an 18-gun brig sloop of the Cruizer class launched in 1812 and sold in 1822 for use in the opium trade, being renamed Jamesina.

HMS Curlew (1830) was a 10-gun brig sloop of the Cherokee class launched in 1830 and broken up in 1840.

HMS Curlew (1854) was a Swallow-class screw sloop launched in 1854 and sold in 1865.

HMS Curlew (1868) was a Plover-class gunvessel launched in 1868 and sold in 1882.

HMS Curlew (1885) was a torpedo gunvessel launched in 1885 and sold in 1906.

HMS Curlew (D42) was a C-class cruiser launched in 1917 and sunk in 1940.

HMAS Curlew was a Ton-class minesweeper, launched in 1953 as HMS Montrose, renamed HMS Chediston in 1958 and then HMAS Curlew on her transfer to the Royal Australian Navy in 1962. She was paid off in 1990, and sold in 1997. She was taken to Hobart in 1998 where there are plans as of 2003 to preserve her as a museum ship.

HMS Curlew was a Naval Air Station near St Merryn, Cornwall, previously named HMS Vulture. She was HMS Vulture from her commissioning in 1940 until 1952, when she was renamed HMS Curlew. She was closed in 1956 and sold in 1959.

HMS Ledsham (M2706)

HMS Ledsham was one of 93 ships of the Ham class of inshore minesweepers.

Their names were all chosen from villages ending in -ham. The minesweeper was named after Ledsham, Cheshire or Ledsham, West Yorkshire.

HMS Ledsham is now moored in Deptford Creek, London where it is the centre of the Minesweeper Collective, an artist's cooperative. The minesweeper houses a printing studio, and is a venue for art and music events. After many years moored in Deptford Creek on the night of 5 January 2017 an explosion near the former minesweeper led to the ship catching fire whilst the London Fire Brigade deployed a dozen fire engines to the scene of the fire.

HMS Portisham (M2781)

HMS Portisham was one of 93 ships of the Ham-class of inshore minesweepers.

Their names were all chosen from villages ending in -ham. The minesweeper was named after Portesham in Dorset, using an alternative spelling for the village.

After her sale in 1989 she was laid up and for sale in a boatyard in Essex. She was procured for conversion to a liveaboard ship by an Irish national in 2007 and is currently the second biggest private vessel under the Irish flag.

HMS Powderham (M2720)

HMS Powderham was one of 93 ships of the Ham class of inshore minesweepers.

Their names were all chosen from villages ending in -ham. The minesweeper was named after Powderham in Devon.

In 1960 she was selected to be converted to an inshore survey vessel and was renamed HMS Waterwitch. For a while she was manned by civilian Port Auxiliary Service personnel and was named PAS Waterwitch.

In December 1998 she was operated by a voluntary, non profit making group of ex Royal Navy and Merchant Navy personnel, who with the co-operation of participating local authorities and other interested organisations offered a shipboard training facility for disadvantaged young people.

PS Kingswear Castle

PS Kingswear Castle is a steamship. She is a coal-fired river paddle steamer, dating from 1924 with engines from 1904. After running summer excursions on the River Medway and the Thames for many years she returned to the River Dart in Devon in December 2012 to run excursions from 2013 onwards on the river she was built on and for. Kingswear Castle is listed as part of the National Historic Fleet of ships of "Pre-eminent National Significance".

President (narrowboat)

President is a historic, steam-powered narrowboat, built in 1909 by Fellows Morton and Clayton (FMC) at their dock at Saltley, Birmingham, England. It is now owned by the Black Country Living Museum, where it is based.

President is registered by National Historic Ships as part of the National Historic Fleet.

Prince Frederick's Barge

Prince Frederick's Barge is a 63.34-foot-long (19.31 m) British state barge. Designed by William Kent, it was built on the South Bank by John Hall for Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1732. Upon Frederick's death in 1751, the barge was used by successive British monarchs until 1849 when she was cut up into three sections and stored in the Royal Barge House at Windsor Great Park. King George VI placed the barge on loan to the National Maritime Museum in 1951, where it is currently on display.

RNLB Helen Smitton (ON 603)

RNLB Helen Smitton (ON 603) is a Watson-class lifeboat built by Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company in 1910. Helen Smitton served as the lifeboat at St Abbs, Berwickshire, Scotland from 1911 to 1936 and was the village's first lifeboat.

Russ Crane

Vice Admiral Russell Harry Crane, (born 11 June 1954) is a retired senior officer of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), who served as the Chief of Navy from July 2008 until his retirement in June 2011.

SB Ardwina

Ardwina is last wooden Thames barge to be built in Ipswich. This was in 1909. She was registered in London. She worked commercially until 1956. She was laid up after a collision, and restored as a yacht conversion. She is still sailing in 2018, based at St Katherine Docks, and regularly passes under Tower Bridge.

SB Ironsides

Ironsides is an iron-hulled Thames barge which was built in 1900 for APCM. She was registered in London. A 60 hp auxiliary engine was fitted in 1939.

SB Reminder

Reminder is one of seven Thames barges built between 1925 and 1930 for F W Horlock, Mistley.

Stour (narrowboat)

Stour is an all-wooden motor narrow boat powered by a Bolinder 15 h. p. diesel engine. It was built as a tar tanker in 1937 by Fellows Morton and Clayton at their Uxbridge dockyard for fuel oil carriers Thomas Clayton Ltd of Oldbury.

The hull has oak planked sides, elm bottoms and pine deck with a fully fitted traditional boatman’s cabin. She was one of a large fleet of all wooden boats used by that Company for liquid cargo carrying, the main hold area being fully decked over.

When new it would have carried refined fuels such as gas oil for powering machinery but as it got older it was used for carrying heavier lubricating oil from the fuel distribution plants on the Manchester Ship Canal.

It is now owned by the Black Country Living Museum, in Dudley, where it is based and can be seen dockside in the Lord Ward’s Canal Arm at the museum.

Stour is on the National Historic Ships register.

Tamar barge

A Tamar barge is a masted sailing vessel, designed for carrying cargo around the River Tamar and the South Coast of Cornwall.

The Tamar barge can be either a single and double masted vessel. It can carry up to 32 tonnes. Tamar barges were manufactured in the 19th Century in the Tamar Valley by boatbuilders such as James Goss of Calstock and Frederick Hawke of Stonehouse, Plymouth.

There are only two surviving Tamar barges, both have been almost completely restored. Currently one is open to visitors of Cotehele Quay and the other is privately owned and moored at Cremyll.

Ton-class minesweeper

The Ton class were coastal minesweepers built in the 1950s for the Royal Navy, but also used by other navies such as the South African Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. They were intended to meet the threat of seabed mines laid in shallow coastal waters, rivers, ports and harbours, a task for which the existing ocean-going minesweepers of the Algerine-class were not suited.

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