HMAS Waterhen (naval base)

HMAS Waterhen is a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) base located in Waverton on Sydney's lower north shore in New South Wales, Australia. Constructed on the site of a quarry used to expand Garden Island in the 1930s, the location was used during World War II as a boom net maintenance and storage area. In 1962, the area was commissioned as a base of the RAN, and became home to the RAN's mine warfare forces. Waterhen was the first small-ship base established by the RAN, and from 1969 to 1979 was also responsible for the RAN's patrol boat forces.

HMAS Waterhen
Part of Fleet Base East
Waverton, Sydney, New South Wales in Australia
HMAS Waterhen aerial
HMAS Waterhen
HMAS Waterhen is located in Sydney
HMAS Waterhen
HMAS Waterhen
Location in Greater Sydney
Coordinates33°50′28″S 151°11′40″E / 33.84111°S 151.19444°ECoordinates: 33°50′28″S 151°11′40″E / 33.84111°S 151.19444°E
TypeNaval base
Site information
OwnerDepartment of Defence
Operator Royal Australian Navy (1943 – 1967);
 Royal Australian Navy (1967 – present)
Site history
In use1943 – present
Garrison information
Commander David Jones, RAN


Prior to the 1930s, the area on which Waterhen is constructed was a large hill overlooking Balls Head Bay. In the 1930s, the decision to construct a graving dock and landbridge connecting the naval base at Garden Island to the mainland at Potts Point led to the quarrying of this hill for sandstone, which altered the geography to a sheer cliff-face and near-water level plateau.[1] The site was populated with fibro buildings during the leadup to World War II, and during the war was used to store spare netting for the Sydney Harbour anti-submarine boom net.[1] The area was under military control from 15 March 1943 until the end of the war: the first three months under joint Royal Australian Navy-United States Navy control.[1]

The location reverted to a storage site after the conclusion of World War II, but in the early 1960s was earmarked as the future base for the RAN's minesweeping forces: six ex-Royal Navy Ton class minesweepers and a Clearance Diving Team, with the base commander to simultaneously hold overall command over these forces.[1] Commissioned into the RAN as HMAS Waterhen (following the Royal Navy practice of treating naval bases as 'stone frigates') on 5 December 1962, Waterhen was the first 'small-ship' base to be established by the RAN.[1] At commissioning, there were minimal facilities available: the River class frigate HMAS Culgoa was relocated to the northern wharf in December 1952 and used as a barracks ship until June 1971.[2]

In March 1969, following the introduction of the Attack class of patrol boats, the base's role was expanded to include command of the RAN's patrol boat forces: the base commander held the position of Commander Australian Mine Warfare and Patrol Boat Forces.[1] The command roles were split again in 1979, with the command of patrol boat forces relocated to HMAS Cairns in Queensland.[1] The 1980s saw an attempted upgrade to the minesweeper fleet with the development of the Bay class minehunters, with the first two ships of the class, HMA Ships Rushcutter and Shoalwater assigned to Waterhen.[3]:222 The Bays did not enter service until 1993, and problems with their sonar and seakeeping ability saw the other four ships of the class cancelled and forced the RAN to rely on a force of minesweeper auxiliaries converted from acquired civilian vessels and also based at Waterhen until the development of the Huon class minehunters in the late 1990s.[3]:275

In 1994, the same year the Huon class project began, it was recognised by the RAN that the facilities at Waterhen needed to be upgraded.[1] Over a period from December 1994 to December 1996, the entire base was levelled, with new buildings, wharves, and facilities installed.[1] The upgrade cost A$70 million and was completed eight months ahead of schedule.[1]

Facilities and operational units

As of 2010, Waterhen is home to the Australian Navy Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Group, which consists of:[1]

Waterhen is also used as a base for minor war vessels visiting or operating temporarily from Sydney.

The first season of the television drama series Sea Patrol, which was primarily set on a Fremantle class patrol boat, was filmed at Waterhen and the base was used to represent a fictional Australian naval base. Waterhen was used for the filming of several 'ashore' scenes, and was host to the decommissioned HMAS Wollongong, which was used to film scenes of the patrol boat docked at base.


HMAS Yarra at Waterhen

Huon class minehunter HMAS Yarra docked at Waterhen in February 2008.

HMAS Armidale at Waterhen

Armidale class patrol boat HMAS Armidale visiting Waterhen in February 2008.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "HMAS Waterhen". HMA Ship Histories. Sea Power Centre, Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 4 September 2008.
  2. ^ Bastock, John. "Australia's Ships of War", Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1975. ISBN 0-207-12927-4
  3. ^ a b Stevens, David; Sears, Jason; Goldrick, James; Cooper, Alastair; Jones, Peter; Spurling, Kathryn, (2001). Stevens, David (ed.). The Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Centenary History of Defence (vol III). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-554116-2.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)

External links

HMAS Waterhen

There have been one ship and one shore establishment in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) named HMAS Waterhen. The first ship originally served under the name HMS Waterhen with the Royal Navy (RN). A British ship and an Australian ship of the name were ordered but later cancelled.

HMAS Waterhen (D22) was a V and W-class destroyer commissioned into the RN in 1918. She was transferred to the RAN in 1933, and served until her loss from dive bomber attack on 29 June 1941.

HMS Waterhen (U05) was a modified Black Swan-class sloop was ordered in 1944, but was cancelled in November 1945.

HMAS Waterhen (1952) was a Daring-class destroyer laid down in 1952 but cancelled in 1954 and scrapped on the slipway.

HMAS Waterhen (naval base) is a shore establishment based in Sydney, used as the headquarters of the RAN's Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Group. The base was commissioned in 1962 and is operating as of 2016.

Sea Patrol

Sea Patrol is an Australian television drama that ran from 2007 to 2011, set on board HMAS Hammersley, a fictional patrol boat of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The series focused on the ship and the lives of its crew members.

Despite similarities in setting and content, this series is not a follow-on to the 1979 series, Patrol Boat. At the start of the second season, Sea Patrol saw an upgrade from the Fremantle class to a newer Armidale class boat.The first season debuted on 5 July 2007 on the Nine Network, who invested $15 million into the programme.

The second season of Sea Patrol, titled Sea Patrol II: The Coup, aired in 2008, while the third season, Sea Patrol: Red Gold, aired in 2009. The fourth season aired in 2010 in a new 16-episode format, with no main theme or continuous storyline running throughout, unlike the first three seasons.

The fifth season of Sea Patrol, "Damage Control", began airing in 2011 and consisted of 13 episodes. The Nine Network has confirmed that this was to be the final season, due to reliance on government rebates that expire after 65 episodes. Completion of series five brings the total episode count to 68 episodes.

Current bases
Former bases


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