Navy reflects on 75th anniversary of loss of HMAS Lolita

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Natalie Staples (author), ABIS Benjamin Ricketts (photographer)

Location(s): Mosman, NSW

Topic(s): Naval Heritage and History, 75th Anniversary

L-R: Chaplain Catherine Wynn-Jones; Mr Bob Austin; Director of Navy Heritage Collections Captain Damien Allan, RAN; and Leading Seaman Musician Andrew Hansch at the Navy Memorial site at Bradleys Head, Sydney. (photo: ABIS Benjamin Ricketts)
L-R: Chaplain Catherine Wynn-Jones; Mr Bob Austin; Director of Navy Heritage Collections Captain Damien Allan, RAN; and Leading Seaman Musician Andrew Hansch at the Navy Memorial site at Bradleys Head, Sydney.

The World War Two Channel Patrol Boat HMAS Lolita has been remembered at a service held on the 75th anniversary of her loss.

A memorial plaque dedicated to the Sydney-based motor cruiser was unveiled at the Royal Australian Navy Memorial at Bradleys Head, Mosman on Saturday 13 June.

Director of Navy Heritage Collections, Captain Damien Allan, was joined by a Navy Chaplain and a bugler at the ceremony, organised by the Bradleys Head Memorial Committee.

In his address, Captain Allan reflected on the contribution made by Lolita and those who served in her.

Lolita was a 54 foot Sydney-based motor cruiser, which was requisitioned in World War Two and commissioned into Royal Australian Navy service as HMAS Lolita on 22 November 1941,” Captain Allan said.

“She formed part of Sydney Harbour defences and operated as a Channel Patrol Boat.”

Lolita played an important role during the Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in 1942.

“She was on duty the night of the attack and confirmed that one of the three submarines, was caught in a boom net.

Lolita fired two depth charges at the stricken submarine, which failed to explode, but caused M-27’s two-man crew to set off scuttling charges, destroying the submarine and killing themselves in the process,” he said.

HMAS Lolita underway in Sydney Harbour.

HMAS Lolita underway in Sydney Harbour.

Following the submarine attack, Lolita continued to operate in and around Sydney until 1944 when she proceeded north to New Guinea as a unit of the Naval Auxiliary Patrol based at Ladava.

She operated in New Guinea and northern Australian waters until tragedy struck on 13 June 1945.

Lolita was destroyed by a fire that started in the engine room,” Captain Allan said.

“Two naval mechanics, William Bertalli and Alfred Smith, engaged in maintenance work aboard Lolita at the time, suffered severe burns and, tragically, later passed away in hospital.

“This memorial will be a touchstone for us to remember the two men lost on that day, and the suffering of those who were injured and bore the scars for the rest of their lives.

“They are part of the Navy family, and we commemorate them,” he said.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: https://images.navy.gov.au/S20202027.