Museum in ship shape condition

This article has photo gallery Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), Unknown (photographer)

Location(s): Williamstown, VIC

Topic(s): HMAS Castlemaine, Naval Heritage and History

HMAS Castlemaine in the BAE Systems Australia graving dock. (photo: Unknown)
HMAS Castlemaine in the BAE Systems Australia graving dock.

Having a bottom scrape might not be for everyone, but it’s bought another 10 years for the museum ship, and stalwart of Melbourne’s Williamstown waterfront, HMAS Castlemaine.

The Bathurst class corvette, built and commissioned at Williamstown between 1941-1942, was one of 60 built in Australia during the Second World War. After commissioning, Castlemaine sailed to Sydney for completion and work-up exercises.
Her primary role was minesweeping, but she was also used as a convoy escort and, in late 1942, in support tasks for Australian and allied troops engaged in guerrilla operations in Timor.
Castlemaine and HMAS Armidale (I), while engaged in a mission to evacuate Australian and Dutch soldiers and deliver a relief contingent at Betano Bay East Timor on 30 November, were subjected to three air attacks.

The next day, Castlemaine completed her part of the mission and returned to Darwin

While Armidale was returning from Betano Bay, she was attacked by Japanese aircraft and sunk. One hundred soldiers and sailors perished as a result.
On 15 December 1942, while escorting the merchant ships Period and James Cook from Thursday Island to Darwin, a Japanese aircraft scored a direct hit on Period, resulting in four fatalities.

Over two days the ships came under air attack on three occasions, but Castlemaine’s anti-aircraft fire repelled the attacks and the convoy reached Darwin without further incident.
These days, HMAS Castlemaine is open to the public on weekends, public holidays and by arrangement. Visitors can see how crews lived and worked during the war years, witness the original main engines turning over, and view a wide range of artefacts documenting Australian maritime history.

HMAS Castlemaine in her usual berth at Gem Pier.

HMAS Castlemaine in her usual berth at Gem Pier.

Petty Officer Andrew Campbell, a modern-day volunteer in the ship, said Castlemaine was cold-moved from its usual berth at Gem Pier to the BAE graving dock for her 10-yearly below-water maintenance.

“With the removal of 10 years of marine growth from the hull, the hull-plating is in good condition, which is testament to the paint quality and preparation last time the ship was docked,” Petty Officer Campbell said.

“The docking is an expensive, but necessary, proposition and the BAE dockyard workers donated their time for the docking.

Castlemaine is not government-funded in any way and is fully-reliant on donations for continued maintenance and preservation.”

Petty Officer Campbell said Castlemaine had been maintained as a museum ship by a team of volunteers since 1978.

“The volunteers come from many backgrounds and there is even a former wartime sailor in his 90s in the group,” he said.

“The volunteers have strong Navy connections, with members having varied and valued skills.”

According to Petty Officer Campbell, the ship is completely restored to its wartime condition and all original mechanical machinery is functional and can be run.

“The mess decks have been refurbished and there are four-inch, 40/60 Bofors and 20mm Oerlikon guns, together with small-arms, depth charges and Oropesa sweep gear,” he said.

“There are also exhibits of a general naval nature showing a local Williamstown connection with the Navy going back to colonial days.

“Visitors provide the resources for the continued preservation and they can relive their own, or a family member’s, experience with the Navy.

Castlemaine is a must see for anyone interested in Australia’s naval heritage and I encourage any serving member to help out by volunteering.”

Further information is available at and