- Book reviewer
- Ship histories and stories, Book reviews
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Castlemaine
- December 2021 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
This impressive new paperback by Kerry Hodges has 207 pages well stocked with illustrations, photographs, maps and diagrams, and was recently published by Seabooks Press. The book may be purchased onboard Castlemaine or by placing an order by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available from booksellers, as an eBook and via Kindle.
On a mild but overcast winter’s day on August 7, 1941, the Rev. J.H. Raverty presided over the launching of HMAS Castlemaine, a Bathurst class corvette. She was one of 56 corvettes that served with distinction in the Royal Australian Navy during the rapid expansion of the Japanese Empire on our doorstep.
Mrs. Pattie Menzies, wife of the then Prime Minister Robert Menzies, who launched the new ship said: ‘I congratulate the workmen who have so faithfully and skillfully constructed this vessel.’ The author of this publication has replicated this account, and compiled the facts and figures into an impressive digest for the reader to absorb the importance of what this vessel achieved on her many voyages during the Second World War.
The book has been carefully put together in the same method the ship was constructed, in a coordinated and integrated manner from the laying of the keel, the installation of her boilers and machinery to her being brought to life by the courage of the crew eager to do their bit. Castlemaine may have been a small ship, but she was tenacious in performance, undertaking the demanding roles of convoy and escort duties, minesweeping, anti-submarine patrols and transport of troops amongst others. Apart from her combat roles, she also saved lives, rescuing more than 30 commandos off Timor in 1942. Nicknamed the ‘Timor Terror’ at the time, she was often referred to as ‘Fourex’ by her crew after that northern Australian amber nectar.
The nation can be thankful for the good fortune that saved Castlemaine from the blowtorch and how she remains with us as a restored piece of history. This fine publication is an accompaniment to the ship that survives with us today and provides a genuine insight into what it was like on board a World War Two vessel during those critical years. It keeps the journey of this ship real and relevant in her clear association with the naval defence of Victoria and Australia. It is for this reason she is included on the Victorian Heritage Register.
The reader is given a full account of the restoration of Castlemaine from 1974 to 1991 and the ongoing maintenance in recent years, undertaken by both volunteers and former crew who served in corvettes. It has been an important chapter in preserving our naval history. A walk through of the vessel is also provided.
Overall the Castlemaine story is important in that it encapsulates the history of the corvette building program which gave rise to a resurgence in Australian shipbuilding which was at a very low ebb after being devastated by the impacts of the Great Depression. The Bathurst class were constructed at various yards right around the coast largely by an unfamiliar workforce and their robust design is a credit to all concerned.
Corvettes like Castlemaine distinguished themselves ‘above the call of duty.’ The men who served in her didn’t only learn history – they lived it.
A highly recommended read and handy reference. Should make an excellent Christmas stocking filler.
Reviewed by Dave Lardner
Dave Lardner is a retired high school teacher and education consultant, currently undertaking a project listing all corvette memorials to be found throughout the country. His late father served in the corvettes HMA Ships Bunbury and Bundaberg during WWII.