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Reproduced courtesy of Lynne Norton

HMAS YARRA under construction at Cockatoo dockyard

Date: 1935
Overall: 200 x 208 mm, 0.25 kg
Medium: Paper, pencil
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Lynne Norton
Object Name: Drawing
Object No: 00003688
Place Manufactured:Cockatoo Island Dockyard

User Terms

    HMAS YARRA (II) was a Grimsby class sloop launched from Cockatoo Dockyards in 1935 and commissioned in 1936. The Titan crane can be seen to the right of the image. YARRA served during World War II in both the Mediterranean and Pacific before being sunk by the Japanese in 1942.
    SignificanceThis drawing is a record of naval shipbuilding at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney during the 20th century. It represents the beginning of a ship that had a distinguished war record before its loss.
    HistoryHMAS YARRA was laid down at Cockatoo Island Dockyards, Sydney, in May 1934, launched in March 1935 and commissioned in January 1936. She was armed with three 4-inch anti aircraft guns, four 3-pounder guns, a quadruple .5-inch anti aircraft machine-gun, and depth charges. She had a speed of 16.5 knots and a crew of 151. YARRA was assigned to Australian coastal patrol and escort duties until 1940 after the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

    In August 1940, YARRA left Australia to join the Royal Navy in the Red Sea. She remained in the area until March 1941, escorting convoys along the Red Sea and maintaining a blockade between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. On her first night at Aden, Yemen, YARRA experienced air raids but was not damaged. In October 1940, YARRA was escorting a convoy northbound when an Italian cruiser, FRANCESCO NULLO, fired upon the escorts. YARRA and HMS AUCKLAND returned fire and the Italian ship attempted to flee. It was followed and later ran ashore before being destroyed by a Royal Navy ship.

    From March to April 1941, YARRA was in India being refitted and once available for service she was deployed to Iraq, as the Red Sea was no longer a combat zone.

    YARRA once again provided an escort for ships carrying troops to the Iraq war and provided support to land forces and protecting the strategic Qarmat Ali Bridge. Iraqi forces attempted to destroy the bridge; however, the detonators backfired and YARRA used its guns to destroy the charges.

    YARRA was assigned to dispersing opposing forces from the town of Shatt-el-Arab, and on the night of 24 May, successfully fired on the town and covered the landing troops. The Iraqis surrendered to the British on 30 May, 1941.

    YARRA remained in the Mediterranean area and provided assistance during the British and Russian offensive in the Persian Gulf in August 1941. After the Persian Government surrendered on 2 September 1941, YARRA once again returned to India for refit and shore leave for the crew. It was ordered to return to the Red Sea area in October, and assisted the Allied forces in Tobruk until 8 December 1941. When war was declared with Japan, YARRA was ordered to Java. From January, 1942, YARRA served as an escort between Sunda Strait and Singapore for Chinese forces moving to defend the Malay Peninsula. In February, YARRA rescued over 1,800 troops from the EMPRESS OF ASIA troopship as it was under attack and on fire off Singapore.

    The Japanese made swift progress in the area and on 2 March 1942 YARRA was deployed to escort British ships from Batavia (present day Jakarta) to Tjilatjap, a harbour on the other side of the island of Java. Once the convoy reached Tjilatjap they were warned not to enter and YARRA was ordered to escort depot ship ANKING, tanker FRANCOL and motor minesweeper MMS51 to Fremantle, Western Australia. The convoy did not see any Japanese ships until 4 March. They then came under heavy bombing, with the Japanese ships being faster and better armed than YARRA. ANKING was the first to be sunk, followed by MMS51, FRANCOL and finally, YARRA. Just minutes after giving the order to abandon ship, the bridge was destroyed, killing the captain. Survivors of all ships drifted on rafts and floats, with several groups being rescued over the next few days. Of the 151 crew of YARRA, only 13 ratings survived both the sinking and the aftermath.

    Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbour and was first established as a penal settlement by the NSW colonial government in 1839. In 1851 the construction of a dockyard commenced and in 1857 the first ship was drydocked there. In 1913 Cockatoo Island was transferred to the Commonwealth Government and the dockyards evolved in pace with the technical development of ships.

    With the formation of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1911, Cockatoo Island Dockyards began to construct naval ships, the first being HMAS WARREGO. The period during and after World War I was busy and profitable, with the peak of employment occurring in 1919. However, the Great Depression severely affected the shipyard and in 1933 the Commonwealth Government transferred control of the island to Cockatoo Docks & Engineering Company. Due to a gradual increase in naval activities, the Dockyards were able to slowly recover and the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 again allowed the Dockyards to increase productivity.

    After the War, Cockatoo Island Dockyards continued to be an important part of the Australian maritime infrastructure, but the controlling company changed hands many times until in 1992 when the Dockyards were decommissioned.

    Today, the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has administrative control of Cockatoo Island and it is used as a venue for many arts and entertainment events.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: HMAS YARRA under construction at Cockatoo dockyard

    Assigned title: HMAS YARRA under construction at Cockatoo dockyard

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