HMAS Glenelg (I)
Bathurst Class
Austraian Minesweeper
J236, M236
Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co Ltd, Sydney
Laid Down
2 March 1942
25 September 1942
Launched by
Mrs Evatt, wife of the Minister for External Affairs
16 November 1942
14 January 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 650 tons
Length 186 feet
Beam 31 feet
Draught 10 feet
Speed 15 knots
Horsepower 2000
Guns 1 x 4-inch gun
Other Armament
  • 3 x Oerlikons
  • 4 depth charge throwers
  • 2 depth charge chutes
Battle Honours

HMAS Glenelg was one of sixty Australian Minesweepers (commonly known as corvettes) built during World War II in Australian shipyards as part of the Commonwealth Government's wartime shipbuilding programme. Twenty were built on Admiralty order but manned and commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy. Thirty six (including Glenelg) were built for the Royal Australian Navy and four for the Royal Indian Navy.

HMAS Glenelg was laid down at Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co Ltd, Sydney, NSW on 2 March 1942. She was launched on 25 September 1942 by Mrs Evatt, wife of the Minister for External Affairs, and was the first RAN warship to carry the name of the beachside suburb of Adelaide, SA. 

HMAS Glenelg's ship's bell.
HMAS Glenelg's ship's bell.

Glenelg commissioned at Sydney on 16 November 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Alfred F Summerfield RANR(S).

The early months of the Glenelg's career were spent escorting convoys from Queensland ports to New Guinea. In May 1943 she began operating as escort for Sydney to Brisbane convoys. In December she began a refit.

In January 1944 Glenelg returned to the New Guinea area and remained there in constant service on patrol and escort duties until the end of the year. In the early period she operated on patrol off Milne Bay and the entrance to China Strait and later escorted shipping to Langemak, Manus, Saidor, Morotai, Hollandia, Madang and Cape Gloucester. A considerable period was spent on patrol in Dutch New Guinea waters. Constantly operational, Glenelg covered a wide area, steaming 42,000 miles and being some 10,000 hours under way.


HMAS Glenelg. (Allan C Green - State Library of Victoria)
Left: Chief Petty Officer Coad, RAN, relaxes onboard Glenelg. Middle: Sub Lieutenants Lunan, RAN and Doegan, RAN, on the deck of Glenelg. Right: Stoker Theiler looks at the hills as he relaxes onboard.

HMAS Glenelg. (Allan C Green, State Library of Australia)

Since the Allied forces were at this period in control of the sea and air in the New Guinea area, most of the period passed without action. Nevertheless, in October 1944 Glenelg was able to render signal aid to a sorely harassed American patrol at the mouth of the Woske River near Maffin Bay, Dutch New Guinea. On 20 October the ship, proceeding close inshore, observed the American detachment under severe mortar fire. An appeal for assistance to evacuate wounded met with a ready response from volunteers to man Glenelg's whaler and it was quickly despatched under Lieutenant WH Pennington. Swamped by heavy surf the waterlogged boat was beached by her crew, and its bottom boards used as improvised stretchers to carry the wounded to the American held bank of the river.

Meanwhile, on a request for bombardment support, Glenelg opened fire with her 4-inch gun. Under cover of this fire (31 rounds), which effectively silenced the Japanese mortars, the American party was able to withdraw to cover with all wounded, leaving five dead on the beach. Lieutenant Peebles (United States Army), the senior surviving officer, was emphatic that the fire laid down by Glenelg and directed from the open beach by Lieutenant Pennington and Signalman Greet, was the decisive factor in the successful withdrawal.

Group portrait of the the ship's company aboard Glenelg. (AWM 084703)

Left: Lieutenant Commander Robson, RANVR, the Commanding Officer of Glenelg, on the bridge (AWM 078131). Right: Informal portrait of three sailors from Glenelg on leave at George Street, Sydney, NSW, circa 1943. L-R: Able Seaman Thomas Daniel Sprod, Able Seaman Wesley Jack Diekman and Able Seaman Wallace Milford Beames. (AWM P05048.002)

In December 1944 Glenelg returned to Australia and arrived at Melbourne on 2 January 1945 to commence a refit, which was completed in February. On 16 March she departed Sydney for Manus to resume operational duty. The remainder of the period to the close of hostilities was taken up chiefly by escort of Morotai and Biak convoys. In early August she escorted a convoy to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines and spent some time in the Borneo area. On 12 August, three days before hostilities ended, Glenelg entered Darwin Harbour. She had steamed 103,027 miles on active operational duty.

Japanese POWs on the decks of Glenelg, during their evacuation to Bougainville soon after troops of the 31/51st Australian Infantry Battalion took over Nauru Island, circa September 1945. (AWM 117341, 117331 and 117332)

Left: Japanese POWs unloading stores from Glenelg on Ambon Island, soon after members of the 33rd Infantry Brigade took over the area, circa September 1945. (AWM 118232). Right: Able Seaman ME Tanner, RAN, HMAS Glenelg, while on guard duty passes a guard set by the Japanese authorities to keep local natives away from their area on Ambom Island, circa September 1945. (AWM 118229)

Left: Local natives of Ambon Island in their canoes clustered around Glenelg, which brought members of the 33rd Infantry Brigade into the area to take over from the Japanese (AWM 118227). Right: Able Seaman ME Tanner, RAN, HMAS Glenelg, is the centre of interest among natives of Ambon Island, while undertaking his turn of guard duty on the wharf. (AWM 118233)

In September Glenelg took part in the reoccupation of Ambon and remained in the Celebes area during the following month. On 1 November she departed Ambon for Fremantle, via Morotai, Townsville, Sydney, Melbourne and finally Glenelg, after which she had been named.

Australian POWs, after their release from Ambon Island following the Japanese surrender, on the deck of Glenelg en route to Morotai. The POWs were given a warm reception and provided with al possible comforts, circa 1945. (AWM 019309)

Left: Les Hohl of Toowoomba, Queensland, and Jim Rogers of St Kilda, Victoria, reading their first Australian newspapers after their release as prisoners of war from Ambon. They are waiting to board Glenelg to proceed to Morortai on the first stage of the journey home to Australia. (AWM 019301). Middle: Australian POW, Corporal Clarry Blackney of Essendon, Victoria, on the deck of Glenelg en route to Moorati. He is writing a letter home. (AWM 019308). Right: Australian POWs relaxing on the deck reading newspapers. Their malnourished and emaciated physical condition is evidence of their treatment by the Japanese. L-R: back row: Bert Jones, Rex Hattersley, Don Baker, C Blackney, H Goodwin; front row: Jim Ellis, Russ Lavery, S Proud, Warrent Officer M Ryan. Many of those released were initially too ill from disease and malnutrition to walk. (AWM 019307)

Glenelg paid off into Reserve at Fremantle on 14 January 1946. At the end of November 1945, while en route from Melbourne to Glenelg, the ship had steamed 110,019 miles since commissioning. On 2 May 1957 Glenelg was sold for breaking up to Hong Kong Rolling Mills Ltd of Hong Kong.

HMAS Glenelg in company with her sister ships, HMAS Parkes and HMAS Katoomba
HMAS Glenelg in reserve with her sister ships, HMAS Parkes and HMAS Katoomba in Fremantle, WA.

Note: This video is hosted on YouTube. Department of Defence users will not be able to view this video on the Defence Protected Network.

This cine film has been placed online as part of the Sea Power Centre - Australia's ongoing archival digitisation program.

Further reading

  • 'The Corvettes: Forgotten Ships of the Royal Australian Navy' by Iris Nesdale - published by the author, October, 1982.
  • 'Corvettes - Little Ships for Big Men' by Frank B Walker - published by Kingfisher Press, NSW, 1996.
  • 'The Australian Centenary History of Defence Volume III, The Royal Australian Navy' edited by David Stevens, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2001.