Cabin Cruiser
Lars Halvorsen & Son, Sydney NSW
30 December 1941
Destroyed by fire
Dimensions & Displacement
Length 66 feet
Beam 16 feet
Speed 7 knots
Guns 1 x .303 inch Vickers machine gun
Other Armament 6 x depth charges, 2 x PAC projector

Motor Yacht (MY) Nereus was built in 1939 by Lars Halvorsen and Sons Pty Ltd at their shipyard in Neutral Bay, Sydney, measuring 66 feet in length with a beam of 16 feet, and powered by two Chrysler eight-cylinder marine engines. She was requisitioned for naval service from her owner, Mr Sydney Arthur Smith, on 16 September 1941 and, after being re-fitted for naval service by Halvorsens, was commissioned into the RAN in Sydney as HMAS Nereus on 30 December 1941 under the command of Sub-lieutenant Eric Beeham, RANVR.

Although originally intended for service in Darwin and commissioned as a tender to HMAS Platypus, a submarine depot ship based in Darwin, Nereus never made the voyage north and remained in Sydney for the entirety of her commission. By April she had been re-designated as a tender to HMAS Penguin in Sydney.

While ostensibly based in Sydney on the night of the midget submarine attack in Sydney Harbour, she appears to have had no involvement in the event. Indeed, her whereabouts on that evening cannot be established. She did, however, report having attacked and sunk a submarine in Vaucluse Bay the following day but it was later determined to have been a false sighting.

During the evening of 2 July 1942, while moored in Obelisk Bay, Nereus was lost to a fire that started in the vessel’s engine room at around 6.00pm. Within 15 minutes of the outbreak, her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant James Griffin, DSC, RANVR, ordered the crew of five off the vessel and onto a fishing boat and another naval launch that came to their aid. The fire eventually burned through the mooring hawser and she drifted with the tide on to a group of piles where she burned to the waterline.

HMAS Nereus was a Cabin Cruiser built by famed Sydney boatbuilding company, Halvorsens.
HMAS Nereus was a Cabin Cruiser built by famed Sydney boatbuilding company, Halvorsens.

Small crowds gathered on the shore to watch and were treated to what the Sydney Morning Herald described the following morning as “a spectacular display of ‘fireworks’ when small arms ammunition kept on the launch exploded in the heat and flew into the sky in all directions”. The flames were finally extinguished by a fire float, and Nereus was later taken in tow and beached by HMAS Steady Hour. A Board of Inquiry was unable to definitively determine the cause of the fire.