HMAS Parkes (I)
Bathurst Class
Australian Minesweeper
Evans Deakin & Co Ltd, Brisbane
Laid Down
16 March 1943
30 October 1943
Launched by
Mrs Brown, wife of the President of the Senate
25 May 1944
17 December 1945
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 650 tons
Length 186 feet
Beam 31 feet
Draught 8 feet 6 inches
Speed 15 knots
Crew 85
Machinery Triple expansion, 2 shafts
Horsepower 2,000
  • 1 x 4-inch gun
  • Machine guns
Other Armament
  • 3 x Oerlikons
  • Depth charge chutes and throwers
Battle Honours

HMAS Parkes 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 Parkes) were built for the Royal Australian Navy and four for the Royal Indian Navy.

HMAS Parkes was laid down at Evans Deakin & Co Ltd, Brisbane, Queensland on 16 March 1943. She was launched on 30 October 1943 by Mrs Brown, wife of the President of the Senate and was the first RAN warship to carry the name of the NSW regional city.

Parkes commissioned at Brisbane on 25 May 1944 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Norris O Vidgen RANR.

HMAS Parkes was the last of sixty Australian Minesweepers to be completed. She can be seen here leaving the builder's yard, 15 May 1944.
HMAS Parkes was the last of sixty Australian Minesweepers to be completed. She can be seen here leaving the builder's yard, 15 May 1944.

Following trials in Moreton Bay, the ship sailed for Milne Bay on 3 June. After three weeks in New Guinea waters Parkes returned to Australia, arriving at Thursday Island on 27 June. Most of July was occupied in the escort of convoys between Thursday Island and Darwin. At the end of the month the ship proceeded to the Eilanden River in Netherlands New Guinea to embark 78 troops for Merauke. With these personnel safely disembarked at their destination Parkes sailed for Thursday Island to resume convoy escort duties on the Darwin run.

This work occupied the ship until September 1944. On 18 September she rescued survivors of the SS Kintore which had been wrecked on Warrimist Reef (near York Island) four days earlier. On 23 September she sailed for Fremantle.

HMAS Parkes, in the foreground, skirts around the New Guinea landscape. (Illustration by AWM Lette, AWM ART100070)

October and early November proved an uneventful period occupied by routine patrols off Fremantle, before Parkes returned to Darwin on 7 November to take up escort and patrol duties in the Arafura Sea. Throughout the rest of November and December Parkes operated in the Darwin area. On 20 December she rescued six Dutch former prisoners of war who had succeeded in escaping from enemy held territory in an outrigger canoe.

From then until the end of hostilities on 15 August 1945 Parkes continued to be based on Darwin. She was principally occupied with local escort and anti-submarine duties. It was a period of mainly routine activity. However, early in August the ship assisted in the successful extraction by HMAS HDML 1324 of Services Reconnaissance Department personnel from enemy occupied Timor after a clandestine operation.

Left: Troops embarking HMAS Parkes for the occupation of Timor. Right: HMAS Parkes en route to Timor, circa September 1945. The vessel is proceeding to Timor carrying members of TIMFORCE to take part in the occupation of the island. Identified personnel are, from left, Lieutenant K Finlayson, Lieutenant WR Blower, Chief Engineroom Artificer D McGuire, Lieutenant Commander NO Vidgen, Sub Lieutenant RF Spratt and Sub Lieutenant MA Gleeson-White. (AWM 115573)

Left: Lieutenant Commander NO Vidgen, RAN, Captain of HMAS Parkes, on the bridge. (AWM115572). Right: Informal outdoor portrait of Sergeant Keith B Davis, Military History Section (MHS) official photographer, sitting on the deck of HMAS Parkes.

On 7 September 1945 the sloop HMAS Moresby (I), accompanied by ten other Australian warships (including Parkes) and two Dutch vessels, sailed from Darwin to conduct the ceremony of surrender of all Japanese forces in Timor. Two other RAN vessels joined the convoy, which also included some small craft under tow, on 9 September. The ceremony was conducted at Koepang on 11 September on Moresby's quarterdeck. Parkes arrived back at Darwin on 20 September.

Left: Able Seaman S Jones, RAN, manning a 20MM Oerlikon gun c.1945 (AWM 115658). Right:
Left: Able Seaman S Jones, RAN, manning a 20mm Oerlikon gun, circa 1945. (AWM 115658). Right: Members of TIMFORCE, AIF and RAN, on their way to occupy Timor, relaxing over a game of cards on the deck, circa September 1945. (AWM 115660)

The following morning Lieutenant William R Blower, RANVR relieved Lieutenant Commander Vidgen in command and three hours later the ship proceeded with her sister ships HMA Ships Gympie (I) and Katoomba (I) to rendezvous off Dili with two other sister ships, HMA Ships Gladstone (I) and Warrnambool (I) (ex-Koepang) on 22 September. After the rendezvous on 23 September the five ships entered Dili harbour. They were joined by Moresby (I) on 24 September. The Governor of Portuguese Timor was formally advised of the Japanese surrender and in the evening one officer and ten ratings from each ship attended a thanksgiving ceremony at the Portuguese flagstaff. Parkes arrived back at Darwin on 30 September.

Left: Parkes drops a practice depth charge while en route to Soembawa carrying Major John M Baillieu and other SUNFORCE members, circa October 1945. (AWM 120232). Right: (L-R) Captain AD Stevenson, officer in charge of war crimes investigations with SUNFORCE, Sub Lieutenant Glesson-White, HMAS Parkes, and Lieutenant Robson AMF enjoy a cup of tea aboard the corvette. (AWM 120220)

In October she again visited Timor and assisted in the evacuation of Dutch prisoners of war. Later in the month and during early November troops and stores were transported in the area. On 8 November the ship arrived at Darwin and three days later departed that port for the last time. On 21 November Parkes arrived at Fremantle.

At the end of hostilities many of the Bathurst Class Corvettes were decommissioned or placed in reserve. Here HMAS Parkes can be seen in the foreground moored to a buoy.
At the end of hostilities many of the Bathurst Class Corvettes were decommissioned or placed in reserve. Here HMAS Parkes can be seen in the foreground moored to a buoy.
HMAS Parkes in company with her sister ships, HMAS Glenelg and HMAS Katoomba
A partially stripped Parkes nested with her sister ships, Glenelg and Katoomba awaiting disposal.

Parkes paid off into Reserve at Fremantle on 17 December 1945. She had steamed 43,021 miles since commissioning. Without being again brought forward for service Parkes was sold for scrap on 2 May 1957 to Hong Kong Rolling Mills Ltd, of Hong Kong.


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.