HMAS Paterson
Auxiliary Minesweeper
TF Morrison, Sinclair & Co, Balmain, NSW
1 May 1941
26 November 1945
Returned to her owners, 1 May 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 446 tons (gross)
Length 148 feet 8 inches
Beam 32 feet 7 inches
Draught 11 feet 3 inches
Speed 8 knots
Crew 4 officers, 27 sailors
  • 1 x 12 pdr
  • 1 Vickers machine gun

Throughout the course of World War II, the presence of enemy mines and submarines in Australian waters was of great concern to the Government and the Naval Board. In August 1940, the RAN Naval Board informed the Government that it believed that a total of 59 local defence vessels were required for minesweeping and anti-submarine operations in Australian coastal waters, a large increase on the twelve auxiliary minesweepers already employed in Australian waters. This was to be made up from a mix of new Australian-built Bathurst Class corvettes and vessels requisitioned from coastal trade. This number was later increased and the numbers of both corvettes and requisitioned vessels required increased commensurately.

HMAS Paterson was a wooden steamer taken up from trade to serve as an auxiliary minesweeper during World War II
HMAS Paterson was a wooden steamer taken up from trade to serve as an auxiliary minesweeper during World War II.
Sub Lieutenant Bevan Mitchell aboard HMAS Paterson.
Sub Lieutenant Bevan Mitchell aboard HMAS Paterson.

The wooden steamer Paterson was a coal burner engaged in transporting timber and general cargo along the Australian east coast. She was requisitioned for naval service on 21 December 1940. She departed Sydney on 27 December and arrived in Melbourne on New Year’s Eve where she was fitted out as an auxiliary minesweeper. She commissioned as HMAS Paterson at Melbourne on 1 May 1941 under the command of Lieutenant Percy G Collins, RANR(S).

She operated as a unit of Minesweeping Group 54, based at Melbourne until 12 November 1941 when she returned to Sydney to join Minesweeping Group 50. She later joined Minesweeping Group 77 based at Newcastle on 12 February 1942 and operated off the NSW coast.

Sub Lieutenant Bevan Mitchell, RANVR, recalls his posting to Paterson:

...we generally slipped at 7:00am, heading out to sea to commence the day’s sweeping - according to a pattern laid down for us in directions from the Port Minesweeping Officer...Normally we would carry on sweeping all day until nightfall, unless the weather became too foul for minesweeping to continue. When all was secured back at the wharf the usual practice was for one third of the ship’s company to be given shore leave, expiring at 6:00am, this being shortened now and then to midnight.

Another fainter recollection is that in Paterson we visited Newcastle a couple of times for the purpose of sweeping the approaches to that port and we also made one trip to Brisbane, where we remained for a couple of weeks, sweeping beyond Moreton Bay. Target towing for the Army’s coastal batteries was another, rather boring, function we performed from time to time.

Paterson decommissioned at Sydney on 26 November 1945 and was returned to her owners on 1 May 1946. She foundered on 11 June 1951 near Bird Island off the NSW Central Coast when she sprung a leak while carrying a general cargo, including 476 dozen bottles of beer, from Sydney to Newcastle. The ingress of water was beyond the capacity of the ship’s pumps to deal with.

HMAS Paterson's crew, circa 1945. (Courtesy Allen Townsend)
Paterson swept the approaches to Sydney Harbour on a daily basis
Paterson swept the approaches to Sydney Harbour on a daily basis.