HMAS Platypus (I)
Submarine Depot Ship
John Brown and Co Ltd, Clydebank, Scotland
Laid Down
14 October 1914
28 October 1916
Launched by
Mrs Fisher, wife of the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
25 March 1919
1 November 1956
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 3476 tons
Length 325 feet
Beam 44 feet
Draught 15 feet 8 inches
Speed 15.5 knots
Machinery 2 sets of triple expansion reciprocating steam engines, twin screws
Guns 1 x 4.7-inch gun
Battle Honours DARWIN 1942-43
HMAS Platypus (I) Badge

HMAS Platypus was built to the order of the Australian Government. After completion in March 1917 she passed to the control of the Admiralty until 25 March 1919 when she was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy at Portsmouth, under the command of Commander Edward Boyle VC RN, as a Submarine Depot Ship for six J Class submarines transferred as a gift from the Admiralty to the Royal Australian Navy.

Platypus sailed from Portsmouth on 8 April 1919 and with the submarines in company proceeded to Australia via the Suez Canal, arriving in Sydney on 15 July 1919.

HMAS Platypus in company with the J class submarines J1, J2, J4 and J5
HMAS Platypus in company with the J Class submarines J1, J2, J4 and J5.

In February 1920 Platypus proceeded to Port Phillip where a Submarine Depot had been established at Geelong. In May 1922 the Naval Board decided to abandon the policy of maintaining a Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service. The three J Class boats remaining in commission were paid off, and on 1 July 1922 Platypus proceeded to Sydney. On 12 July at Sydney she paid off as a Submarine Depot Ship and on the following day recommissioned as a Destroyer Depot and Fleet Repair Ship. Operating with the Fleet, mainly in home waters, she served in this role until 1929.

Meanwhile, in 1924, a Five Year Naval Development Programme had been approved by the Australian Government, which included the re-establishment of a Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service with a flotilla of six boats.

Some of HMAS Platypus' crew members in October 1926
Some of HMAS Platypus' officers in October 1926.  The officer on the extreme right is a naval chaplain. 

Two Royal Navy Odin Class submarines were initially ordered. Named Otway (I) and Oxley (I), the submarines reached Sydney on 14 February 1929. Platypus returned to Sydney from a cruise in Queensland waters the following day. She paid off on 31 March 1929 to recommission in her former role as a Submarine Tender.

HMAS Platypus with the J Class Submarines
HMAS Platypus with the J Class Submarines.

The reconstituted Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service suffered from the outset from the world wide naval retrenchments beginning in 1929. On 10 May 1930 Otway (I) and Oxley (I) were paid off into Immediate Reserve with provision for one day diving exercises per fortnight each boat. As a result it was decided to use Platypus as a Depot Ship at Garden Island, acting also as parent ship for the submarines.

Platypus paid off on 15 August 1929 and the following day commissioned as HMAS Penguin. In April 1931 Otway (I) and Oxley (I) were transferred to the Royal Navy.

Platypus continued in service as the Depot Ship at Garden Island, Sydney, under the name of Penguin until 26 February 1941 when she recommissioned as HMAS Platypus to resume seagoing service as a training ship.

In May 1941 she proceeded to Darwin. She was present in Darwin Harbour on 19 February 1942 when Japanese carrier borne aircraft made the first air attack on Australian soil. According to the official history of the Royal Australian Navy in World War II, ‘Platypus fought back hard, and though near-missed three times and with the lugger Mavie alongside her sunk escaped with damage in the engine room which immobilised her for some time.’

She remained in service as Base Ship, Darwin, until 1 January 1943 when she sailed for Cairns where she again served as Base Ship until May 1944.

At Williamstown, Victoria, on 12 June 1944, Platypus commenced a major refit and conversion of two of her four boilers to oil burning. The refit was completed in December 1944. On 5 January 1945 she left Sydney to proceed to New Guinea for service as a Repair and Maintenance Vessel.

Platypus operated in the Madang, Hollandia and Morotai areas until the end of November 1945, returning to Australian waters in December 1945. On 12 February 1946 she departed Melbourne for Sydney on her final sea voyage under her own power.

 In April 1946 Platypus became the depot ship for ships in E Class Reserve, in Sydney. In this role the ship was the floating headquarters and workshop for the personnel monitoring the dozens of RAN ships no longer in service but held in reserve, in Sydney, pending re-activation or disposal. This role continued until the bulk of the wartime vessels had either been re-activated or sold for scrap. Platypus was finally decommissioned on 1 November 1956.

Platypus was sold on 20 February 1958 to Mitsubishi Shoji Kaisha Ltd, of Tokyo, Japan, for scrap. She was docked at Garden Island in April 1958 to ensure her hull was still sound and to have various equipment and fittings removed. In June 1958 the Japanese salvage vessel Tukoshima Maru departed Sydney for Japan with Platypus, and the former Bathurst Class minesweeper HMAS Dubbo (I), in tow. Upon arrival both ships were broken up for scrap.

HMAS Platypus alongside the two Odin Class Submarines, HMAS Oxley and HMAS Otway
HMAS Platypus alongside with the two Odin Class Submarines, HMAS Oxley and HMAS Otway outboard of her.

Commanding Officers HMAS Platypus 

Commander Edward Courtney Boyle, VC, RN 

25 March 1919 - 12 July 1922

Commander Maurice  Baldwin Raymond Blackwood, DSO, RN 

13 July 1922 - 31 May 1923

Commander James Cantrell Johnstone Soutter, RN 

1 June 1923 - 13 January 1925  

Acting Commander George Francis Langford, RAN

14 January 1925 - 29 March 1925

Lieutenant Commander Reginald Warren Hore, DSC, RN 

30 March 1925 - 10 April 1925

Commander David Cranfurd Pillans, RN 

11 April 1925 - 17 July 1925

Lieutenant Commander Reginald Warren Hore, DSC, RN

18 July 1925 -  3 September 1925 

Commander David Cranfurd Pillans, RN

4 September 1925 - 30 April 1927

Commander Rupert Clare Garsia, RAN 

1 May 1927 - 14 April 1928

Commander Harry Thring Bennett, DSO, RN

15 April 1928 - 18 February 1929

Commander Alfred Gordon Hine, DSO, RN  

19 February 1929 - 15 August 1929

Decommissioned 15 August 1929. Recommissioned as Depot Ship HMAS Penguin 16 August 1929  - 25 February 1941

Commander Alfred Gordon Hine, DSO, RN 

16 August 1929 - 20 June 1930

Commander Rupert Clare Garsia, RAN 

21 June 1930 - 21 August 1932

Commander Ernest Clifford Rhodes, RAN 

22 August 1932 - 19 June 1934

Commander George Dunbar Moore, RAN

20 June 1934 - 11 December 1935

Commander Ernest Clifford Rhodes, RAN 

12 December 1935 - 1 March 1936

Commander Hilary Dorsett Owen, RN

2 March 1936 - 31 March 1938

Lieutenant Commander William Harold Thurlby, RAN 

1 April 1938 - 27 April 1938

Commander George Robert Deverell, RN 

28 April 1938 – 3 October 1939

Commander Alvord Sydney Rosenthal, RAN 

4 October 1939 - 26 October 1939

Commander Frederick Langton Cavaye, RAN 

27 October 1939 – 31 October 1940

Acting Captain James Claude Durie Esdaile, OBE, ADC, RAN 1 November 1940 - 25 February 1941

Recommissioned as HMAS Platypus 26 February 1941

Commander Harry Thring Bennett, DSO, RAN 

26 February 1941 - 11 December 1941

Acting Commander John Peter Tonkin, RAN 

12 December 1941 - 24 July 1942

Acting Commander Jack Donovan, RAN 

25 July 1942 - 26 March 1943

Acting Captain Ernest Clifford  Rhodes, RAN 

27 March 1943  -  25 July 1943

Acting Commander Glen Loftus Cant, RAN 

26 July 1943 - 11 August 1944 

Lieutenant Commander Desmond Aubrey Menlove, DSO, RANR

12 August 1944 - 4 May 1945

Lieutenant Commander David Logan, RAN 

5 May 1945 - 19 January 1946

Lieutenant Commander Keith Francis Gibson, RANR  

20 January 1946 - 11 April 1946   

As Depot Ship for Commanding Officer Reserve Ships (Sydney)

Commander Henry Hersee Palmer, RAN 

12 April 1946  - 2 September 1947

Acting Commander Robert Stephen Pearson, RAN  

3 September 1947 - 30 August 1949

Acting Commander Glen Loftus Cant, RAN

31 August 1949  -  15 March 1953

Acting Commander Sydney Thomas Milton Gower, RAN 

16 March 1953  -  1 November 1956