HMAS Riawe
Naval Auxiliary
Mr Ned Jack, Trevallyn Boat Yard, 1912
26 December 1942
12 December 1945
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 9 tons
Length 36 feet
Guns 1 x .303 Vickers Machine Gun mounted on the forward deck
Other Armament
  • 1 x box of hand grenades
  • 2 x Depth Charges
  • Small Arms

Riawe was built in 1912 by Mr Ned Jack at his Trevallyn boat yard, on the Tamar River at Launceston, in Northern Tasmania as a private work vessel for Captain James Holyman of Holymans Brothers Ltd.

The meaning of Riawe remains a point of discussion. Ned Jack occasionly gave his boats aboriginal names and it was a popular belief that the local Indigenous translation of Riawe, in the Tamar River region in northern Tasmania, is ‘small boat’ or ‘vessel’.

Captain Holyman used Riawe as a service vessel for the Holyman’s grazing properties of Waterhouse Island and Twenty Day Island (Ninth Island). The shallow draft was an enormous benefit over larger trading vessels in the Holyman fleet that were used for similar purposes.

In 1916 the Holymans purchased property on Robbins Island (north west Tasmania) and Walker Island and Riawe was relocated to service the property and community on Robbins Island.

In the early 1920s, Riawe was purchased by Mr Gordon Allison as a river workboat, plying animals, firewood, crates of apples, people and supplies along the Tamar River, and as required to Flinders Island and throughout the Furneaux Group.

Following the outbreak of World War II a Naval Auxiliary Patrol (NAP) was established throughout Australia as a subsidiary of the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve. Its role was to patrol Australia’s inner harbours, rivers and ports against enemy attack or sabotage. The NAP fleet consisted mainly of former pleasure craft that were requisitioned or offered freely by their owners, many of whom, along with other volunteers, manned them.

 On 16 January 1942, Riawe was requisitioned by the Department of the Navy for duties with the NAP. She was surveyed on 8 March to assess her suitability for patrol work, declared fit for service and valued at £400. Gordon Allison subsequently signed Riawe over to the Commonwealth of Australia for the period of the ‘National Emergency’ but he was destined to maintain his close association with the vessel.

Riawe underwent a number of modifications to equip her for naval service. She was painted grey, her mast was removed, the wheelhouse modified and a .303 Vickers machine gun was fitted to the fore deck. In that guise on 26 December 1942 she began her duties as vessel ‘772’ stationed at HMAS Huon, Hobart.

On 28 September 1942 Gordon Allison enlisted in the NAP and on 20 December 1942 he was appointed a probationary skipper/Chief Petty Officer. Throughout 1943 he served in Riawe as one of her two ‘skippers’. Two crews of three were assigned to the vessel to ensure that she remained operational at all times. She initially worked patrolling the Derwent River before being sent north where she patrolled the coast from Low Head to the Mersey River continuously for the next two years.

Riawe’s duties also included rescue work, mine sweeping and target towing for the army. Although derisively tagged by the locals as HMAS Ridiculous, Riawe became a familiar sight in the Tamar River region.

Riawe ceased her duties with the NAP in June 1944 and was placed in reserve at Launceston. From June 1944 the NAP was reduced to a minimum, and in August 1944 security patrols stopped altogether. In November 1944 Chief Petty Officer Allison transferred to the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve in which he continued to serve until discharging on 12 December 1945.

Riawe underwent minor repairs on completion of her naval service and was subsequently returned to her former owner, Mr Allison, resuming her role as a passenger ferry between Beauty Point and George Town. In 1951 Riawe was replaced by a new ferry and the vessel was handed down to Mr Allison’s son Wilfred.

Riawe began a new career in 1954 when she was converted to a fishing boat and renamed the Lady Pam. She continued in that role for the next fifty years before being sold in 2004 to a private owner. She has since reverted to her original name Riawe and is now listed on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Mr Lindon Haigh for his assistance in compiling this entry.