Sea Mist

Lars Halvorsen & Son, Sydney NSW
21 July 1941
9 November 1945
Dimensions & Displacement
Length 65 feet
Beam 14 feet 6 inches
Draught 3 feet 6 inches
Speed 10 knots
Guns 2 x .303 inch Vickers machine gun
Other Armament 2 x Mk VII depth charge, 1 x PAC projector
Battle Honours PACIFIC 1941-45

Sea Mist was built, as a harbour pleasure boat, by Lars Halvorsen & Sons of Sydney for a Mr and Mrs Gale of Potts Point, Sydney. She was launched on 14 August 1939 and outfitted in the later part of that year. She was subsequently sold on to the motor racing driver Hope Bartlett though requisition documents list the owners as the Automobile and General Finance Co Ltd, with Mr Bartlett in possession of the vessel under a hire purchase agreement. The Royal Australian Navy requisitioned Sea Mist on 17 June 1941.

She was commissioned as HMAS Sea Mist on 21 July 1941 under the command of Sub Lieutenant John Doyle, RANR(S), for use as a channel patrol boat in Sydney Harbour. She would be purchased outright on 2 July 1942. Several other similar vessels had been acquired by the RAN and became known as the ‘Hollywood Fleet.’

Attached to the Sydney depot HMAS Penguin, the channel patrol boats conducted regular and routine patrols of Sydney Harbour. Even after Japan’s entry into the war in early December 1941, the war seemed far away. On 31 May 1942 Sub Lieutenant Doyle handed over command to Sub Lieutenant Reginald Andrew, RANVR. Sub Lieutenant Andrew and the ship’s company of Sea Mist were soon to receive their baptism of fire, as that night three Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour.

One of the midget submarines, M27, became entangled in the boom defence net at about 8:15pm on the night of 31 May and her crew subsequently blew up the vessel rather than be captured. Maritime Services Board personnel had spotted the entangled midget submarine and subsequently raised the alarm. Channel patrol boats were soon active in the harbour searching for other submarines. Midget submarine M24 successfully entered the harbour and fired two torpedoes at the cruiser USS Chicago, which did not hit their target. One ran aground at Garden Island and did not explode, however the second torpedo struck the sea wall at Garden Island and exploded causing the sinking of the depot ship HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21 sailors (19 RAN and two RN) who were sleeping on board. M24 then escaped from the harbour at about 2:05am on the morning of the 1st but subsequently sank off Sydney’s northern beaches after failing to rendezvous with her mother submarine (her wreck was not found until late 2006).

Built as a harbour pleasure boat, by Lars Halvorsen & Sons of Sydney, Sea Mist commissioned as HMAS Seamist on 21 July 1941.
Built as a harbour pleasure boat, by Lars Halvorsen & Sons of Sydney, Sea Mist commissioned as HMAS Sea Mist on 21 July 1941.

Midget submarine M22 was first spotted at 3:50am to the north of Garden Island. Channel patrol boats including Lauriana, Lolita, Sea Mist, Steady Hour, Yandra and Yarroma were by now actively searching for the submarines, while several of the warships in port prepared to put to sea rather than risk being torpedoed while at anchor. At around 5:00am Sea Mist entered Taylor Bay to investigate a possible submarine sighting and saw the conning tower of a submerging submarine. Sub Lieutenant Andrew commenced an attack with Sea Mist dropping two depth charges over the site where the submarine had last been seen. The second depth charge exploded close to Sea Mist causing damage to her engines and she was forced to break off the attack.

Further depth charges were dropped by Steady Hour and Yarroma between 6:40am and 8:30am. The attacks by all three vessels had effectively disabled M22 which now lay on the seabed at Taylor Bay. The midget submarine’s two man crew, knowing that there was no hope of escape, died of self-inflicted revolver shots. em>M22 was later recovered from the seabed.

HMAS Sea Mist was one of several small patrol craft in Sydney Harbour when three Japanese midget submarines penetrated harbour defences on the night of 31 May 1942.
HMAS Sea Mist was one of several small patrol craft in Sydney Harbour when three Japanese midget submarines penetrated harbour defences on the night of 31 May 1942.

Following repairs to the damage to her engines Sea Mist returned to her routine duties as a channel patrol boat. In early March 1944 Sea Mist was transferred to the Naval Auxiliary Patrol (NAP) under the command of Skipper (NAP) Albert Askew and her name amended to her original Sea Mist. She was refitted in Sydney for duties as an Air/Sea Rescue vessel in northern Australian waters.

After arriving in northern Australian waters, Sea Mist proceeded to Melville Bay (near Nhulunbuy) for Air/Sea rescue duties and began supporting Allied air forces conducting operations against Japanese forces in New Guinea and the Netherlands East Indies.

In early January 1945 Sea Mist departed Melville Bay for Darwin and on 8 January, in inclement weather, struck a submerged object. Subsequent inspection, however, found no damage and she continued on to Darwin temporarily hampered by an oil leak in the port engine.

On 19 January Sea Mist was returned to the RAN with Skipper Albert Askew commissioned as an RANVR Sub Lieutenant. She conducted boom defence patrol duties in Darwin until 26 February 1945 when she departed, in company with the air-sea rescue vessel HMAS Steady Hour and the three masted former coastal trading vessel Alma Doepel, bound for Townsville and a major refit. While en route, the vessels stopped at Melville Bay to refuel and during this evolution Steady Hour caught fire and was destroyed, fortunately without loss of life.

Sea Mist subsequently arrived in Townsville on 7 April, however the extent of the refit work package, which included the installation of two new engines, could not be conducted in Townsville without compromising other maintenance tasks. It was decided instead to conduct the refit in Brisbane where she arrived in late May and where she remained until the end of the war.

Sea Mist was towed to Sydney by the boom defence vessel HMAS Koala in October 1945. She was decommissioned on 9 November 1945 and sold back to Hope Bartlett in January 1946. Sea Mist was later on-sold and modified by various owners and is still afloat as of 2020, but looking very little like the original vessel.