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image icon HMAS 'Fremantle' at Brisbane, 1942

HMAS 'Fremantle' at Brisbane, 1942
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is a black-and-white photograph taken close to the time of the launch of HMAS 'Fremantle' on 18 August 1942, probably at the dockyard of Evans Deakin and Company Ltd at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane. The photograph shows the ship, which still has scaffolding attached to it, and part of the large crowd that attended the launch.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset shows HMAS 'Fremantle', one of 60 Australian minesweepers (commonly known as corvettes) built during the Second World War in Australian shipyards as part of the Australian Government's wartime shipbuilding program - HMAS 'Fremantle' belonged to the lightly armed Bathurst class and was one of 36 corvettes built for the Royal Australian Navy.
  • This asset shows the scaffolding that held the ship while it was being built, six dockyard workers on the prow of the vessel, and, on the left, the dais on which the official party stood and from which Elsie Curtin spoke to the assembled crowd.
  • This asset indicates that the public launch of a ship in the war years was a significant event that drew a large crowd and distinguished guests - John Curtin, Australian Prime Minister from 1941 to 1945, attended the function, and his wife, Elsie, launched the ship.
  • This asset shows HMAS 'Fremantle' at the start of her war service - the ship provided protection for merchant shipping travelling between Darwin and Thursday Island until April 1945; she then sailed to Manus to act as an escort and guard ship in the New Guinea area until the end of the War; she was then used for minesweeping work in Chinese waters, before being paid off into reserve in January 1946; recommissioned in 1952, she served as a training ship for Western Australia and as a fisheries protection vessel with the Japanese Pearling Fleet in the Arafura Sea, as well as undertaking survey and general fleet duties; she was finally paid off at Sydney for disposal in June 1959, and was sold for scrap in January 1961.
  • This asset shows the types of clothing worn by people attending a public event during the Second World War - naval officers in uniform are dotted among the crowd, women are wearing smart dresses, men are in suits and almost everyone is wearing a hat; even the one child visible in the crowd sports a bonnet.
  • This asset probably marked a significant occasion for John and Elsie Curtin - the name of the ship would have resonated with the Prime Minister and his wife, because Curtin represented the federal electorate of Fremantle (1928-31, 1934-45) and the family's home was in the beachside suburb of Cottesloe, just north of the port of Fremantle in Western Australia.