- Svensen, Randi
- History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In their new boatshed, the brothers pioneered the concept of mass production for the Australian Defence Department, and were able to complete two 38 foot service boats per week.
The initial work of building these 38 footers was carried out with the hull upside down. After planking had been completed the hull was turned and placed on a mobile cradle on rails which ran right through the building and extended to form slipways into the water. The boat moved along the track from one construction crew to the next as each section of the work was done and on completion rolled down the launching ways still resting on the original cradle.The 38 footers were designed by Harold for the Royal Australian Air Force for use as seaplane tenders, but were subsequently also used as command craft for fast supply, air-sea rescue, and patrol work. The twin-screw petrol model had a maximum speed of 24 knots, while the single screw version was powered by a 225 horsepower diesel engine. Each had a two-berth cabin forward, cooking facilities and a toilet room, but the boats were utilitarian—no fancy French polishing here. They were strongly built and highly regarded by those whose lives depended on the quality of their construction. Among them was Lieutenant Jesser-Coope, who commanded two Halvorsen 38s on patrol duty in New Guinea in 1944. He wrote an account of his experience in Halvorsen 38s.
AM1477 and AM1478
These two Halvorsen 38 footers were taken over by me, for patrol of some length in Dutch South West New Guinea, in January 1944.
These were powered with two Chrysler Royal Engines and had 4.8/1 gear boxes; [and an] open flying bridge.
These boats were shipped to Thursday Island where I took over their equipping. They were slipped and given three coats of anti-fouling, together with a collision mat on the stem, and decks were canvassed. Wireless was fitted, and the usual armament. Stores were taken aboard, and water and extra fuel in cockpits.
We left Thursday Island in S.E. weather and made for Merauke, 240 miles via Melville, Deliverance Islands.
At 15/1600 revs the two boats made an almost exact speed of 9 knots, despite a rather bumpy and heavy following sea, and held course excellently, although it was trying on the coxswain, the sea being just off the port quarter.
At Merauke more stores were taken on and full crews; six men all told per boat and the patrol proper started.
The nature of the Dutch New Guinea coast in the south does not encourage one; sudden squalls, shallows where water should be deep, and no charts worth the name nor any landmarks on the coast. The track lay from Merauke up to Mariana Straits, through this into the Digoel River, and into the maze of swamp and rivers which comprise the major portion of Dutch South West New Guinea.
The hazards of these rivers for small boats are many; huge bogs, mud and sand banks, tidal bores up to 12 feet in height, and a tidal system which beggars description. I have repeatedly seen 15 knots as a normal ebbing tide in the rivers.
The full load of the boats was about 3½ tons of gear and equipment. The conditions of atmosphere were testing in the extreme, but no dry rot set in to these boats. The screws all stood up to a battering that no one ever thought they would.
At times it was necessary to tow whole villages of natives (all head hunters and cannibals) behind the boats in addition to a 22 foot folding engineers’ bridge boat loaded with petrol. The greatest load was on a journey of some 200 miles with one fold boat, 1260 gallons of petrol, eight natives on board, in addition to the six crew, and some twenty dug out 60 foot prahus filled with natives, often against the tide. A speed of 5 knots was maintained throughout.
On another occasion AM1477 pushed her way through grass swamp for 9 miles cutting a swathe through it like a binder. It was possible to stand on the grass alongside, although water was deep underneath the mat of grass. This was a very severe test and took three days. Screws were cleared by native divers.