- Weaver, Trevor
- Ship histories and stories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Kimbla
- June 1985 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
HMAS KIMBLA was laid down in 1953 and was launched by Mrs. J.W.N. Bull, wife of Captain John Bull who, at the time, was General Overseer Eastern Area. Kimbla’s launch was delayed due to the 1955 flooding of the Mary River, she was launched at 1102 on the 23rd March 1955. Kimbla had the distinction of being the first Naval Vessel built at Walkers Ltd. Maryborough since the Second World war, she was also the last of her line being a virtual copy of the ‘KOALA’ Class of Boom Defence Ships.
During the launch Mrs. Bull said: ‘I would like to thank you all very much indeed for drinking my health and to the success of HMAS Kimbla. Being a ship built for Defence (Boom Defence) it is unlikely that Kimbla will have the glorious career of a fighting ship, but I trust that by exercising the instinct of self preservation common to all wild game she will have a long and useful service in the Royal Australian Navy.’ Kimbla certainly had a long and mainly undistinguished career in firstly the role for which she was built in Boom and Mooring duties after Commissioning on 26th March 1956, then from the early 60s her main role was as an Oceanographic Research Vessel. In this role she served her country well.
Due to her low speed which turned out to be invaluable in her Oceanographic role Kimbla was affectionately known as the ‘Snail’, often entering harbour with her large Snail flag flying.
During her long career she steamed 363,000 miles at an average speed of 7 knots. Kimbla’s career came to an end when she was decommissioned on the 15th February 1985. When she entered harbour for the last time on 20th December, 1984, she flew a 208 foot paying off pennant representing the length of the ship and one foot for each year of service, which was 29 years.
Kimbla was employed on salvage duties, an often unpleasant but vital role, and two major Civil airline disasters were completed by the ship.
They were the Fokker Friendship off Mackay in 1960 and a Vickers Viscount in Botany Bay the following year. There were two major service recoveries, one a Sea Venom which crashed into Sydney Harbour during Navy Week celebrations in 1962 after a mid-air collision, the other Sea Venom made it safely back to Nowra by exceptional flying by its pilot. I remember watching it land, landing wires were stretched across the run-way held by chains, then another aircraft had to fly next to it as it had no airspeed indicator to assist in the landing which went off without a hitch. The more recent salvage was the salvage of an F111 in 1977 off New Zealand.
With the paying-off of Kimbla came an end to the Steam Reciprocating engines, as a form of ship propulsion. This means of propulsion had been used with various ships of the RAN since its inception. Distinctive features of Kimbla were the ship’s ‘horns’ with its associated steam winch and its solid rounded stern together with associated large mooring anchor.
HMAS Kimbla on completion was 940 tons, 179 feet long with a beam of 30 feet and was armed with a 40 mm Bofors gun.