- Turner, Mike
- Biographies and personal histories, RAN operations, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
RMS officers in the RAN conducted numerous Rendering Mines Safe (RMS) operations along the Australian coast and at islands to the north of Australia. Most of the RMS operations were after the official cessation of hostilities for World War II and were regarded as non-operational by the Australian Government.
German GY* moored mines in Australian waters
From 1940 to 1944 forty seven German GY* moored mines were rendered safe in Australian waters from South Australia to Queensland. One of the 12 mines washed ashore near Robe, SA was found by a fisherman on 12 July 1941 in Rivoli Bay. He attached a line to one of its horns, and towed it to a beach. An RMS Party arrived from HMAS Torrens, comprising an officer, Able Seaman W.L. Danswan, RAN and Able Seaman T.W. Todd, RANR. On 14 July a demolition charge was placed on the mine, and a cable run across a railway line to an electric exploder in the sand hills. A railwayman’s section trike cut the cable, and another cable was set up. The charge failed to detonate. After the regulation wait of fifteen minutes Danswan and Todd went back to check the mine. A wave rolled the mine onto one of its horns and the mine detonated, killing both sailors. They are thought to be the first Australian casualties on Australian soil during this war.
A very public disposal of a German GY* mine occurred in March 1966 at Surfers Paradise, Queensland, a well known high rise area. A mine fouled a fishing trawl, and ended up on the beach. Watched by an estimated 20,000 unwelcome spectators, five Clearance Divers (CDs) from RAN Clearance Diving Team 2 placed the mine on an ad-hoc sled. It was then towed by a bulldozer to a remote area and the main charge burned out.
Japanese JA moored mines in Australian waters
Thirty two JA mines were rendered safe in the Darwin area, and eleven near Torres Strait. One mine is on display in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Museum, HMAS Penguin. Many mines were almost hidden by mangroves, or were among rocks on unfrequented shores. No mines were ever swept, and presumably many mines were washed ashore and have never been located.
The first mines rendered safe were four mines washed ashore at Gunn Point, 15 miles from Darwin, on 11 February 1942, no more than a month after they were laid. Lieutenant Colin G. Croft, RANR was awarded the MBE for this initial RMS of Japanese mines.
RAN Mk XIV moored mines in Australian waters
From August 1941 to December 1943, HMAS Bungaree laid 6,548 Mk XIV moored mines in defensive fields at Port Moresby, Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef. Sweeping in 1943 – 1947 cleared 2,768 of these mines after about 3,780 mines had broken adrift. There are presumably many mines that are yet to be located in remote areas, for example along the Great Barrier Reef.
Up to 1950 the RAN rendered safe over 1,000 mines in the Pacific, including 666 mines along the Queensland coast. From 1947 to 1949 Senior Commissioned Gunner F.W. Deahm, RAN was based at HMAS Moreton (Brisbane) for RMS duties, and was replaced by Senior Commissioned Gunner H.A. Watson, RAN. They ‘prowled the Queensland coast using great skill, initiative and considerable patience with those who sought to opine from afar (author’s emphasis).
Mines at islands to the north of Australia
National Archives of Australia (NAA) records for the disposal of mines at the islands are minimal. Fortunately there are some interesting accounts of operations by Mike Fogarty. In May 1945 there were twenty RMS personnel based in Australia (seven officers and thirteen sailors), and there were fifteen RMS personnel (seven officers and eight sailors) at the islands. There were ten at HMAS Madang (Madang), three at HMAS Carpentaria (Thursday Island) and two officers with the (USN) Mobile Explosive Investigations Unit (MEIU) No. 1. Prior to 1945 there had been RMS personnel based at HMAS Basilisk (Port Moresby)
In 1945 Lieutenant Harold L. Billman, RANVR (Sp) was awarded a MID for RMS from August 1943 to September 1943 while based at HMAS Basilisk (Port Moresby). He served with MEIU No. 1, and landed with the assault forces at Panoan Island, Philippines on 20 October 1944. His RMS tasks with Japanese bombs and mines lasted about four months, and in 1945 he was awarded the DSC. In April 1945 MEIU No. 1 was at Manila, and its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Rivinus, USN, was loud in his praise of the work of RANVR (Sp.) Lieutenants Billman and Hunter, as these two officers were about to return to Australia.