River-class torpedo-boat destroyer

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For other naval ship classes of the same name, see River class (disambiguation).
HMAS Torrens (AWM H17522).jpg
HMAS Torrens
Class overview
Name: River-class torpedo-boat destroyer
Operators:  Royal Australian Navy
In commission: 1910–1930
Completed: 6
General characteristics
Type: Torpedo-boat destroyer
Displacement: 750 tons
Length: 246 ft (75 m) overall (first three)
250 ft 9 in (76.43 m) overall (second three)
Beam: 24 ft 3.75 in (7.4105 m)
Draught: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Propulsion: 3 x Yarrow boilers, Parsons turbines, 10,000 hp (7,500 kW), 3 shafts
Speed: 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph)
Range: 2,690 nautical miles (4,980 km; 3,100 mi) at 11.5 knots (21.3 km/h; 13.2 mph)
Complement: 66–73
Armament: 1 × BL 4-inch (100 mm) Mk VIII gun
3 x 12 pounder QF guns
3 × 18-inch (450mm) torpedo tubes

The River class was a class of six torpedo-boat destroyers operated by the Royal Australian Navy. Three were ordered for the Commonwealth Naval Forces (the post-Federation amalgamation of the Australian colonial navies) in 1909; two were built in the United Kingdom, while a third was partially built, disassembled, then transported to Australia for reassembly. Another three ships were later ordered. All six ships were operated during World War I, but were disposed of during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Three were sunk as target ships, while the other three were used as accommodations ships, but later ran aground or sank.

Design and construction[edit]

Three ships, Parramatta, Yarra and Warrego, were ordered on 6 February 1909; the first ships to be ordered for the Commonwealth Naval Forces, the post-Federation amalgamation of the Australian colonial navies.[1] Another three ships, Huon, Swan, and Torrens, were ordered later. All six ships of the class were named after Australian rivers (one from each state), starting a tradition in the Royal Australian Navy of naming ships after the rivers of Australia.[citation needed]

Based on the British Acheron class, these destroyers had a displacement of 750 tons.[2] The first three had a length overall of 246 feet (75 m), while the second three were longer at 250 feet 9 inches (76.43 m).[2][3] They were powered by three Yarrow oil-burning boilers connected to Parsons turbines, which delivered 10,000 shaft horsepower (7,500 kW) to three propeller shafts.[4] Cruising speed was 11.5 knots (21.3 km/h; 13.2 mph), giving the ship a range of 2,690 nautical miles (4,980 km; 3,100 mi), and maximum speed was 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph).[5] Each ship's company consisted of between 66 and 73 personnel, including five officers.[4]

The destroyers' main armament consisted of a single BL 4-inch Mark VIII naval gun, supplemented by three QF 12 pounder 12 cwt naval guns.[6] They were also fitted with three .303-inch machine guns and three single 18-inch torpedo tubes.[6]

Parramatta and Yarra were built in the United Kingdom, and were the first new ships launched for the Australian navy.[4][7] After completion, the two vessels were temporarily commissioned into the Royal Navy for the delivery voyage to Australia, although they reverted to the control of the Commonwealth Naval Forces on arrival in Broome.[4] Warrego, however, was built up to launch condition, then disassembled, transported to Australia by ship, and rebuilt at Cockatoo Island Dockyard: the reasoning behind this was to raise the standard of the Australian shipbuilding industry by giving Cockatoo Island hands-on experience in warship construction.[8][9] The second batch of three warships were all built at Cockatoo Island.

Operational history[edit]

Five River-class ships with a British destroyer at Brindisi, Italy in 1917

In May 1917, the six River-class ships were ordered to Malta.[4] On arrival, they were to undergo anti-submarine training, but were immediately deployed as escorts for a convoy.[4] After completing the convoy run, the Australian warships completed the training, and were assigned to patrols of the Adriatic.[4] The six destroyers returned to Australian waters in March 1919.[10]

Decommissioning and fate[edit]

The stern of HMAS Parramatta, preserved as the HMAS Parramatta Memorial in Parramatta, New South Wales

After decommissioning, Parramatta and Swan were stripped down and sold to the NSW Penal Department for use as prisoner accommodation on the Hawkesbury River.[10] The two hulks were then sold into private hands; after plans to use them as fishers' accommodation, they were used to transport metal to islands along the river.[10] In 1934, Swan and Parramatta were being towed along the river to the ship breakers when heavy weather caused the hulks to break free of their towing vessel; Swan sank, and Parramatta ran aground.[10] The two ships were abandoned, although in 1973, the bow and stern of Parramatta were salvaged for use as memorials.[11]

Warrego was used as accommodation at Cockatoo Island.[12] She sank at her berth, and was later demolished.[12] Yarra, Torrens, and Huon were all scuttled outside Sydney Heads after being used as target ships.[13]

Ships of the class[edit]

Name Ship Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
First group
Parramatta Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited, Govan, Glasgow 17 March 1909 9 February 1910 10 September 1910 20 April 1928 Hulk sold into private service, ran aground in 1934. Sections later salvaged for memorials.
Yarra William Denny & Brothers, Dumbarton 1909 9 April 1910 1 March 1911 10 May 1928 Broken up, hulk sunk as target in 1929
Warrego Laid down: Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited, Govan
Reconstructed from parts: Cockatoo Dockyard, Sydney
December 1910 (Cockatoo) 4 April 1911 1 June 1912 19 April 1928 Used as accommodation at Cockatoo Island, sank in 1931
Second group
Huon Cockatoo Dockyard, Sydney 25 January 1913 19 December 1914 14 December 1915 7 June 1928 Broken up, hulk sunk as target in 1931
Swan Cockatoo Dockyard, Sydney 22 January 1913 11 December 1915 16 August 1916 15 May 1928 Hulk sold into private service, Sank under tow in 1934
Torrens Cockatoo Dockyard, Sydney 25 January 1913 28 August 1915 3 July 1916 19 July 1920 (to reserve) Broken up, hulk sunk as target in 1930


  1. ^ Stevens, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 18
  2. ^ a b Cassells, The Destroyers, p. 74
  3. ^ Cassells, The Destroyers, p. 138
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Cassells, The Destroyers, p. 75
  5. ^ Cassells, The Destroyers, p. 74-5
  6. ^ a b Cassells, The Destroyers, p. 190
  7. ^ Stevens, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 19
  8. ^ Clark, in Stevens & Reeve, The Navy and the Nation, pp. 313–4
  9. ^ Cassells, The Destroyers, p. 191
  10. ^ a b c d Cassells, The Destroyers, p. 76
  11. ^ Cassells, The Destroyers, pp. 76–7
  12. ^ a b Cassells, The Destroyers, pp. 192–3
  13. ^ Cassells, The Destroyers, pgs. 46, 140, 200


  • Cassells, Vic (2000). The Destroyers: their battles and their badges. East Roseville, NSW: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7318-0893-2. OCLC 46829686. 
  • Clark, Chris (2005). Stevens, David & Reeve, John, ed. The Navy and the Nation: the influence of the Navy on modern Australia. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-200-8. OCLC 67872922. 
  • Stevens, David (2001). Stevens, David, ed. The Royal Australian Navy. The Australian Centenary History of Defence (vol III). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-555542-2. OCLC 50418095. 

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