I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published April 11th 2021
Commemorating our naval heroes
There's something special about a museum which is itself housed in the primary exhibit.
To say that HMAS CASTLEMAINE is special is a gross understatement. A warship built and launched in Williamstown, she served with distinction during World War 2 and now, her guns long silenced has returned to Williamstown as a floating museum to take pride of place in the historic port precinct.
HMAS CASTLEMAINE was launched at Williamstown in August in 1941. She was gifted to the Maritime Trust of Australia in 1973. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Lovingly restored and cared for by dedicated volunteers, CASTLEMAINE is a monument to the courage of hundreds of young men who served on her and many other vessels of her type in the defence of the nation during World War 2.
HMAS CASTLEMAINE was launched not far from her present location on the 7th August 1941, one of sixty 'BATHURST'-Class vessels constructed in Australia based on a British design and modified to adapt to local conditions.
CASTLEMAINE is open to the public Saturday's, Sunday's and Public Holidays between 11 AM and 4 PM. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Built primarily as minesweepers, they also performed armed escort duties, troop landing & resupply and engaged in anti-submarine warfare. Armed with anti-aircraft guns, depth charges and a QF-4 Inch deck gun, CASTLEMAINE operated with a crew ranging from 70 to 100 and was officially designated an "Australian Mine Sweeper".
The Bridge was the nerve centre throughout CASTLEMAINE's wartime service. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
HMAS CASTLEMAINE saw service in the Pacific & Indian Oceans, the China Sea and northern Australian waters. During her short but dramatic career, CASTLEMAINE sustained minor damage from numerous enemy actions, ran aground on the coast east of Darwin and collided with a Manly ferry on Sydney Harbour. She operated in company with a sister-ship, HMAS ARMIDALE north of Australia and in the Timor Sea throughout November 1942 until ARMIDALE was lost to a massive Japanese airstrike on 1st December with the loss of 40 Officers and crew.
The ships Mess Deck houses a range of memorabilia from Castlemaine and other aspects of Australian naval history. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
With the end of hostilities, HMAS CASTLEMAINE was dispatched to Hong Kong, where she arrived on 29th August 1945 to take part in the Japanese surrender ceremony.
At the end of her active service, CASTLEMAINE was sent to HMAS CERBERUS on the Mornington Peninsula to serve as a static training vessel. She was gifted to The Maritime Trust of Australia in 1973 and painstakingly restored to fulfil the role of a maritime museum at Williamstown.
CASTLEMAINE's rear mounted Bofors Gun was just one aspect of the ships varied armaments. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
The ships Mess Deck is now a museum within the museum, exhibiting a huge amount of memorabilia from CASTLEMAINE and other aspects of Australian naval history.
A visit to HMAS CASTLEMAINE will cost Adults $8, Children 4 to 16 years $4 (Under 4-years FREE) and a Family (2A 2C) $20.
Getting There …..
HMAS CASTLEMAINE is permanently berthed at Gem Pier, Williamstown just over 13-Kilometres from the Melbourne CBD, about a 30-minute drive via the M1, Westgate Bridge and Williamstown Road.
You'll find HMAS CASTLEMAINE at Gem Pier, directly opposite Commonwealth Reserve. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Why? Take the opportunity to visit a former warship built and launched in Williamstown that served with distinction during World War 2, now lovingly restored to her former glory and taking pride of place in the historic port precinct.
When:In the current (April 2021) COVID environment HMAS CASTLEMAINE is open Saturday's, Sunday's and Public Holidays between 11 AM and 4 PM. Guests are required to wear a mask while aboard and to practise social distancing.