HMAS Yarroma


Yarroma was built by W L Holmes and launched on 24 September 1939. (496)  She was built for a Mr Philip Bevan, however there is no mention of her in the newspapers of the period.  She was included in the Port of Sydney section of the Register of British Ships on 25 September 1939.  Bevan’s address was given as 260 Kent Street Sydney. (497)


Yarroma was 58 feet 6 inches (17.83m) with a beam of 14 feet 9 inches (4.50m) powered by twin eight cylinder 180hp Gray Marine engines.  She included a two berth cabin, a single berth cabin, a crews cabin, galley with gas stove and electric refrigerator, shower room, toilet, dining saloon and a deck saloon.  Keel and frames were of spotted gum, New Zealand kauri planking and Queensland maple superstructure and interior woodwork. (498)


On 30 May 1941, the Secretary of the Naval Board directed that Yarroma be requisitioned and fitted with ASDIC if trials on Miramar proved satisfactory.  Yarroma was formally requisitioned by the Navy on 20 June 1941. (499)  Bevan completed a questionnaire in June 1941 in which he indicated the purchase price from Holmes was £5,349 and that he had added additional items which resulted in a total purchase cost of £6,625.  He nominated his valuation at £5,000.  If that was his real purchase price, his valuation was a substantial depreciation, given she had been launched less than two years before.


On 19 August 1941 Yarroma was formally commissioned as HMAS Yarroma under command of Sub-Lieutenant S G Kingsford-Smith RANVR.  Two months later, Kingsford-Smith was replaced by Lieutenant James B Griffin RANVR, and was subsequently replaced by Sub-Lieutenant Harold C Eyers RANVR on 25 May 1942.


In mid-September 1941, Bevan met with representatives of the Department of Navy and subsequently stressed in his letter of 22 September, 1941, he held the view that vessels like Yarroma were built for intermittent duty and pleasure work and that to return the vessel to him in anything like her current condition, would cost the Navy considerably more than the sum he was willing to accept for her.  He said the vessel had been launched on 24 September 1939 and ‘so it is just two years old at the present time’.  He also said he had obtained two independent valuations which were 25% more than his reduced £4,000 asking price.  The Director of Engineering (Naval) again entered the process recommending she be purchased for no more than £3,150.  Lloyds on behalf of the Navy valued her at £5,500.  There was no explanation for the significant difference.


Yarroma. (500)


By November 1941, Bevan had not heard anything and requested information regarding the procedure to be adopted to determine the value to be paid.  As for the other vessels, the Secretary of the Navy gave the same response – under ‘consideration’.  In December, he wrote again requesting payment to be made ‘on account’.  He said he believed charter would not be appropriate and the procedure to be adopted should have been decided as ‘it is not fair to an owner not to know what his position is’.  The matter was passed to the Contract Board for negotiation for the ‘best possible price’.  The Department agreed to progress payments on account at £24 per month.


At the time, the Contracts Board and Tennant were dealing with other vessels including Steady Hour, Seamist, Silver Cloud, Leilani and Yarroma.  With so many vessels being taken with protracted negotiations, there was plenty of reasons for the owners to discuss the situation among themselves.


HMAS Yarroma. (501)


The 29 December 1941 was certainly a busy day for Tennant.  On that day he met Bevan re Yarroma, Ray Vaughan re Leilani and Hope Bartlett and Mr Gard re Seamist.  Bevan outlined issues with regard to his asking price and provided reasons for his insurance value only being half the purchase price – because he had installed a fire prevention system, had maintained at least one person on board and he covered the other half of the value of the vessel.  He was advised his offer of £4,000 would be recommended to the Contracts Board.  Given the depreciated value, even on the basis applied by the Navy at £5,135, it is perplexing to understand why Bevan was willing to settle for much less.

An explanation can be found in a Navy Memorandum dated 19 January 1942 which records a ‘telephonic communication’ received from the Taxation Commissioner’s Office stating the money for the vessel was to be paid by Bevan to the taxation office.  Clearly Bevan had an outstanding tax account and had entered into an arrangement with the ‘tax man’.


Yarroma, like Lolita, was armed with .303 Vickers machine guns fore and aft, and was fitted with twin depth charge chutes.  She was also fitted with the new anti-submarine ASDIC ‘134’ equipment.


For her role in the Battle of Sydney Harbour, Yarroma was awarded the ‘Pacific 1942’ Battle Honour. (502)  


For Bevan, the purchase of Yarroma was completed in mid-June 1942, two weeks after her actions in the Battle. (503)  But in finalizing the purchase, it was discovered Bevan had registered Yarroma as a British Ship under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 and the Registration Certificate was required to complete the purchase.  Bevan said the certificate was onboard when he handed the vessel to the Navy.  The Certificate was not found and the Registration was formally cancelled on 9 October 1942. (504)


There is no record in the Sydney Log of Yarroma departing the harbour after the Battle of Sydney Harbour, and it appears she may have continued her duties at Sydney throughout the remainder of the war.  On 20 May 1944, Yarroma was transferred to the Naval Auxiliary Patrol (NAP) (505) with a new commander Sub-Lieutenant d’Alpuget RANVR, who had been appointed on 22 May 1944.  In late 1944, the vessel underwent a refit.  During mid 1945, she underwent a further electrical and mechanical refit including the installation of new Hudson Invader marine engines.  By June 1945 she was back patrolling the boom net before returning to the Sayonara slip for hull cleaning and repairs to the propeller shafts.  She had ‘steamed’ a distance of 1,782 miles (2,850km) in the twelve months since her transfer to the NAP, (506) which indicates she conducted patrols at ports, other than just Sydney.


Yarroma was ‘paid off’ on 25 August 1945 (507) and was offered back to Philip Bevan for the sum of £4,000 - the same sum he had received from the Navy three years before.  His response was short and to the point – ‘Not interested in purchase of vessel Yarroma’.  She was advertised for sale on 9 December 1945, together with Miramar. (508)  Yarroma was sold at auction to Standard Vacuum Oil Co on 18 December 1945 for £5,250. (509)


Like other Hollywood Fleet vessels, there is no further history.  HMAS Yarroma is not included in the Navy’s ‘Ship Histories’.

496 Letter dated 22 September 1941, signed by Philip Bevan in NAA: MP138/1, 603/246/5464: Yarroma – Purchaser Std Vacuum Oil Co

497 Microfilm C2/14 held by ANMM – Registration No. 172891, No. 16 in 1939

498 NAA MP138/1, 603/246/5464 – Yarroma – Purchaser Std vacuum Oil Co.  See Lloyds survey.

499 NAA MP138/1, 603/246/5464 – Yarroma – Purchaser Std vacuum Oil Co.  This Record deals with requisition and purchase.

500 The International Power Boat and Aquatic Monthly – Feb. 1940.  Photograph from advertisement for W L Holmes.

501 AWM Photograph 302023

502 RAN Ship/Unit Approved Battle Honours, 1 March 2010

503 NAA: 138/1, 603/246/5464: Yarroma – Purchaser Std Vacuum Oil Co

504 Register of British Ships, Microfilm C2/14 held by ANMM, Registration No. 172891, 16 in 1939

505 See Appendix B – Naval Auxiliary Patrol (NAP)

506 NAA: AWM78, 375/1: HMAS Yarroma: Reports of Proceedings

507 NAA: 138/1, 603/246/5464: Yarroma – Purchaser Std Vacuum Oil Co

508 The Sun (Sydney), 9 December 1945, p.3

509 NAA: 138/1, 603/246/5464: Yarroma – Purchaser Std Vacuum Oil Co