HMAS Townsville was one of 15 Fremantle Class Patrol Boats (FCPBs) built for, and operated exclusively by, the Royal Australian Navy. She was the second navy ship to bear the name Townsville. The first HMAS Townsville was a Bathurst Class Australian Minesweeper, which served as a convoy escort vessel in the waters of Australia, the Pacific and New Guinea during World War II.
Brooke Marine Ltd of Lowestoft, UK, designed and built the first boat. All subsequent vessels were built in Australia by the Cairns shipbuilders, North Queensland Engineers and Agents (NQEA). Townsville, the second FCPB to be built in Australia, was launched from the NQEA slipway on 16 May 1981 by Lady Ramsay, wife of the Governor of Queensland, and was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 18 July 1981. The ship's company comprised of between three and five officers, four senior sailors and 16 junior sailors. The ship was based at Cairns Naval Base (CNB) at HMAS Cairns in far North Queensland.
HMAS Townsville had a range of 2,360 nautical miles at 12 knots and a maximum speed of almost 30 knots. Displacing over 250 tonnes, the ship had an overall length of 42 metres and a beam of 7 metres. Powered by two large 16 cylinder MTU diesel engines, Townsville had a rapid turn of pace and could comfortably reach speeds in excess of 25 knots. It was equipped with high-definition navigational radar, the latest GPS satellite equipment, high and ultra-high frequency communications equipment, gyro compasses and echo sounder. Townsville was also fitted with a satellite navigation system that enabled the ship's position to be determined with great accuracy.
Armed with a 40/60 Bofors gun and two 12.7mm 50-Calibre close range machine guns, Townsville also carried two small craft for boarding and other boat operations. Townsville was well equipped and ideally suited to fulfill a wide range of operational missions and tasks.
The FCPBs were the Navy's principal contribution to Australia’s fisheries protection, immigration, customs and drug law enforcement operations. The vessels worked hand-in-hand with other Government agencies including the Australian Defence Force, Coastwatch, Customs, Immigration, and Australian Fisheries Management Authority, each year providing up to 1,800 patrol days as part of the Coastwatch-managed national surveillance effort
Townsville’s motto, 'Bold and Ready’, illustrates the philosophy embraced in support of her mission as she patrolled the expansive waters of Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone. Action taken against vessels found to be involved in illegal activities often led to seizure, arrest and handover to the relevant government agency for subsequent prosecution by the authorities.
Royal Australian Navy patrol boats also formed an important part of national and international Search and Rescue operations thus further contributing to Australia's wider maritime interests.
HMAS Townsville was decommissioned on Friday 11 May 2007 in Cairns. The vessel was gifted to the Museum by the Commonwealth Department of Defence in the same month. HMA ships Townsville and Gladstone, likewise a museum vessel, are the only preserved FCPBs in Australia.
In order to ensure its ongoing structural integrity, the vessel's hull was refurbished in Cairns during 2015-2016 The vessel is at present moored at a temporary location in Townsville. Once a specially designed mooring pontoon, to be positioned in Ross Creek adjacent to the Museum, has been completed, the vessel will be moved to its permanent position.
We are searching for ex-crew members of HMAS Townsville for sharing their personal stories about life on board. If you are one of them, or know about someone, please get in touch with the Museum. We would love to hear from you!
The below images show HMAS Townsville granted the Freedom of the City in August 1981 - hopefully these will be inspirational.