Welcome aboard the Diamantina – (nominated as a Queensland Icon), a Royal Australian Navy frigate built in Queensland and commissioned in 1945 and now the last remaining World War II River Class frigate in the world. Tour the ship from stem to stern and from bridge to engine room. See the cramped quarters in which the crew slept and ate their meals.
Visitors are able to visit most parts of the ship and experience living conditions on a World War II naval vessel. View a variety of exhibitions within the ship which portray the ship’s role and other naval memorabilia. The Engine Room is in pristine condition and is accessible to visitors. The radio room is maintained in operating condition and is used regularly to participate in world-wide radio communication activities. On the quarterdeck, stand in the exact place where the Japanese garrisons on Nauru Island and Ocean Island signed surrender documents at the end of World War II.
The former HMAS Diamantina is a River Class Frigate, designed in Great Britain and built in Australia. Her seven sister ships built in Australia, were Barcoo, Barwon, Burdekin, Gascoyne, Hawkesbury, Lachlan and Macquarie. In 1941 the RAN approved the construction of River Class frigates but it was not the only Allied Navy to build this class of warship during World War II. Britain built 57, Canada 68, while the USA built 77 Tacoma Class vessels based on the River Class design and placed orders for a 1000 destroyer escorts derived from the River Class. Although welded construction techniques in ships had been used since 1934, the River Class ships were designed for riveted construction with some welding permitted. They were equipped with radar, high frequency direction finding and good radio communications. The Type 271 surface search radar fitted to Diamantina was one of the war’s most significant scientific and technological developments.
At the outbreak of World War II radar technology became operational, however the power requirement was large and the equipment bulky so only the largest warships could be fitted with radar. Australian physicist Dr Mark Oliphant, then working in Britain, became interested in the need for high definition radar. He secured a development contract from the Admiralty and assigned physicists John Randall and Henry Boot to the project. In early 1940 they designed the cavity magnetron which became one of Britain’s most closely guarded wartime secrets. With its cavity magnetron the Type 271 radar had range and bearing discrimination small enough to detect small objects such as surfaced submarines and, in good weather, submarine periscopes. The power requirement was reduced and the aerial smaller, making this type of radar ideal for smaller warships like Diamantina tasked with protecting convoys and anti-submarine warfare. For aircraft detection the ship had another radar Type A286Q, which was also an Australian invention and designed especially for ships.
Displacement: 1420 tons standard, 2220 tons full load
Length: (Overall) 301ft 6″ (91.36m)
Beam: 36ft 6″ (11.06m)
Draft: 12ft (3.6m)
Machinery: 2 x 4 Cylinder Triple Expansion Steam Engines of 2750 I.H.P each. Twin screw.
Armament: 2 x 4 in. H.A/L.A. Guns
3 x 40mm Bofors A.A.
10x20mm Oerlikon A.A.
4 Depth Charge Throwers, 2 Depth Charge Chutes
Speed: 19/20 knots
Diamantina served in New Guinea waters during the latter part of World War 2 and the surrenders of Japanese forces at both Nauru and Ocean Islands (the final surrender of WW2) were signed on board.
Click here for Diamantina’s War Service.
In 1946 the ship was placed in reserve until recommissioned by the RAN in 1959 as an oceanographic, meteorological and hydrographic research vessel. Between 1959 and 1979, HMAS Diamantina conducted important operations in the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, Timor Sea, Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean. It also supported Australia’s contribution to the International Indian Ocean Expedition (1959–65). That mission, and the following 15 years of research of the Indian Ocean by CSIRO and other agencies aboard Diamantina, put Australia at the forefront of knowledge of that ocean. On 8 February 1960 the ship discovered the 1200-nautical mile Diamantina Fracture Zone, then the deepest known part of the Indian Ocean. Approximately 150,000 square nautical miles of the Southern and Indian Oceans are named the Diamantina Zone in its honour. The research of the East Australian Current conducted aboard the ship changed the face of dynamic oceanography. This work had strategic importance during the Cold War, contributing to understanding of the propagation of sound in water which was vital in countering Russian submarine capability.
Diamantina paid off in Sydney on 28 February, 1980 and was laid up pending disposal.
In September 1980, Diamantina was presented to the Queensland Maritime Museum and steamed to Brisbane in October of that year, being placed in the Dry Dock at South Brisbane in 1981.
Diamantina is of historic significance as the world’s last remaining River Class frigate of World War II, one of Australia’s three remaining naval vessels to have served in that conflict, and as one of the world’s two remaining ships to have hosted surrender ceremonies (the other is USS Missouri which is on display in Pearl Harbor). As an intact wartime vessel, complete with its machinery and equipment, it has outstanding interpretive capacity: providing dramatic evidence of the workings of a warship and the conditions under which its personnel lived and worked. The ship also has scientific significance in marking an important transition in modern warship design, and for the evidence it provides of the development of radar and oceanography. Finally, Diamantina has spiritual significance for the descendants of hundreds of Australians who once served in the ship, particularly for those who were christened aboard.