The wreck site of the former HMAS Parramatta (I) lies in shallow water within Cascade Gully in the Hawkesbury River, near its northern bank. With the bow and stern sections removed in the 1970s, the remainder of the wreck retains significant form. The centrally preserved section is retained to original main deck level with six strakes (runs) of external hull plating visible above the waterline, and two internal deck levels. All of the metal fabric shows evidence of extensive corrosion with the majority of fittings and fixtures (eg portholes) removed over the years. The internal spaces of the wreck are littered with miscellaneous plating, piping and introduced rubbish.
The Parramatta (I) Stern memorial comprises the aft (stern) end of the former vessel, as removed from the shipwreck site. The stern was cut from the once intact hull by oxyacetylene torches. Originally mounted on a brick support structure, the memorial saw extensive restoration by Parramatta City Council in 2003-4. This included a conservation program to limit water ingress into the memorial, stabilise rust activity, and to replace damaged sections of external plating. Major damage had been witnessed to the external rudder and bottom section of hull. The stern was repainted to an original World War One colour scheme, whilst the memorials brick support was cement rendered and painted. Modern interpretative plaques were installed into the interior recess of the memorial.
The Parramatta (I) Bow memorial is located on the Sydney Harbour foreshore of Garden Island Naval base. The striking sheer bow section retains a naval grey colour scheme and is set onto a low brick support base. The memorial has not seen recent conservation assessment.
The Parramatta (II) Memorial is located in Queens Wharf Reserve, Parramatta beside the Parramatta River's southern bank and comprises a stone block (granite) with attached plaques, and four white-painted stockless anchors at each corner, within a black square fenced area. The memorial is situated 112 metres east of the Parramatta (I) Stern Memorial.
HMAS Parramatta (I) was completed in 1910 and saw immediate service throughout the world during World War One. The vessel returned to Australia after the war and was finally placed in reserve untril decommissioned in 1929.
HMAS Parramatta (I) ended up in the Hawkesbury River as a proposed hulk for the New South Wales Prisons Department. Unknown stripping of the vessel's machinery and fittings occurred at this time. Parramatta (I) was sold soon after to George Rhodes of Cowan and used as a blue-metal storage barge. The hulk was sold again and finally used to store water for local residents in the Hawkesbury during the Depression.
Parramatta (I) blew ashore on a mud flat in Cascade Gully, adjacent to Milson Island, in the Hawkesbury River in 1934 and became a total wreck. The hull retained its form despite gradual deterioration.
In 1972, the Naval Historical Society of Australia began a project to recover the bow and stern for proposed memorials to commemorate the history and significance of the vessel and its later namesakes (Parramatta (II) and Parramatta (II), and Australian naval history generally. This involved the cutting off of both the bow and stern sections, leaving the remaining hull further exposed, particularly to the ingress of water and sand. Today the site retains significant structural integrity, although is encroached upon by mangroves.
The Parramatta (II) memorial
The memorial to HMAS Parramatta (II), sunk in combat in the Mediterranean in World War Two, originally comprised a metal plaque established in the grounds of the Parramatta Bowling Club in 1973.
The present memorial at Queens Wharf Reserve was constructed in 1986 and re-dedicated at that time. An additional interpretative plaque was added in 1995.
HMAS Parramatta (II) sunk by German U-boat off the coast of Libya (Tobruk), in the Mediteranean Sea.
The former HMAS Parramatta (I) shipwreck has retained significant integrity despite the removal of the bow and stern sections. This is testimony to the strength of the original design and construction materials used. Much of the all-steel hull, framing and decking shows signs of advanced corrosion however, due to its external location, and particularly due to the lower hull's partial burial in the mud substrate of the river and within the inter-tidal water zone. Such a setting increases the likelihood of more aggressive corrosion immediately above the nominal waterline. This is evidenced by increased metal pitting in this zone.
With limited historic building plans and photographs of Parramatta (I), the archaeological remains hold the potential to document state-of-the-art destroyer design and construction pre World War One.
The Parramatta (I) stern memorial has been the focus of extensive conservation works in 2003-4. This work has resulted in limiting water ingress into the structure, repairing visible rust and corrosion damage, and through repainting, providing a durable outer finish to prolong survival.
The Parramatta (I) bow memorial appears structurally sound although minor corrosion activity is identified. The Royal Australian Navy maintains the structure which is included in its heritage collection and maintenance programs.
The Parramatta (II) memorial does not include any historic fabric related to either the Parramatta (I) or (II) vessels. The monument essentially comprises a block of basalt, attached metal plaques and a metallic railing fence.
Former HMAS Parramatta (I) shipwreck and bow and stern memorials
The wreck of the former HMAS Parramatta (I) is remarkable for its early associations with the establishment of Commonwealth Naval forces. A torpedo boat destroyer (TBD), Parramatta (I) was the first of six built to serve as fast hunters of the "River" Class, a modification of the British "I" Class destroyer. This class was the last British warship designed with an external rudder system. With Pennant Number "55" painted on the bow, Parramatta was the first of the Australian group built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering at Govan, Scotland in 1910. It was also the first to arrive in Australian waters.
The class was noted for its length of 250 feet (76.2 metres) and displacement of 700 tons, a range of 2, 400 miles (3,862) at a speed of fifteen knots. They were equipped with one four inch gun, three twelve pounders and three eighteen inch torpedo tubes. Sister ship Yarra (1910) was built by the famous firm of Denny Brothers at Dumbarton, Scotland; Warrego (1911) in the same yard as Parramatta and re-erected at Cockatoo Island, Sydney; with Swan (1915), Huon (1914) and Torrens (1915) built solely at Cockatoo.
HMAS Parramatta (I) was one of a number of vessels ordered for the Commonwealth's new naval forces in 1909, following the assimilation of the various colonial fleets post Federation. Various proposals were forwarded for the modernisation and expansion of the navy which lead to the construction of Parramatta between 1909 and 1910. The keel of the flagship, the elegant battle-cruiser HMAS Australia (I) was also laid in 1910, followed by the Chattam-Class cruiser's Melbourne and Sydney in 1912. Parramatta found itself the first completed vessel of the Royal Australian Navy when King George V proclaimed the establishment of the navy on 10 July 1911.
With the outbreak of war in 1914, Parramatta (I) immediately saw active service in German New Guinea serving with the Australian fleet led by HMAS Australia (I). This powerful force included the light cruiser's Sydney, Melbourne, Encounter and Pioneer; the two newly arrived E-Class submarines AE1 and AE2; and Parramatta's sister's Yarra and Warrego. Their duty was to flush out the feared German Pacific cruiser squadron under Admiral Graf Spee (which had in fact already fled). The fleet first assisted the allied landings at key installations in German New Guinea, capturing the important naval base at Rabaul, the capital of the German colony.
After taking Rabaul and on patrol duties with the submarine AE1, HMAS Parramatta (I) was the last vessel to see the submarine which sank mysteriously with all hands on 14 September 1914.
During 1914, Parramatta (I) steamed 193 miles (310.6 kilometres) up the dangerous Sepik River in New Guinea in search of enemy vessels. Parramatta spent much of 1915 and 1916 enforcing shipping movements in the western Pacific. In mid-1917 the whole destroyer flotilla was sent to the Mediterranean and based at Brindisi, Italy, on Adriatic patrols to seek out enemy submarines.
On 12 November 1918, Paramatta (I) was part of the Allied fleet that entered the Dardanelles after Turkey agreed to an armistice. After the war, the destroyers sailed to England for leave, then returned to Australia. Here they were individually decommissioned between 1919 and 1928.
Parramatta (I) ended up in the Hawkesbury River as a proposed hulk for the New South Wales Prisons Department, following its decommissioning in 1929. Parramatta was sold soon after to George Rhodes of Cowan and used as a blue-metal storage barge. It was sold again and finally used to store water for local residents during the Depression. Here in 1934, Parramatta blew ashore on a mud flat in Cascade Gully, adjacent to Milson Island and became a total wreck. Squatters allegedly lived on the remains during this time.
In 1972, the Naval Historical Society of Australia began a project to recover the bow and stern for a memorial to the vessel and its later namesakes (Parramatta (2) and Parramatta (3), and Australian naval history generally. However, funding and other constraints delayed the project with the stern finally being mounted in Queens Wharf Reserve, Parramatta in 1981 and the bow at Garden Island in 1986.
HMAS Parramatta (II)
HMAS Parramatta (II) was constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, for the Royal Australian Navy as ship number 131. Construction was started on 9 November 1938, the vessel launched on 10 June 1939, and completed on 4 April 1940. The overall length was 266 feet (81 metres) and displacement 1,080 tons. HMAS Parramatta (II) was active during World War Two in the East Indies and the Mediterranean Sea.
Parramatta (II), a Grimsby class escort sloop, was sunk by the German U-boat U-559 on 27 November 1941. The action occurred in the Mediterranean Sea off Tobruk, North Africa. 138 lives were lost with only 24 survivors. The incident stands as the fourth worst loss of RAN lives during armed conflict, with HMAS Yarra (also 138 lives), after HMAS Sydney (645 lives), HMAS Perth (353 lives) and HMAS Canberra (84 lives).
The Parramatta (II) memorial was established in Queens Wharf Reserve in 1986 by the Naval Association of Australia (NSW sub Branch) and Parramatta Council to commemorate the loss of Parramatta (II).