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HMAS Nirimba


HMAS Nirimba was a Royal Australian Navy training base located at the former RAAF Station Schofields at Quakers Hill, New South Wales. The University of Western Sydney, Nirimba Campus now occupies the site, which was also the scene of dress rehearsals for the 2000 Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Originally built by the Royal Australian Air Force between 1942-1944 as an adjunct airfield to its huge Williamtown air base, the Schofields Airfield was taken over by the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) in 1945.

It was first named HMS Nabthorpe when operated by the BPF's Mobile Naval Air Base unit (MONAB) 3 from February 5 to November 15, 1945.

Stores, equipment and vehicles had sailed aboard the SS Essex on 4 December 1944, and personnel sailed from Liverpool UK upon SS Athlone Castle on 22 December 1944 bound for Sydney. The main party arrived in Sydney on 25 January 1945.

An advance party was sent to RAAF Schofields on 5 February 1945 to prepare the airfield for the arrival of squadron personnel and aircraft which were to arrive with the British Pacific Fleet. Upon arrival of the main party of personnel they were accommodated under canvas, as the station had no permanent buildings at the time.

When No. 899 Squadron disembarked from HMS Chaser on 23 April 1945, the unit became a Seafire Pool Squadron, but in July it became a Seafire Operational Training Unit, training RAAF pilots in naval flying techniques, including deck landings. Deck landing training was carried out upon the carrier HMS Indomitable for the first course, and HMS Arbiter for the second course. The successful pilots were to form the nucleus of the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm.
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The BPF's Schofields Naval Airbase, HMS Nabthorpe at the end of WWII

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It was then renamed HMS Nabstock while it was operated by MONAB 6 duiring the demobilisation period from November 15 1945 to June 8, 1946. Peter Dunn's Australia at War website lists 25 Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm squadrons that used the base over this period.

Reverting to RAAF control in mid-1946, the base was progressively handed over to the RAN's new Fleet Air Arm between 1950-1952.

In January 1952, the Royal Australian Air Force transferred control of the base to the RAN, but remained in residence until September 1952. It was established first as a RAN Aircraft repair Yard [RANARY], known as ALBATROSS II.

On 1 April 1953, it was re-commissioned as HMAS Nirimba, a joint RANARY and technical training establishment for RAN Fleet Air Arm. The Aircraft Repair Yard was short lived however, and was closed down in early 1955 when HMAS Nirimba and the airfield were reduced to Care and Maintenance status.

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Seafire Aircraft

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In September 1955, preparations began to recommission HMASNirimba as the RAN Apprentice Training Establishment (RANATE). On 4 January 1956, HMAS Nirimba was ‘Paid off’ to recommission the next day as HMAS Nirimba, RAN Apprentice Training Establishment. Captain F L George RAN assumed command.

Nirimba finally decommissioned on 25 February 1994, having trained some 13,000 young men and women from the RAN and other Commonwealth Navies.In what is now widely perceived seen as a disastrous loss of skills for the Navy, HMAS Nirimba had been closed when the out-sourcing of naval maintenance functions and services to private contractors increased.

There are significant areas where this out-sourcing system is clearly failing, with inquiries into both the amphibious fleet and the Collins Class submarines availability in 2011 finding the lines of responsibility for the maintenance and sustainment of these key Navy vessels to had become totally unclear.