The HMALST 3501, later known as the HMAS Labuan on first ANARE voyage to Heard Island. Image shows ship at Kerguelen Island at Port Jeanne d'Arc for bunkering between 30 December 1947 and 1 January 1948
The HMALST 3501, later known as the HMAS Labuan on first ANARE voyage to Heard Island. Image shows ship at Kerguelen Island at Port Jeanne d'Arc for bunkering between 30 December 1947 and 1 January 1948 (Photo: A Campbell-Drury)
LST 3501 / HMAS Labuan in Williamstown Victoria, 1948LST 3501 / HMAS Labuan in the Southern Ocean 1950

The HMALST 3501 was built in Canada in 1943 for the British Royal Navy and served in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean during World War II. The ship joined the Royal Australian Navy after the war.

Specifications

  • His or Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS); His or Her Majesty’s Australian Landing Ship Tank (HMALST)
  • Landing Ship Tank Mark 3
  • triple expansion engine 4100 kilowatts, 2 propellers
  • 2140 tons light; 3117 tons beaching
  • overall length: 105 metres
  • breadth: 16.84 metres
  • speed: 13 knots
  • range of action: 10 000 nautical miles
  • carrying capacity: 18 × 40-ton tanks, 27 trucks and 7 landing craft
  • 168 troops

Key Antarctic voyages

During early expeditions, ANARE struggled to charter a suitable ship to resupply stations. Although not particularly suited to sub-Antarctic conditions, the HMALST 3501’s first voyage with ANARE was to Heard Island in 1947.

Far from comfortable, the ship was described as being like ‘a caterpillar in motion’, rippling from bow to stern. The noise was deafening, with bulkheads buckling in and out with loud cracks, while the rivets creaked and groaned.

“It was a unique vessel in a storm. It has blunt bows, so as you hit a wave, it’s like bashing into it with a brick wall. There’d be this tremendous crash like a thousand kerosene tins being smashed. Then the whole of the front part of the ship would bump up and down like a springboard, and as it flapped, waves would come back through the steel decking.” – Interview with Phil Law & Tim Bowden, ANARE Jubilee History

In 1948, the Royal Australian Navy renamed the ship the HMAS Labuan, after the island off the coast of Borneo where Australian forces fought during World War II, painting it yellow for Antarctic service. Despite challenging conditions and limits to its abilities, the ship completed seven voyages with ANARE from 1947 to 1951.

Later life

After a rough voyage to Heard Island in 1951, the HMAS Labuan suffered severe damage. The ship broke down completely, and was towed into Fremantle in an unseaworthy state.

Decommissioned by the Navy in 1951, the ship was sold for scrap in 1955.