HMAS Kuru was an auxiliary patrol boat operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) during World War II. Constructed in 1938 for the Northern Territory Patrol Service, Kuru was requisitioned by the RAN following the Japanese declaration of war in December 1941. The ship operated from Darwin, and was one of the vessels used to keep Allied troops in Timor resupplied following the Japanese invasion. Kuru operated until 1943, when she was damaged beyond repair in an accident.
HMAS Kuru was a 75ft - 55 ton Patrol Boat 78 for the NT Administrator's launch. She was to have been built in Singapore but as a Government contract there was the usual political pressure with the usual result. She was built in Balmain by Gordon Beattie in 1938despite his lack of experience in such vessels.
She had a maximum speed of 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph), and was armed with a single three-pounder gun. In RAN service, her armament was increased to an Oerlikon 20 mm cannon, a 0.50 calibre M2 Browning machine gun, and several lighter machine guns.
Following the outbreak of the Pacific War, Kuru was commissioned into the RAN in December 1941 as an auxiliary patrol boat. HMAS Kuru played an important role in the Battle of Timor from May 1942 and completed numerous supply trips to the island.
In late November 1942, the RAN was called on to evacuate the commandos of the 2/2nd Independent Company after ten months of guerilla warfare against the Japanese in Timor (an evacuation attempt in September had failed when the destroyer HMAS Voyager grounded, then was destroyed by Japanese aircraft), a contingent of Dutch troops, and over 100 Portuguese civilians, while delivering a relief contingent of Royal Netherlands East Indies Army and Australian soldiers.
Kuru and the Bathurst class corvettes Armidale and Castlemaine were assigned to the operation: on 30 November Kuru was to reach Betano Bay two hours before the otherships, offload her cargo, and take on the civilians, then meet the corvettes as they arrived and shuttle the fresh troops ashore, with personnel evacuated on return trips. Kuru sailed early on 29 November, and arrived without incident.
After offloading the supplies and taking on 70 women and children, the vessel waited for Armidale and Castlemaine to arrive, but after they failed to appear by 02:00 the next morning, sailed for Darwin. The corvettes, which had been delayed by air attacks, found Kuru after dawn, and the civilians were transferred to Castlemaine, with Armidale and Kuru ordered to return by separate routes and attempt the operation again that night.During the day, Kuru was attacked by Japanese aircraft; despite the dropping of over 260 bombs, the vessel suffered only minor damage.
At 20:00, the operation was called off as Japanese cruisers had been sighted in the area, and Kuru returned to Darwin on 3 December. Armidale was not so lucky; she was attacked and sunk by Japanese aircraft on 1 December.
Kuru was damaged beyond repair by an accident in October 1943.
Echoing a familiar Defence acquisition story, Haultain in "Watch off Arnhem Land" writes that in April 1939 - 'On her maiden voyage she had been forced into Townsville on her way to Darwin, with the hull 'hogged' so badly that she was put on the 'slips' for extensive repairs; the cost of these exceeded her building costs, and she never achieved the speeds for which she had been designed......However, when the Navy took her over she redeemed herself, and had her days of glory.'