HMAS NIRIMBA – What’s in a Name

HMAS Nirimba – what’s in a name?

by Ron Robb


This article was first published in NOCN 82, 1 September 2010.)


Originally parts of two land grants made in 1814 and 1816, to Major West and John Pye respectively, the site of Schofields Aerodrome, Quakers Hill,  was acquired in 1941 as a satellite field to RAAF Richmond. Air base construction started in 1942 but with the formation of the British Pacific Fleet in November 1944 it was allocated to the Royal Navy (RN)  for a MONAB (Mobile Naval Air Base). MONAB III arrived and  commisioned the base as HMS Nabthorpe 5 February 1945.



In November 1945 the RN shut down MONAB VI, HMS Nabstock, in Brisbane, and transferred most of its personnel and equipment to Schofields. The name went with it, so Nabthorpe evolved into Nabstock.


A ship’s pennant with the name HMS Nabstock on it is the only known remaining tangible link of these times. The pennant was in the Nirimba Wardroom but is now in the Fleet Air Arm of Australia Museum at Nowra, an air station that coincidentally also had a life as a MONAB.


RAAF Schofields, again

In 1946 the RN vacated the base and as it reverted to the RAAF, it became known, for the second time, as RAAF Schofields. Then, in 1952 the RAN began to move in under an Acting CO, a Commander we quickly got to know  as “VAT” Smith.  Later there was an XO named Stevens, who achieved some notoriety as the captain of HMAS Voyager.


The establishment was commissioned HMAS Nirimba,  RANAS Schofields, 1 April 1953. The plan was to make it a depot repair facility (the birdland equivalent of Garden Island) and jointly an air technical training school.  The former never really got off the ground but the training function did, and very well too. Naval Officers Club long-serving committee member  Fred Lewis was a “bootlace” Warrant Officer in the Air Electrical School.


The civilian repair lobby (mainly Hawker de Havilland) managed to convince the RAN and the politicians that they could do a better job repairing naval aircraft. On the pretext that H. de H. was a strategic national industry, a political decision was made that it had to be kept alive and they got the job.



On 4 January 1956 RANAS Schofields was decommissioned and on 5 January the Royal Australian Navy Apprentice Training Establishment (RANATE) was commissioned.  RANAS had run down to a LCDR as CO but RANATE commissioned under the legendary CAPT F.L. George.  The name Nirimba was similarly decommissioned on 4 January, but recommissioned the next day.


The business of the RN naming its MONABs is a story in itself and the naming of Nirimba by the RAN was sometimes a story of high farce.  Together with all the relevant Navy Office and other documents it was so convoluted that it deserved a separate annex in my book,  The Flight of the Pelican.  The ship’s crest also underwent three metamorphoses and the one that is still on the University of Western Sydney’s  Administration block is actually the fourth version.


Nirimba finally decommissioned on 25 February 1994, having trained some 13,000 young men and women from the RAN and other Commonwealth navies.


Robb, R.K. Flight of the Pelican. ISBN: 0959194223. 1993.



10 thoughts on “HMAS NIRIMBA – What’s in a Name

  1. Hello, Ian Appleby from Teesside England, just stumble accross this site, i have a dark blue pennant about a foot long with HMS NABSTOCK on it which i was given about 35-40 years ago from my uncle, unfortunatey he has passed away so cant find any info on it,( I was sorting out the loft loft the other day and looking through my collectables so thought i would look it up but not much found) just thought this may be of intrest

  2. A great amount of detail is in the above book, copies of which are known to be in UK (NB the ISBN). Very interested to know that you have the pennant; as you can see above the only known NABSTOCK relic in Australia is one of those. If you can’t find a copy of the book contact me and I’ll photocopy enough to give you all the detail you’re seeking. You may find a few of the books still left in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Nowra.

    What was your uncle’s name. We have a few of the names who were there.

  3. Ron Robb you old dog, where are you? I am living temporarily in Chapman Canberra and expecting to build in a new development near Queanbeyan by 2014. Hoping this finds you well, ChrisO

    • Hi Chris, were you a lieutenant and lived in Papua New Guinea before in the 1980’s? Forgive me if that’s not you but I am from PNG and am looking for someone who had the same name as you. Please reply if you fit my description. Thank you. Ken.

  4. My father (Frank Walker) was in the Fleet Air Arm with the RN principally on the HMS Deersound. He came ashore to HMS Nabstock at Schofield in 1946 prior to taking demob in Australia however he subsequent changed his mind and returned to UK in May 1946 for his demob. My mother followed as a war bride in July 1946. Three years later the family migrated to Australia.
    I have a photo of HMS Nabstock personel in 1946.

  5. Hello,
    I’m looking for the bell of the HMAS Nirimba, my father Warren Spencer served on there and I was christened with name name engraved on the bell. I’m wanting to surprise my Dad. Any information would be amazing!!
    Thank you,

  6. Hi,i’m looking for my fiancé’s deceased father who died in a naval accident in the 90’s.
    His name was…James Hennessey.
    I can’t find anything on him anywhere.

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