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VALIANT STAR in Lavender Bay, 2005, in use as a private motor vessel.

War Service

During both the First and Second World War a number of privately owned craft were requisitioned by the Australian Government to serve with the armed forces. Some craft were also taken by the American forces during the World War II. 'War Service' is the term used to describe these craft, and whilst many were destroyed or broken up as a result of their time with the military, a number survived and were returned to private ownership after the conflicts had ended.

The vessels were commandeered for a variety of reasons and undertook many different roles. One of the principal reasons was an immediate need for small support craft to transport crew and stores between ships and shore bases due to the great increase in naval vessel movement around all the Australian ports. Larger vessels could take on towing duties and help with barges and lighters. Some of the craft were taken to the frontline, with many operating around Papua New Guinea and the island groups nearby. In most instances the craft served with the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army or the US Army Small Ships Service.

Both conflicts saw enemy ships and submarines attacking shipping along the coastline, and this threat was particularly serious during World War II. A number of craft were fitted out for coastal or harbour patrol work in response to this threat, and some were armed with weapons that included mounted machine guns and depth charges.

The owners were given no option, under wartime emergency Federal Government powers the craft could be taken, and they were compensated with a payment relative to the craft's estimated value at the time. Not all craft were commandeered, many fishing craft were spared as they were needed to keep supplying food, but a great many recreational and commercial launches were taken over. One well known group was the larger, luxurious Halvorsen launches that patrolled Sydney Harbour during WWII. They were known as the 'Hollywood Fleet' and played an important part on Sydney Harbour during the Japanese midget-submarine attack in May 1942. This was perhaps the most famous wartime incident involving craft that were undertaking war service.

Amongst other craft it is understood that all the pearling luggers were taken over, and whilst this would have been the intention and a great many saw war service, there are no complete records available to compare and document what actually happened. This is true of other craft as well, for example some of the larger private yachts assisted in coastal patrol work, but do not show up on any surviving official records. Overall, whilst a considerable amount of accurate research and documentation has been done by various groups, it remains incomplete and therefore difficult to confirm whether some craft were requisitioned or not.

Owners or crew sometimes stayed with the craft as the skipper or crew for the duration of the service. In some instances it was an opportunity for them to still use their craft.

At the end of the war the vessels were gradually decommissioned. The original owner had the opportunity to repurchase the vessel, but this was not always taken up and many craft moved on to a new owner. Almost all of them had been worked extremely hard with not a lot of attention paid to regular maintenance beyond ensuring they were watertight and operational. Some were modified extensively, including installing new engines that were not necessarily appropriate to them. This was the case for some of the sail-rigged vessels that went from being sail only or an auxiliary powered craft to a motor vessel with no spars as they were hastily refitted and then pressed into service. At the end of the war all the vessels were left as is, and in some cases the poor condition and major changes were too severe for the craft to be of much further use.

Despite the effects of the war on the surviving vessels, many did resume their commercial or recreational life after being decommissioned. They sometimes hold the visible scars of their time in service, but there are a number which have been rebuilt or restored to their original condition and configuration.

All of the craft have strong heritage connection to Australia's maritime military history, and recognising theat war service is a role they have taken during their life is a valuable title these craft have thoroughly earned in difficult circumstances.