HMAS Australia

HMAS Australia, imagery scanned from Navy Historic Archive

Possibly the ship with the most colorful World War II history was HMAS Australia, fondly known as “The Aussie”. The Aussie fought for almost the entire duration of the war. A county class cruiser commissioned in 1928 she was the second ship to bear the name of her country.

With the outbreak of WWII Aussie sailed for the Atlantic to begin her long wartime career that she was to fight on all fronts and against all enemies.  In September, 1940, she was in Operation Menace off Dakar, French West Africa.  Bombers of the Luftwaffe tried in vain to sink her whilst she was berthed alongside in Liverpool during the period when the city suffered its worst blitz. During her war service Aussie went everywhere.

n December 1941 when Japan entered the war Aussie became the flagship or Rear Admiral Crace, followed by Admiral Crutchley and then Commodore Collins.  In January 1942 the cruiser assisted in escorting the first US troops to Australia. Operating in the Coral Sea it pursued and attacked the Japanese from Guadalcanal to Hollandia, surviving everything its enemies could throw at her, until…

HMAS Australia funnel damage

Out of the blue skies of Leyte came the ‘Divine Wind” or the Kamikaze. The first Kamikaze hit against Aussie was by a A6M5 Zero-Sen Fighter fitted with a 200 kilogram bomb, the impact of this snapped one leg of the ship’s tripod mast, causing a huge shower of wreckage to rain down upon the compass platform.  Underneath it lay Captain Dechaineaux mortally wounded along with many others, amongst them Commodore J. Collins, hero of the HMAS Sydney.  Four days later, after the initial Kamikaze attack, Aussie again suffered the brunt of another, her sleek hull and distinctive row of three funnels drawing the suicidal pilots to her.

more HMAS Australia damage

HMAS Australia was needed badly by the R.A.N for she was the last surviving seaworthy member of the country’s heavy cruiser fleet the rest having been sunk and Hobart badly damaged. So she was quickly returned to active service.

She headed straight back to Philippine waters and on the afternoon of 5th January 1945 at Lingayen Gulf,  The Kamikazes targeted her again.  Her new Captain Armstrong flung the ship about wildly, but another bomb laden aircraft slammed into to her. The casualties were high – 25 men killed and 30 seriously wounded, most were badly needed guns crews.

Despite extensive damage she joined HMAS Shropshire and other US units to aid in the bombardment of San Fernando and Poro Point.  A new wave of Kamikazes then attacked, a Aichi ‘Val’ Dive Bomber surviving the murderous fire thrown up by all ships collided headlong into her upper deck exploding in an enormous fireball.  Several guns crews died instantly and a severe shock wave shuddered throughout the ship. This hit accounted for another 14 dead and 26 seriously wounded. by now Aussie’s AA defenses were all but eliminated.

HMAS Australia damage to the twin 4-inch mount

At dawn on 8th January the allied fleet resumed its bombardment and the Kamikazes renewed their suicidal attacks.  Aussie was the last ship in the line and was once again singled out.   The Aussie’s gunners throwing up withering fire at a Mitsubishi “Dinah” Bomber until at last shooting it down, but not before it released its bomb which exploded close to the waterline, punching a large hole in the hull.

Taking a dangerous list to port another ‘Dinah’ roared in.  Those guns still in operation tore the bomber to bits and it showered down aviation fuel upon the sailors whilst its massive engine smashed through the bulkhead of the Captain’s Day Cabin. Within seconds another ‘Dinah’ roared in, the Aussie gunners frantically trying to shoot it down, succeeding, within just 15 metres, the propeller blades embedding themselves in a life-raft.  The aircraft skidded into the hull ripping another large hole and damaging yet another fuel tank, whilst two mess decks were completely destroyed. Aussie by now was in bad shape, her speed reduced to fifteen knots to avoid causing more damage,  still hung in and managed to continue the fight with what was left of her.

The following day the Japs decided to finish the Flagship off knowing she was almost dead in the water. As another plane raced in heading for her bridge its pilot misjudged his attack line and slammed into the yardarm slewing the aircraft around so as to miss the bridge area and taking out the top of the foremost funnel. Sliced off cleanly it crashed to the deck. There were no casualties from this hit but it spelled the end for Aussie. Two boilers had to be shut down because of insufficient updraft.  Aussie’s war had come to an end.

The war for HMAS Australia was over.

Information from the Royal Australian Navy Gun Plot; Australian Navy and Joey’s Walkabout

The Australian Navy link includes some fantastic photographs!

Click on images to enlarge.

 

Current News – Doris “Dorie” Miller

Dorie Miller statue in progress

A 9-foot stature sculptured by Eddie Dixon will be unveiled today, Thursday, 7 December 2017, in honor of Doris “Dorie” Miller – Hero of Pearl Harbor!  On the banks of the Brazos River, Miller relatives and former crew of the USS Doris Miller will attend the ceremony for the Waco, Texas born seaman.

For a full story of Mr. Miller please click HERE!

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Military Humor –

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Margaret Abbott Hanson – CAN; RC Army, WWII, Regina Rifle Regiment

Deane Brees – Creston, IA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Gallatin, signalman

Paul Ciccarelli – Monessen, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co A/188/11th Airborne Division

Walter Eacott – Melbourne, AUS; RAF, WWII, night fighter pilot / RAAF, Squadron Leader

Charles Greene – Middleboro, KY; US Army, WWII, ETO, 916 Medical Ambulance, Bronze Star

James Lane – Wannambool, AUS; RA Navy # 57966, CPO

Francis Mitchell – Walkanae, NZ; RNZ Navy # 13840. Korea

David Nesbitt – Sidney, AUS; RA Air Force # 420355, WWII

Joseph Pisano – Queens, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, F/367/101st Airborne Division

Michael Vertucci – Maspeth, NY; US Army, KOrea

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 7, 2017, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 127 Comments.

  1. Just catching up here GP. What an amazing ship and crew, legendary on both sides of the conflict!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, my Dad was on the HMAS Australia and was there when the kamikaze attacks happened. He and his shipmates were deservedly proud of ‘her’. The ex crew had yearly reunions which he attended up until he died in 1999. In fact he was on a reunion holiday when he died.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You must be very proud of your father and his fellow seamen! I thank you very much for bringing us this info. Did he relate any tales of the sea that you can recall? The Australia was quite a lady and she had a remarkable crew, I’m sorry to hear that the world lost such a man so early.

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      • So proud of him and his shipmates. From as young as I can remember we used to go to Dads ‘Aussie’ reunion dinners every year and his mates were all ‘uncles’ to us. A very tight knit bunch of men who were there at all significant times in our lives such as significant birthdays, weddings and then sadly our dads funeral. An incredibly honourable and strong group of men. We would also see them every Anzac Day march held every 25th April in Australia. The last man standing of that era died this year aged 97 I think. There is a book out called ‘Flagship’ that was written by Mike Carlton a journalist. Nice to see them and their heroic feats still spoken of. Cheers Glenys.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I so appreciate your response and mention of the book, which I have taken down for purchase. Much appreciated.

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          • I’m not sure if you’d find this interesting too, but before HMAS Australia my dad was crew on HMAS Voyager which famously was one of a fleet of Australian ships nicknamed the ‘Scrap iron flotilla’. There is also a book of that same name but it is hard to find these days. In the back of the book it lists the names of all the sailors, so luckily I have that book too with my dad listed in it!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, I am interested. I’ve long had a passion for researching the Pacific, but seemed to hit a lot of brick walls while looking into the Commonwealth nations because so much info is classified as such, “Commonwealth”. Now that I’m retired I also have more time to accomplish what I want. I’ll be on the lookout for that book as well.

              Like

  3. Because I was away for a week I got behind in my reading. So I made a brief mention of HMAS Australia, and now you have filled us all in. Thanks GP. You never fail.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on KCJones and commented:
    WOW! A fantastic ship!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. WOW, talk about tenacious! The crew (and ship) were amazing! Thank you for sharing this slice of history with us.
    Blessings~

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a valiant ship and crews.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A gallant ship with a gallant crew; surely a partnership ordained in heaven? Thank you for reminding us.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post gp, that Ship certainly saw its fair share of War, a veritable War horse, its history is a great tribute to all Australians who served on Her.
    Thanks for recognizing Her contribution in your post Mate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When one finally reads her history – it is imperative to include her! I just can’t believe a film hasn’t been made in her (and the crew’s) honor. I can’t even locate a documentary for her, the HMAS Sidney pops up instead.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Thank you for posting this story about a heroic Aussie ship and her brave crews. As I have commented previously, I very much appreciate that you include other perspectives of this epic war, particularly that you give the ANZAC forces credit for their contributions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is no way in the world I could give even remotely an accurate account of the war without mentioning the ANZAC units and other Commonwealth nations. My regret is that so much of the information about them is classified in the records as exactly that – Commonwealth! I actually located mention of a W.African Division in Burma and a couple of South African pilots in the Pacific – but that is rare!

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  11. What a brave and determined crew fighting to the bitter end. She took a lot of hits and survived remarkably well for a considerable time, before finally admitting defeat. The sort of stories boys comics were once made of!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a determined crew on the Aussie to have kept her afloat for so long. Thanks for telling us what eventually happened to the ship. You know your history!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a shame she ended up being scrapped not a fit ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The pictures of the damage were impressive( in a sad way)- I hadn’t really thought about the scale of damage from the kamakazi attacks. Thanks for the nice nod to Pearl Harbor as well- it’s good to see the participants remembered. (Random neat thing: Some friends stationed in Hawaii got to talk to some of the vets who were special guests down at the monument last year.)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. What a story!! What happened to her after the war. Was she sold off for scrap metal or was she saved in one way or another. I’m hoping for the latter, but expect the former.

    Liked by 2 people

    • She mainly stayed in home waters as a training ship. From 1 to 14 August 1950, Australia (II) was engaged in a mercy mission to the Australian Antarctic base at Heard Island where a member of the staff, Dr Serge Udovikoff, was ill. Apart from the uncomfortable conditions created by gale force winds that gusted up to 65 knots, sleet, snow and hail, the ship experienced feed water difficulties due to the increased prevalence of plankton in the sea. Use of ship’s water was restricted to drinking and teeth cleaning and no one was allowed to wash. Weather conditions were no better when Australia (II) arrived at Heard Island, but when a reasonable break occurred the cutter was lowered and Dr Udovikoff eventually brought on board for the journey to Fremantle.

      In May 1951 the Governor of New South Wales, Lieutenant General Sir John Northcott, was embarked for Jubilee celebrations at Lord Howe Island. In July of the same year the ship paid a brief visit to New Caledonia. During 1952 Australia (II) visited New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomon Islands, dropping a wreath at Savo Island to commemorate the sinking of her sister ship Canberra on 9 August 1942.

      In 1955, she was sold for scrap metal. Another sad ending.
      Thank you for your interest!

      Liked by 3 people

  16. A legendary ship. Sadly scrapped in 1955. She would have made a great floating museum!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. By the time I finished reading the account, I felt so sorry for the ship — as well as for the men. Such a history. It seems to me that the Japanese must have felt at times that they had engaged an adversary that was braver and more resilient than they might have anticipated. It’s really something to read these tales about battles I’ve never heard of. It’s really great that you’re providing this education about the Pacific theater.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And I appreciate your interest in learning it, Linda. Many times, such as this story, it was suggested by a reader and as I researched – I learned the story too. Like Smitty always said, “The day I stop learning, please do me a favor and close the lid.”

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Thanks GP, I forgot to mention when commenting about the Aussie , that the Australian views as to why the Japanese singled out the ship, was because of it’s 3 smoke stacks, we believed the Japs thought it was a new special type of vessel.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. It seems odd to be sad about a ship being “killed,” given how many people were. But yet it is sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you’re saying, but you’re not alone, many of us feel the same about this old girl. That crew has so much to be proud of with her, they endured hell.

      Like

  20. Het moedige verhaal en de strijd van een sterk schip dat ten lange laatste toch verliest en zoveel slachtoffer met zich mee sleept

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Wow, what an incredible story of survival, for both the men and the ship. I found myself rooting for the ship. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  22. What an exciting story, GP. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. An amazing ship and an amazing story!
    I am grateful for all who served on The Aussie!

    “Closed for repairs”…Ha! 😀

    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Still a day that lives in infamy.

    Like

  25. And a vote of acknowledgement also to the victims of the Pearl Harbor sneak attack this day … gone, but not forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. What a story. I think she fought well for her country.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Wonderful people the Australians and New Zealanders. They selflessly contributed so much to the war effort in both world wars. My hat goes off to the ship’s company of HMAS Australia. Great post GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Amazing story of the life and death of the Aussie and the men who fought and died on her!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. What a great story, I knew none of that, a wonderful way to re-member the crew and the ship.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. you need to write a book—a book alone on the allied ship loss–I’m sure there are some books out there about the ships alone—but each story is so sobering, sad, tragic and heroic all rolled into one

    Liked by 1 person

  31. What an amazing story! That ship must have been loved by its crew.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Forgot to add good post on The Aussie! I never knew till now😊 Thanks GP😃

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I will remember to use that line to compliment any chef😆👍

    Liked by 1 person

  34. A great account of a heroic ship! Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. What an amazing piece of kit she must have been to withstand so much damage, she and her crew deserve a movie!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. An amazing story of strength, skill and survival. The photos on the Australian Navy site are great.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Reblogged this on Lest We Forget II and commented:
    About HMAS Australia and her valiant service during World War Two.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. My folks always mention these old Timex ads “ takes a licking and keeps on ticking”. And a good slogan for this ship, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Incredible how much damage ships could take. It must have been so terrifying to witness, not to mention the casualties.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Wow. What a story of one ship that saw so much action! Those who served on her must have felt that they had justifiably done ‘their bit’!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Thank you for thinking of me and this site.

    Like

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