HMAS Australia

HMAS Australia

A  ship with quite a colorful World War II history was the 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.

In December 1941, when Japan entered the war with the Allies, 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…

Aussie 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.

Aussie damage

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.

funnel damage

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.

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.

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Military Humor – 

“That meal was delicious, what went wrong with it?”

“Let’s go in here – they probably remember me from last night!”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kenneth L. Bridger – Stevens County, WA; US Army, Korea, Pvt. E-2 # 19354338, KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

Kevin J. Carroll – East Meadow, NY; USMC, Vietnam, Pfc., 3/1/Marine Aircraft Group 12, KIA (Quang Tin, SV)

William B. Coleman – Mobile, AL; US Army, WWII, ETO, Pfc. # 34803721, Co F/134/35th Infantry Division, Bronze Star, KIA (Grèmecey, FRA)

Roy C. Delauter – Washington County, MD; US Army, Korea, Sgt. # 13277149, Co D/1/32/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

Kathleen (Gohl) Gilchrist – Royal Oak, MI, US Navy WAVE, WWII

Carson R. Holman – Newport, PA; US Army, Colonel(Ret. 30 y.), West Point graduate, 82nd Airborne Division

Errol Lagasse (100) – Panama City, FL; US Coast Guard, WWII, Chief Petty Officer

David F. Lutes – Sarasota, FL; US Army, Korea, 11th Airborne Division

Thomas McGee (102) – Bethesda, MD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Tuskegee pilot, 409 missions in 3 wars  (remains a record), Colonel (Ret. 30 y.)

Bill Morrison – Birmingham, AL; US Army, WWII, ETO, Pfc., Co G/2/110/ 28th Infantry Division, KIA (Hürtgen Forest, GER)

Adolph Olenik – Gary, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, SSgt. # 15103844, B-24  “Kate Smith” gunner, 98th Heavy/345th Bomb Squadron, KIA (Ploesti, ROM)

Charles F. Perdue – Salisbury, MD; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Shipfitter 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor, HI)

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About GP

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

Posted on January 31, 2022, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 117 Comments.

  1. It sounds dreadful all round. My son has a Philippina girlfriend and they are hoping to visit her home in October, but I don’t know where it is.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dus na al die heldendaden strijdend ten onder gegaan.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You may not know the answer GP but here goes! Were the Kamikazi pilots given strategic instructions to target certain ships and ship positions or did they just strike where they thought they could get a clean hit? Also, what happened to the civilian population in the Philippines when the islands were invaded ?

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s all a lie that they left filled with braveness and joy, crying, “Long live the emperor!” They were sheep at a slaughterhouse. Everybody was looking down and tottering. Some were unable to stand up and were carried and pushed into their aircraft by maintenance soldiers. They received more spiritual training than pilot training. I do not know for certain their orders, but from the 19% effectiveness, I surmise that they were aimed at a fleet rather than a specific ship.
      The Filipinos suffered under Japanese rule, I’m afraid. Food taken to feed the troops was also under military rule. The closer the Allies came, the more strangle-hold they had on the civilians. Manila was burned and Filipinos killed before we got to it.

      Liked by 1 person

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