- Walker, Jefferson H., MVO, Lieutenant Commander, RAN
- RAN operations, Ship histories and stories, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Parramatta II
- December 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
At 1750, when this particular hell had been going on for about ten minutes, disaster overtook us. I suddenly saw Auckland covered with brown smoke and bits of wreckage jumping into the air, and realised she had been hit. For about a minute, as I approached the smoke head on, I couldn’t see her. Then she emerged heading straight for me. I got the ship turning just in time and avoided her, passing between the two ships. As she went down my starboard side, I saw she was heavily on fire and listing, and her stern was a wreck from the mainmast aft. In fact, little was visible above the waterline. She swung away to port and gradually came to a standstill, burning aft and with a heavy list. I saw she was lowering her boats, and men were jumping into the sea from her, and I realised she was done for.
The Merchant Ship appeared to be unhurt, so I told her to keep under weigh to seaward. The attack on me continued for some minutes and I kept on manoeuvering and firing. The Auckland’s forward guns still kept in action for some minutes. Then the attack came to an end and the enemy drew off and disappeared. I circled the wreck and stopped to windward of the men and flotsam, now spread wide on the ocean, and started to lower my boats and life-saving floats. My idea was to drop the boats empty and let the survivors swim to them (Auckland had only one boat afloat) but some men of mine went away in the boats. Some men in the water near the ship near the ship swam to her and were hauled in over the side. I knew the enemy might be back soon and dared not stop long. Auckland had received a direct hit on the after gun which wiped it and the crew off , and probably exploded some depth charges, or the after magazine, one hit amidships, one through the bridge which passed down through the ship and exploded as it passed through the port side, and one other which we think exploded later. The expected attack soon developed and consisted of a level bombing attack by 6 aircraft from quite a low height. Of course we fired on them steadily and I think we hurt one of them who later dropped out of the formation.
For some moments, I was unable to get under weigh as there were men in the water around my screws, and the attack caught me when the ship was gathering speed. Most of the bombs fell clear of the men in the water, and I sincerely hope none of them were hurt by them. It is obviously impossible to tell. The first salvoes fell very close but short of me, some of them seeming to lift the ship a foot or two out of the water. The enemy passed overhead, turned and came back again whilst we went on slamming at them. They again altered course when early over me, and passed, bombing, over the Merchant Ship, but missed her. Then the swine went low over the men in the water and machine-gunned them. What damage they did I do not know. But I have never felt so angry in all my life. It was a satisfaction to see that one of them was out of formation, flying low and making smoke. What happened to him I do not know. There were about 30 fighters above the bombers.
I knew there was more to come and that it would be pretty fierce when it did come, as there had been time for the dive-bombers to get back, refuel and reload. The sun was a beastly distance still above the horizon. There was little point in steaming away from the place and I wanted to pick up the Aucklands after dark at about nine o’clock. So I went a little distance away but near enough to cover the Merchant Ship, and the survivors, but far enough to keep the bombs away from the latter, and just steamed about waiting , and I may say, not liking it one little bit. I have never felt so lonely, or known the sun to sink so slowly in the sky. I cannot now look at a blood red sun just above the horizon without feeling my back tickling.