Having read the various accounts of the dawn attack on HMAS Australia on 21st October 1944, as contained in the Society’s publications, may I submit the following observation on the moments just prior to the actual strike.
My action station at the time was in the waist of Australia as part of a Close Range Weapons Supply group. I saw the plane which flew down on our starboard side recorded by others as engaged and damaged by a fire but not what became of it.
At the time of the attack which ended with the striking of the foremast I was standing by the guard rail, on the portside of the waist, facing inboard and looking up as the plane completed its approach, which may have begun from a port quarter as stated by some observers, but which was, in those final moments, from astern.
It was flying a fairly level course, was not obviously damaged and was certainly not on fire prior to the impact. The only flame to be seen could best be likened to that which comes from an open exhaust. My immediate expectation was, as I stood watching, that it would release a bomb. That, of course, was not to happen. It continued on to strike the foremast as has been detailed in other accounts.
Details by witnesses to any event will always be difficult to piece together when seeking a full reconstruction, particularly when there is a great deal of activity involving their own participation. I would be very wary in attempting the description of, for example, events that occurred in the subsequent attacks in early January, 1945, but remain adamant regarding the specific description of those moments prior to that aeroplane hitting us on 21/10/1944. What has altered in my way of thinking is an earlier belief that only one plane was involved in the attack. It is now obvious that at least two must have taken part in the affair, possibly three.
Geoff Barnard, ex S/A PM6249, HMAS ‘Australia’, 1943-1946