- Book reviewer
- WWII operations, Book reviews, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities, Influential People
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Australia II
- March 1991 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Chris Coulthard-Clark, Allen & Unwin Australia Pty Ltd 157 pages, illustrated.
This thoroughly researched account of the first important, sea battle in the South Pacific in World War 2 is another feather in the cap for Australian historical writer Chris Coulthard-Clark. It is a highly readable account of one of the most confused sea battles of modem times and adds considerably to our knowledge of the ships and the men who fought them.
My first and only serious criticism of this fine book is the title. The author has portrayed the battle as the highlight of the career of Australian born Rear Admiral J.G. Crace, CB, Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Squadron from 1939 to 1942. A more fitting title to the book in my opinion would be ‘Crace of the Coral Sea’. This, however, in no way detracts from an excellent book and on which will hold the reader’s attention from the beginning to the end.
Although Crace was a Royal Navy officer he was born in Canberra and his professional associations with Australia ranged from a sub-lieutenant serving in the protected cruiser HMS POWERFUL on the Australia Station, 1908-1910, a torpedo lieutenant in the flagship HMAS AUSTRALIA, 1913-1917, a commander in HMS DANAE during the Special Service Squadron visit to Australia in 1924 and Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Squadron from 1939 to 1942.
The author has introduced a variety of new material relating to the Royal Australian Navy in World War 2. One, which will interest many who served in the RAN in this period, is the lack of harmony which existed between the Fleet Commander and Navy Office. This dissension reached a point in 1941 which caused Crace to tender his resignation to the Chief of Naval Staff. Fortunately for Australia, the resignation was not accepted. Crace was far from satisfied with the secondary support role given to the Anzac Squadron in its operations which led up to the Battle of the Coral Sea. Despite the rash of grievances between the Australian Commander and American officers the United States Navy evidently held him in high regard. The United States Navy Official History describes Crace as ‘that energetic warrior’.
The book presents a frank and complete account of the murder which occurred in HMAS AUSTRALIA in 1942 and a frank revelation of homosexual practices aboard the cruiser.
Coulthard-Clark destroys the myth that the Battle of the Coral Sea saved Australia from invasion and quotes Japanese operational orders which clearly show the operation was an invasion of Port Moresby.
‘Action Stations Coral Sea’ is highly recommended to all who served in the Royal Australian Navy and all with an interest in naval history.