By Richard H Pelvin and Jozef H Straczek
This paper was provided courtesy of the Sea Power Centre – Australia. It was first published in 2003 and is available on the Sea Power Centre website Feature Histories page. Both authors worked for the Defence Department in a range of roles over many years. Jozef Straczek was the Senior Naval Historical Officer in the Naval History Directorate, Department of Defence, Canberra. He has written or contributed to many books and articles on naval history. Among his works is the reference book, The Royal Australian Navy: ships, aircraft and shore establishments (Sydney: Navy Public Affairs, 1996). Richard Pelvin worked for ten years in the historical sections of the Army and Navy. He was also Curator of Official Records at the Australian War Memorial and has written and published widely on military, naval and aviation history.
In the morning of 8 December 1941 Japanese troops commenced landing in Northern Malaya. This assault was co-ordinated with the Japanese strike against the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor (7 December, local time). As a consequence of these actions the Royal Australian Navy found itself facing a new enemy and fighting a new war. A war that was to last four years and see Australian ships and personnel operate across the vast expanse of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Prior to the outbreak of hostilities six corvettes of the RAN had already been based at Singapore. Other vessels, including the cruiser HMAS Hobart, the destroyer HMAS Vampire and the sloop HMAS Yarra, were ordered back to Australian waters to help meet this new threat. Vampire formed part of the escort of HM Ships Prince of Wales and Repulse on their ill-fated sortie to attack Japanese landing forces at Kuantan on Malaysia’s east coast. She rescued 225 survivors after both the capital ships had been sunk by Japanese naval aircraft.
After this disaster the Australian ships were heavily involved in escorting the troopships bringing reinforcements to Singapore, often in the face of severe Japanese air attacks. On one occasion Yarra lifted over 1300 survivors from the troopship Empress of Asia after it had been dive bombed and sunk. A few days prior to this, on 27 January, Vampirecarried out a spirited but unsuccessful attack on a superior Japanese landing force at Endau. An accompanying British destroyer, HMS Thanet, was sunk. Other ships carried out patrol and evacuation duties. After taking part in the evacuation of Singapore the Australian ships formed part of the force allocated for the naval defence of the Netherlands East Indies.
To remove a threat from their flank while attacking eastern Java the Japanese Navy launched a heavy air raid on Darwin, which was being used by the Allies as a staging point for reinforcements. The bombers hit the town, airfield and harbour facilities, sinking five merchant ships and the destroyer USS Peary. Many other vessels, including the hospital ship Manunda, were damaged. This was the first of many such raids.
In Javanese waters, on 27 February a combined Australian, British, American and Dutch striking force composed of five cruisers, including HMAS Perth, as well as a number of destroyers, engaged Japanese forces covering the approach of a landing force. In this action, the Battle of the Java Sea, the Allies lost two Dutch cruisers and three destroyers with damage to a British cruiser. Subsequently the Allied naval forces were ordered to withdraw from the Dutch East Indies. However, whilst attempting to reach Australia through Sunda Straits, Perth, accompanied by the cruiser USS Houston, RAN into a Japanese force landing troops in Bantam Bay. In the ensuing action both cruisers were sunk with heavy loss of life. Many of the survivors were to subsequently die as prisoners of war.
HMAS Perth displayed incredible fight while outnumbered by a superior force. The ship, superbly led by Captain Hector ‘Hec’ Waller was eventually sunk in the early hours of 1 March 1942.
The Australian built corvettes were able to withdraw successfully to Australia while the destroyer Vampire had reached Ceylon. Also fortunate was the destroyer HMAS Vendetta which had been immobilised and under repair in dry dock at Singapore at the time of the attack. She eventually reached Australia after an epic towing operation through enemy controlled waters. Less fortunate, the sloop Yarra which, whilst escorting a convoy south of Java, was surprised by a Japanese heavy cruiser squadron. Despite putting up a gallant fight she was overwhelmed and sunk on 4 March. The following month, on 9 April, Vampire was also sunk by Japanese carrier aircraft off Ceylon.
With the occupation of Malaya and the Dutch East Indies the strategic centre of gravity moved east. The Japanese, having occupied Rabaul and points on the northern New Guinea coast decided to occupy the Solomon Islands and Port Moresby. This would enable them to deny the Allies bases from which to attack Rabaul and also to threaten the RANs Pacific lines of communication. The Combined Operations Intelligence Centre, located in Melbourne, linking information from locally based signals intelligence units, Coastwatchers and aerial reconnaissance, issued an assessment on 25 April that a Japanese assault on Port Moresby was imminent.
On 1 May the cruisers HMA Ships Australia and Hobart and USS Chicago escorted by three American destroyers sailed from Hervey Bay to rendezvous with an American force built around the aircraft carriers Yorktown and Lexington. The Australian force, designated Task Force 44, reinforced with a fourth US destroyer and detached on 7 May to block the movement of any Japanese ships through the Jomard Passage. The force was bombed that day by Japanese aircraft incurring only superficial damage. Although no other enemy were sighted the presence of the Allied ships was influential in the Japanese decision to withdraw the Moresby Invasion force. Meanwhile US carrier aircraft had sunk the Japanese light carrier Shoho the same day.
In the action between the American and Japanese fleet carriers, Shokaku and Zuikaku on the 8th, the Lexington was sunk and the Yorktown badly damaged. Neither of the Japanese carriers were sunk though the Shokaku was badly damaged. Although the Japanese had inflicted greater losses in ships on the Allies they had not achieved their strategic objectives. Further, the Shokaku and Zuikaku had suffered such heavy losses in aircraft and personnel that they were not available for the Midway Operation in early June.
The combined effects of the battle of the Coral Sea, Midway and later the Solomons Campaign turned the tide of the Pacific War. Although no Australian vessels were present at the Battle of Midway, Australian naval signals intelligence played an important part in helping to monitor Japanese movements and intentions and passing this information onto the Americans at Pearl Harbor.
Just prior to the Midway Operation the Japanese again brought the war to Australia’ shores with an attack on Sydney Harbour by midget submarines. The accommodation ship HMAS Kuttabul was sunk alongside Garden Island but all three Japanese submarines were lost. This was not the first incursion by Japanese submarines into Australian waters. In January four minelaying boats had operated in northern Australian waters, laying mines off Darwin and in Torres Strait. One, the I-124, had been sunk by the corvette HMAS Deloraine, assisted by other RAN and US vessels. In February and March the submarine I-25 had launched its reconnaissance seaplane on flights over Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart before moving on to New Zealand and Fiji. Simultaneously, submarine operations off the west coast resulted in the sinking of two merchant vessels and attacks on three others.
The midget attack presaged a submarine campaign against shipping on Australia’s eastern coast which lasted from early June until August. Fourteen ships were attacked of which six were sunk. Convoys were introduced on the Australian east coast on 6 June. The Japanese submarines also shelled Sydney and Newcastle with little resultant damage. Further operations carried out in the first half of 1943 resulted in the loss of another eleven ships including the hospital ship Centaur.
While the first submarine campaign was being waged, plans were in hand to eject the Japanese from the Solomon Islands. On 7 August an Allied force landed on Guadalcanal. Naval support was provided by an Australian/American force of cruisers and destroyers, including HMAS Australia, Canberra and Hobart. Shortly after midnight on 9 August a Japanese cruiser squadron attacked the allied force sinking Canberra and three American cruisers. Although operations in the Solomons were to continue, further RAN involvement was limited, although valuable support was provided by Coastwatchers.
Later in August the Japanese landed at Milne Bay. Units of the RAN had convoyed troopships to the area and latter supported the defence of the area from the sea. On 29 August the new destroyer HMAS Arunta sank the Japanese submarine RO33 off Port Moresby, thereby removing a major threat to the logistic support for Australian troops. With the successful conclusion of the Milne Bay battle the RAN provided naval support for forces operating in northern New Guinea and commenced development of the string of bases that would be opened up along that coast to support the Allied advance. Operations included conducting hydrographic surveys, shore bombardments, t RAN sporting troops and providing logistic support.
December 1942 saw the commencement of Operation Lilliput, which over a six-month period saw the transportation of 60,000 tons of supplies and 3,802 troops from Milne Bay to Oro Bay, escorted by Australian corvettes. In March 1943 the Japanese suffered a major defeat when a reinforcement convoy heading for Lae was destroyed by Allied air attack in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Intelligence on this convoy was provided by the joint RAN /USN codebreaking organisation in Melbourne.
This same period saw a lesser but significant level of RAN activity in the area north and west of Darwin. While supporting commando operations in Timor the destroyer HMAS Voyager was lost in September 1942 as was the corvette HMAS Armidale in December. With the withdrawal of the commandos the RAN continued to support covert operations in the area by the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) which were maintained until the end of the War. In September 1943 SRD operatives in small boats carried out Operation Jaywick, successfully attacking Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour. They had been t RAN sported there in a small captured fishing vessel, the Krait. In late 1944 another covert attack on Singapore Harbour was mounted by the SRD but was to end in disaster. Throughout the war the RAN units based on Darwin were also to provide support for settlements, missions, airfields and other military installations in the area. On 22 January 1943, while undertaking one of these voyages, the stores carrier HMAS Patricia Cam was bombed and sunk.
As 1943 and 1944 progressed Australian ships were involved in the campaigns to oust the Japanese from West New Guinea and adjacent islands. In the succession of landings carried out the cruisers and destroyers carried out bombardments and provided seaward cover. The corvettes escorted merchant ships through the area. The armed merchant cruisers HMAS Manoora, Kanimbla and Westralia were converted to Landing ships Infantry (LSI). As such they were to take part in many of the amphibious operations such as those at Hollandia, Biak, Aitape and Morotai which brought the Allies closer to the Philippines.
In July 1943 the cruisers were detached from the 7th Fleet for operations in the Solomons area. Enroute to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides Hobart was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and put out of action for nearly two years. In the previous month the heavy cruiser Shropshire had been transferred from the Royal Navy as a replacement for Canberra.
Captain John A Collins CB RAN assumed command of HMAS Shropshire on 7 April 1943 and she commissioned as HMAS Shropshire at Chatham on 20 April 1943.
Morotai was taken in September 1944 and from there the landings in Leyte were mounted. The LSIs landed American troops at Panaon while the covering forces included Australia, Shropshire, Arunta and her sister ship HMAS Warramunga. Survey work was carried out by the frigate HMAS Gascoyne. On 20 October a Japanese aircraft crashed into Australia causing heavy damage and casualties and forcing her withdrawal with Warramunga as escort.
In the Battle of Surigao Strait on 25 October Shropshire and Arunta formed part of the large American force formed around six battleships which overwhelmed a much smaller Japanese battle squadron attempting to attack the amphibious forces. Shropshire engaged the battleship Yamashiro with gunfire while Arunta carried out a torpedo attack. Surigao Strait was the last action fought using the traditional battle line. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, of which it was part, remains the largest naval battle in history and saw the end of the Imperial Japanese Navy as a fighting force.
In January 1945 the Allies commenced the invasion of Lingayen. Australia, now repaired, Shropshire, Arunta and Warramunga carried out bombardment duties while Manoora, Kanimbla and Westralia landed troops. The sloop HMAS Warrego and the frigate HMAS Gascoyne performed escort duties and carried out survey tasks in Lingayen Gulf. The Allied ships came under frequent air attack, especially from kamikaze aircraft. Gascoyne and Westralia were near missed and Arunta damaged. Australia, however, was grievously damaged when, between 5 and 9 January, she was hit five times. She continued to carry out her bombardment duties until ordered to retire with Arunta on 9 January. The other vessels continued operations in the area until March, by which time the repaired cruiser Hobart had rejoined.
At this time the British Pacific Fleet commenced operations in the Pacific. The RAN was initially represented by the destroyers HMA Ships Quickmatch and Quiberon as well as a number of corvettes. Later the destroyers HMA Ships Napier, Norman, Nizam and Nepal joined. All of these vessels had previously served in the Indian Ocean with the British Eastern Fleet. The destroyers had taken part in attacks on Japanese oil installations in Sumatra and the N Class vessels had supported the Army in Burma. The corvette HMAS Launceston had sunk the submarine RO 110 off Vizagapatam. The destroyers saw service in support of the Okinawa operations in April while the corvettes formed two minesweeping flotillas.
The RAN ‘s last operations in the Pacific were those in support of Australian troops in the landings at Tarakan, Brunei and Balikpapan in May, June and July respectively. As before the cruisers and destroyers provided gunfire support, troops were landed from the three LSIs and the sloops, frigates and corvettes carried out patrol, escort and surveying duties. RAN vessels, especially the smaller motor launches, were also active in the final operations in New Guinea waters.
Upon the conclusion of the war the RAN played a significant part in the arrangements for the surrender of various Japanese forces in South East Asia and the South West Pacific. Minesweeping continued for a number of years after the surrender and Australian service personnel and prisoners of war from around the region were repatriated.
The Pacific War saw an expansion of the infrastructure necessary to support wide ranging naval operations. Defensive minefields were laid in Australian, New Zealand and New Guinea waters. Harbour defence systems were established around Australia and forward operating bases provided logistic support to ships close to the combat areas. The manufacture of mines, torpedoes, guns and ammunition was undertaken as was the development and construction of sophisticated electrical equipment.
Shipbuilding, repair and maintenance facilities were greatly expanded, including the construction of the Captain Cook Graving Dock at Garden Island. Three destroyers, twelve frigates and sixty corvettes as well as numerous smaller vessels were built. A large number of merchant ships were converted for naval purposes and many others were defensively armed and given mine countermeasures. Most of this work was carried out by the men and women of the unarmed forces who worked in the factories and dockyard around Australia.
Women were enlisted into the Navy for the first time and helped provide many of the support functions so desperately needed by a navy at war. Some of these women played an invaluable, and largely unrecognised, role in supporting the large intelligence organisation that had been established. One, Ruby Boye, also served as a Coastwatcher at Vanikoro from February 1942 to October 1944. Before the end of the war the peak strength of the RAN had reached 39,650 with approximately 337 vessels ranging from cruisers to motor launches in service.
In proportion to its size the RAN made a significant contribution to the Allied effort in the war against Japan. This was more noticeable in the earlier days of the war when operations were taking place in Australia’s proximity and before the United States was able to fully deploy its manpower and industrial strength. The amphibious operations, survey, minesweeping, convoy and patrol tasks from late 1942 to 1945 tend to be overlooked yet they were all essential components in the exercise of sea power and ultimately the war in the Pacific was a maritime campaign.
By David Michael
This paper addresses the key aspects of; preparation, deployment and support for RAN units deployed for Operation Damask between August 1990 and March 1991. During this period the Naval Support Command which had been established in 1987 with responsibility for policy and implementation of effective logistics operations was wholly responsible for the delivery of logistics support from the warehouse to units in theatre. This paper was first delivered to a Tri Service Logistics Commanders conference in September 1991. Its aim was to provide an overview of the dimension of the logistic effort involved in Operation Damask, the problems which arose and lessons learnt.
Supporting a Task Group 6,500 miles from Sydney is generally not a problem. The difference on this occasion was the compressed notice to deploy and unfamiliarly, with the Area of Operations particularly infrastructure in the local ports. On the latter point it was obvious that if support for the operation was to be successful, a reconnaissance was required. This was carried out in August/September 1990. The logistics plan was presented verbally on arrival of the Task Group in theatre on 3 September and approved by the Naval Support Commander on 18 September.
Generally, the Fleet programme gives a ship at least six months’ notice of deployment. HMA Ships Adelaide, Darwin and Success had four days. This included a weekend. At the time, Adelaide was exercising in the East Australia Area, Darwin was undergoing an engine change out at Garden Island and Success was enroute to ‘Melbourne for the weekend. First warning of the plan to deploy ships to the Gulf was received in Naval Support Command on Thursday 9th August.
Preliminary work to prepare the Command (particularly the supply system) for the activities which would be required in the event that Government decided to approve the deployment began immediately. Because of the sensitivity, preparations were to be limited only to those actions which would not be considered as pre-empting the Government decision.
There were particular difficulties to be overcome. For instance, AVCAT supplies were a problem. The only refinery in Australia that produces AVCAT, the shell refinery in Sydney, had closed down for maintenance.
The whole matter was further complicated by the fact that Success was not due back in Sydney until the Saturday afternoon. She had to initially top up at Chowder Bay with F76 and then undertake a tank clean to prepare her AVCAT tank. All this meant that any fuelling operation could not start till early on the Monday morning.
It was fortunate that there was a good stock of AVCAT at NAS Nowra. With the services of 5 Army and 10 Shell road tankers running a continuous shuttle service some. 40 deliveries over a 30 hour period allowed Success to be fully fuelled.
While this activity was underway there was a major evolution at Navy Supply Centre Zetland both at the executive level and in the warehouses.
Such actions involved obtaining computer listings of all the outstanding stores demands from the ships, ascertaining the availability of fuel, checking on stocks of special clothing, investigating the level of support available or aircraft, and determining the status of outstanding stores demands for the ships. In all some 7,700 line items of material were delivered to the ships during the period.
The platform coordination, and In-Service Design organisations were also involved in some major activities during the preparation period. A whole range of configuration changes to the FFG’s and Success were examined.
Modifications examined included the fitting of stabilised platforms for the Army RBS 70 Missile system as well as SATCOM and other communications fits.
The Naval Aviation Logistics Office was also very busy during this period evaluating a whole range of requirements for configuration changes to both aircraft and ascertaining the availability of special equipment (GPMG and FLIR) both here and overseas. The Aircraft Logistics Office examined 13 major configuration changes and raised a number of high dollar value purchase orders. Modifications included arming the helicopters and enhancing personal equipment for the aircrew.
The ordnance manager and his organisation at the armament depots at Kingswood and Newington worked all over the weekend and their rostered day off to provide the ammunition requirements for the three ships.
Because of the tightness of the ammunition pipeline loaded ammunition barges had to be moored at Spectacle Island over the weekend. This was approved by the Minister granted in the form of a public risk waiver. Liaison was also required with Parramatta Council over the use of George Kendall reserve which comes within the quantity distance arcs for the Newington wharf. The council was very cooperative and closed the reserve to public use over the weekend.
The ammunitioning went ahead without any hitches and the ships sailed as planned.
It was fortunate however that the ships had required only relatively minor top ups of ammunition. Had there been a need for major ammunitioning’s these could not have been achieved in the timescale given the ammunitioning pipeline restrictions in place at the time.
Generally speaking, the same situation with respect to logistic’ readiness would have applied to any other units had they been selected. These three ships admittedly, had the advantage of having just returned from a RIMPAC Exercise.
An appreciation of the time frames involved may assist. The ships had seventeen days at sea to complete a work up and internal exercise programme before arriving in-theatre.
A logistic Directive was received from the Chief of Naval Staff on 23 August following issue of the ADF Logistic Concept on 22 August. It is of note that the allocation of Command of in theatre support to the Naval Support Commander was a break with doctrine but proved to be most effective particularly when communications circuits with the Task Group Commander became difficult and a ‘minimise’ ordered. Real time communication was paramount.
It also gave the Command a closer affinity with Maritime Headquarters and operational developments. This certainly improved Naval Support Command response times.
The resupply of stores was by commercial airfreight whilst that method remained reliable. RAAF C130 support was provided for dangerous, explosive and bulky items. RAAF support prior to January was provided punctually, and often at short notice on an as required basis.
A difficulty arose in early January as hostilities became imminent and the Command realised a regular military air freight service would-be the only solution while commercial services were disrupted. It took three weeks for the first weekly service to operate.
In the interim, advantage was taken of C130 aircraft used to deploy Clearance Diving Team 3. The reason for the delayed decision was due in part to a belief in HQ Australian Defence Forces and Air Headquarters that an adequate commercial service did exist. After critical cargo became stranded in London that appreciation changed.
On the other hand, RAAF assistance in supplementing the Logistic Support Element in theatre was first-rate. The addition of a sergeant’s skills in ground handling and loading made a large difference to the Logistics Support Element (LSE).
Support from RAAF and ARMY was substantial and critical to the success of the operation. A lot of hours were flown by RAAF during opposed transits and Work Ups as far as Diego Garcia.
Mention has already been made of the Air Lift Groups assistance with resupply. They flew a total of 22 missions in support of the operation. A round trip was six days.
Army made a substantial contribution through the timely provision of large quantities of Chemical Warfare (CW) protective clothing, medical stores and RBS 70 in Success and Westralia.
Single Service Logistic Management worked well but with some short comings. Most stores which were ‘in stock’ were obtained in minimal timeframes.
Forward Support Arrangements
Studies prior to deployment of the first group had indicated Dubai to be the best port to support forces in the area. However, RAN operations were initially limited to the Gulf of Oman (GOO) leaving Muscat as the best alternative. Although Muscat had limited infrastructure and severe customs and immigration restrictions, RANLO Muscat was established and the LSE was set up in the port of Mina Qaboos.
At the time and for some time later it was important for Australia to respect Omani sensitivities by not discussing their hospitality and support publicly even though it had been reported in the media.
As previously mentioned, first deployment units operated only in the GOO. The FFG’s and Success made staggered port visits on a 3-week cycle with a regular weekly helicopter pick up at Seeb Airfield near Muscat. Mail and urgent stores were able to be delivered in reasonable time. The time between signal demand and receipt on board varied from 14 to 20 days ex Sydney.
Whilst the FFG’s were deployed in the Northern and inner GOO, Success maintained a patrol line I well clear of attack, east of Muscat.
Success initially made forays into the inner GOO every 2-3 days to keep the FFG’s topped up. Subsequently, this became less frequent and Success combined fuelling runs with a re-supply visit to Fujairah, UAE where fresh fruit and vegetables were embarked at anchor for subsequent delivery to the FFG’s.
When the Task Group shifted operations into the Arabian Gulf on 16 December, a change in support operations was necessary.
LSE detachments were set up in Dubai (LEUT plus 1 Senior Sailor) and in Bahiain (1 Senior Sailor). The logistic concept of operations remained the same except that Success and later Westralia shuttled from Dubai. Customs delays in Bahrain and Dubai were significantly less than in Oman but the benefit was not achieved until stores began to be air freighted directly to those ports. Sydney in particular was able to clear materiel from Bahrain very quickly due to blanket diplomatic clearance for helicopter operations. At sea, Task Group logistic support was more formally integrated into the Carrier Battle Group coming under USN tactical control.
As circumstances changed and the frequency and location of port visits varied the RANLO was able to vary his arrangements for forward supply. Numerous options were available largely as a consequence of close and regular liaison with the local Commanders of other nations military units in the area co-operation was extremely valuable.
During operations in the GOO programming flexibility gave the Commander of the Task Group (CTG) sufficient options to resupply Task Group units at sea using a mix of embarked aircraft, as the volume and weight of cargo dictated. However, once tactical control arrangements changed and the support ship alone was available less frequent opportunities and greater ranges from the LSE made the Squirrel helicopter less than adequate for the task.
Success did not have a Seahawk helicopter. Westralia had no organic aircraft.
The notable difference in capability between Success and Westralia had a significant impact on support. Westralia’s rigs and manning concept imposed limitations on the degree of logistic independence of the Task Group. In particular her lack of ability to transfer bulk stores at sea made fresh and frozen provisions support more difficult. The operational tempo required air defence capable ships to maintain extended periods at sea. Both Brisbane and Sydney spent 47 consecutive days at sea immediately prior to and during the war. Without access to port visits for replenishment the Task Group obtained fresh fruit and vegetable support from the USN. USN logistics ships operated a regular shuttle service to assigned units on a two-week cycle.
Westralia’s visits to Dubai were generally arranged to meet the weekly C 130. She then ferried mail and urgent items to RAN ships while meeting other Task Force requirements on an availability basis.
The absence of local Australian Government representation increased the difficulties of working in an unfamiliar environment and meant RANLO undertook a lot of representational and liaison tasks.
The range and depth of activity undertaken by the Logistics Support Element (LSE) included;
Logistics Support Element and RAN Liaison Officer
At various phases of the war LSE detachments were moved to optimise logistics support to the deployed ships. The locations included;
- Muscat, Oman
- Dubai, UAE
- Diego Garcia, Indian Ocean
- Hurghada, Egypt
- Sigonella, Sicily
The range and depth of activity undertaken by the Logistics Support Element (LSE) was broad and included, stores mail, personnel administration, arranging contracts and services for ship visits, coordinating arrangements for visitors, resupplying Clearance Divers in Kuwait.
LSE personnel worked long hours seven days a week. Political sensitivities at home about the size of the Australian presence made it difficult to increase LSE strength on the ground particularly as the number of locations increased.
After the departure of the second RAN Task Group on 22 March, the complement of the LSE was progressively run down to one officer and three senior sailors and on 24 April the Team relocated to Bahrain.
In the period after the war the LSE provided direct support to the RAN Clearance Diving Team in Kuwait.
This was done by road from Bahrain and by use of allied intra-theatre air transport resources. The LSE also coordinated the return to Australia of the CDT3 and a large quantity of captured Iraqi equipment.The RANLO and LSE remained in place in Bahrain providing support to other Defence personnel in the region and Australian personnel assigned to Operation BLAZER.
Numerous lessons for Naval Support Command came out of Operation DAMASK. Most were of an internal nature but some affect other authorities. Key lessons learnt included;
- The success of organisational changes in recent years to make Support Command an integrated Logistic organisation. This made control of the many and varied activities much easier.
- At the time of deployment there were no standard orders, or guidance for the establishment, and deployment of a Forward Support Base overseas.
- A reconnaissance was a prerequisite to drafting a Logistic Plan. The plan had to remain flexible.
- Resupply of guided weapons and conventional ammunition in significant quantities was not tested. Without Success in the area, or USN support, the RAN would have had to seek alternatives.
- Reliance on a sole supplier for AVCAT has the potential to cause major difficulties.
- Establishing reliable secure communications was an initial difficulty which frustrated LSE operations.
- There is a requirement for contingency instructions regarding strategic air support of Naval Support Command when commercial air services are not an option.
- Fast tracking of work associated with enhancements to ships and aircraft-is-possible-but-not without intensive management.
Timeline Operation Damask 1 and 2
|6 Aug 90||UN Resolution 661 placed economic sanctions on Iraq.|
|9 Aug 90||HQ ADF warning order issued|
|10 Aug 90||Prime Minister Hawke affirmed Australia’s commitment to send RAN warships to the Persian Gulf.|
|13 Aug 90||HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Darwin sailed from Sydney|
|14 Aug 90||HMAS Success sailed from Sydney|
|25 Aug 90||UN Resolution 665 authorizing naval blockade.|
|27 Aug 90||RAN Reconnaissance Team arrive AO|
|30 Aug 90||Logistic Support Element established Muscat.|
|3 Sep 90||First Task Group arrived in AO.|
|12 Nov 90||HMAS Brisbane & Sydney sailed from Sydney for the AO under the auspices of Operation DAMASK II.|
|29 Nov 90||UN Resolution 678, giving Iraq until 15 January 1991 to withdraw from Kuwait.|
|3 Dec 90||PM Hawke announced RAN units could pass through the Strait of Hormuz to the Arabian Gulf.|
|3 Dec 90.||HMAS Brisbane and Sydney arrived in the AO.|
|2 Jan 91||HMAS Westralia sailed from HMAS Stirling for the AO.|
|17 Jan 91||Operation Desert Storm bombing campaign launched.|
|25 Jan 91||HMAS Success departed AO arriving in Sydney on 8 March.|
|26 Jan 91||HMAS Westralia arrived in AO.|
|24 Feb 91||Operation Desert Storm ground assault launched.|
|28 Feb 91||Coalition’s ground advance ended with a ceasefire.|
|26 Mar 91||HMAS Brisbane and Sydney departed the AO for return to Sydney arriving 22 April.|
 GPMG, General Purpose Machine Gun. FLIR, Forward Looking Infra Red
 RIMPAC Exercises are multinational ‘Rim of Pacific Exercise’ conducted by the USN in the Hawaiian area for maritime nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.
 The United Nations sponsored Operation Blazer was established in April 1991 by Resolution 687 to impose a peace agreement and disarmament provisions on Iraq. It also established a UN Special Commission, UNSCOM tasked with locating and supervising the destruction of Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction capabilities.
By David Stratton, Hugh Farmer and Dennis Weatherall
At the end of the War in the Pacific in August 1945 the strength of the Royal Australian Navy was 36,976 men and women and 337 vessels ranging in size from cruisers to motor launches. During the course of the War it had grown from less than 5,000 personnel in December 1938 and 16 major ships. Of the 337 in service in August 1945, 57 ships were deployed in the archipelagos of the Western Pacific Ocean north of Australia.
As hostilities concluded these ships were assigned a variety of tasks which included; ferrying participants to or conducting surrender ceremonies, internee and POW repatriation, transporting troops and stores, landing occupation forces and mine sweeping operations. The following table records the location of individual ships and their employment during the weeks immediately before and after the formal Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.
|Disposition and Employment of Royal Australian Navy Ships: September 1945
|Tokyo, Japan||2/9/1945||Task Group 70-9
|The Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed on board the battleship USS Missouri. There was a total of 258 warships of all types from all the Allied nations which had been at war with Japan.
RAN ships entered Tokyo Bay on 29 August as Task Group 70.9 within the Third Fleet.
Commodore John Collins was one of the Australian representatives at the ceremony on USS Missouri.
Following the ceremony RAN ships assisted with the repatriation of Allied prisoners or war. Hobart and Warramunga then sailed for Sydney while Shropshireand Bataan remained in Japanese waters until November. It was during this period that the Commanding Officer of HMAS Bataan learned of the existence of HMAS Perth survivors taken from Tokushima Camp.
|Rabaul, Papua New Guinea||6/9/1945||Vendetta
|The Instrument of Surrender for the Japanese South East Area Forces was signed on board the aircraft Carrier HMS Glory.
AWM Video: Surrender ceremony on board HMS Glory
HMAS Vendetta embarked Brigadier Sheehan and his staff, and the Naval Officer-in-Charge, New Guinea, and his staff on 2 September before proceeding Rabaul to meet envoys from General Imamura to arrange details of the formal surrender. Vendetta remained in New Britain waters until 11 September when she proceeded for New Guinea. On return to Sydney 3 October was decommissioned on 5 October.
HMAS Dubbo was employed in preliminary minesweeping operations returned in the Solomons area prior to the surrender and later in New Britain waters. She returned to Australia in October to begin a long refit at Brisbane.
HMAS Lithgow had earlier supported land operations in the Solomons before conducting minesweeping operations until the end of September. Her active war career ended on return to Sydney 1 November 1945.
HMAS Townsville was among RAN ships which supported the Japanese surrender aboard HMS Glory. She later joined the 20th Minesweeping Flotilla clearing minefields laid in Australian coastal waters and the New Guinea /Solomons region.
|HMAS Burdekin was the venue for the surrender of all Japanese forces in Dutch Borneo to Major General Milford, G.O.C., 7th Australia Division. She arriving at Balikpapan on the 8th to embarked General Milford and his staff, and a number of Army, RAAF and US Navy officers. A surrender table had been arranged on the starboard side of Burdekin’s quarterdeck.
HMAS Gascoyneserved in New Guinea waters from June 1945 until her eventual return to Sydney on 5 January 1946. During this time Gascoyne was engaged in escort duties and the seizure by Australian forces of the Balikpapan area in Borneo, including bombardment support for the troops ashore. In September she took part in the surrender of Japanese forces in Borneo. She was used to transport the Commanding General of the Japanese 2nd Armyfrom the Celebes to Balikpapan on the first stage of his journey to Morotai to surrender to General Blamey. The remainder of 1945 was spent transporting troops and stores, a service which took the frigate into the Moluccas, Halmaheras, Borneo and Timor.
|HMAS Bundaberg, following the cessation of hostilities, from 16 August was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to contact the Japanese at Ambon with the object of obtaining the release of Allied war prisoners. These men were liberated some three weeks later.
On 9 September Bundaberg, was at Labuan, North Borneo, with a force of RAN vessels including HMAS Kapunda for the surrender of Japanese forces in the North Borneo area.
The Japanese surrender of the was signed on board Kapunda at Kuching on 11 September 1945. After the Surrender Bundaberg participated in the landing of occupation forces at Kuching, and in the evacuation of prisoners of war from that port to Labuan. On return to Australia Bundaberg was paid off.
HMAS Kapunda assisted with the evacuation of Allied prisoners of war from Kuching following the end of the hostilities. As the headquarters ship at Kuching she provided the venue for the official surrender ceremony of the Japanese forces in the area with Major General Yamamura signing the instrument of surrender for Japanese forces in East Borneo. The surrender instrument was signed in the presence of Brigadier Eastlick, AIF.
Kapunda returning to Sydney on 17 November 1945 and was paid off into Reserve on 14 January 1946.
Ocean Island, Kiribati
|HMAS Diamantina, after completion in April 1945 commissioning and workup operated in New Guinea and adjacent waters. After the conclusion of hostilities, it was involved in transporting Japanese senior officers to from South Bougainville to Torokina where the surrender ceremony for Bougainville was conducted on 8 September 1945.
Diamantina then proceeded to Nauru where she hosted the surrender of Nauru onboard and a that of Ocean Island on 1 October 1945. Australian, British and New Zealand officials were embarked for both ceremonies. She returned to Sydney in December.
|HMAS Moresby departed Darwin on 7 September 1945 in support of Operation TOFO, the surrender for all Japanese Forces in Timor. Embarked in Moresby were the Senior Naval Officer of the operation Commander GL Cant, RAN, and Brigadier LGH Dyke, CBE, DSO, who had been appointed to accept the surrender of the Japanese forces in Timor or controlled from Timor. Sailing in company with Moresby were HMA Ships Horsham, Benalla, Echuca, Parkes, Katoomba, Kangaroo, Bombo and the Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDML) 1322, 1324 and 1329. In the convoy also were the Dutch minesweeper Abraham Crijnssen and the transport Van den Bosch.
Enroute to Timor the convoy was joined by the corvettes HMAS Warrnambool and Gladstone increasing the RAN presence. On 11 September the convoy arrived at the appointed rendezvous off Koepang and two Japanese officers boarded Moresby for interrogation regarding the location of minefields and underwater obstructions. On completion of the interrogation the convoy entered harbour in column with Abraham Crijnssen sweeping ahead of the line of ships all of which were closed up at action stations. After all ships anchored off Koepang the Japanese army and navy commanders boarded Moresby and were escorted to the quarterdeck for the surrender ceremony.
HMAS Moresby was again present on 3 October 1945 for another surrender ceremony which took place ashore at Koepang. On this occasion Lt. General Yamada surrendered a force of about 36,000 men who made up the Japanese forces in the entire Lesser Sunda Islands.
|Hong Kong||16/9/1945||Task Force 111.2
21st Minesweeping Flotilla
22nd Minesweeping Flotilla
|In mid-August 1945 eight RAN Corvettes assigned to British Task Force 111.2 under the command of Rear Admiral Harcourt worked up as minesweeping flotilla between 21 and 26 August at Subic Bay.
Unfortunately for HMAS Stawell which had recently sunk a Japanese barge was denied the Hong Kong operation and remained in Subic Bay as the British Naval Liaison Officer for the port. The task group sailed for Hong Kong on 27 August and commenced sweeping operations on 29 August.
The British Naval Squadron entered Hong Kong on 30th August 1945.
During succeeding days more RAN corvettes arrived in Hong Kong to carry out minesweeping, anti-piracy, anti-piracy and other duties.
These were the, the 21st and 22nd Minesweeping Flotillas.
The Japanese surrender in Hong Kong took place at Government House, Hong Kong on 16 September 1945. Senior Japanese officers surrendered the territory to British officers led by Rear Admiral Jepson and witnessed by Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser. The Japanese representatives were Major General Unekichi Okada and Vice Admiral Uitaaro Fujita.
|New Ireland, Papua New Guinea||18/9/1945||Swan||HMAS Swan was undergoing its third refit of the war when Japan capitulated on 15 August 1945. In September 1945 Swan proceeded to New Ireland and there on 18 September 1945 embarked General Eather, General Officer Commanding the Australian 11th Division, and his staff. On board on the same day at Namatani, General Eather accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in New Ireland from General Ito, the Japanese Commander-in-Chief.
From 16 October 1945 the 20th Minesweeping Flotilla was reformed with Swan as Flotilla Leader for mine clearance operations in Australian, New Guinea and Solomon Islands waters. This vital post war work kept Swan almost constantly at sea until 16 August 1948.
|After the capitulation of Japan these ships were involved in the recovery of internees and prisoners of war and the landing of an occupation force on Ambon on 22 September 1945.|
|HMAS Hawkesbury, after supporting landings in Borneo, escort duties in the Netherlands East Indies and the bombardment of Japanese occupied islands she undertook a short refit in Sydney. She then escorted the repatriation transport MV Duntroon to Singapore and was present for the surrender of Singapore on 3 October 1945. She remained in Singapore until 20 September awaiting the embarkation of Australian prisoners of war.
- Hermon Gill, Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945, Collins in Association with the AWM, 1968
John Bastock, Australia’s Ships of War, Anngus and Robertson, 1975
Sea Power Centre Australia, Ship Histories, available at https://www.navy.gov.au/fleet/ships-boats-craft/available-ship-histories, accessed 22 July 2020
Reports of Proceedings, HMA Ships, Australian War memorial, available at https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/AWM78/, accessed 28 July 2020Occasiona
By Brooke Twyford
This paper was provided courtesy of Australian National Maritime Museum volunteers. It was published in the June 2020 edition of ‘All Hands’, the Australian National Maritime Museum Volunteers’ Quarterly Newsletter. Through the close relationship between the Naval Historical Society and Australian National Maritime Museum stories are periodically shared for the mutual benefit of members.
As I gaze out over Iron Cove in ‘iso’, I regularly spy the welcome sight of a classic wooden Navy boat motoring back and forth from Spectacle Island to the public jetty at Birkenhead, Drummoyne. Spectacle Island is closed to the public except for those who are invited or granted access to visit for business purposes. I became curious to know more about the history of the launch that links the Naval Repository to the outside world.
The island originally named Gongul by the Wangal aboriginal people became known as Spectacle Island in the early 1800s, most likely after the shape of the island before modification. Britain’s Royal Navy’s Australian Squadron opened an armament depot there in 1884, then it was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia following Federation in 1901 and continued as the armament depot when the Commonwealth Naval Forces became the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1911.
The 40-foot Australian Workboat, displaying the number 379 on the bow of her shiny black hull with a storm grey colour cabin, is a service vessel owned by the RAN and operated by Serco, a contractor specialising in defence support including vessel operations and maintenance.
David Michael, President 0f the Naval Historical Society, confirmed that AWB 379 is steered by a number of coxswains on a roster system departing Garden Island boat pound each weekday around 06:30am and arriving back to the pound from Spectacle Island around 15:30pm. As the boat cannot lie alongside a public wharf it arrives just before the hour and departs on the hour back to Spectacle Island. The first run of the day commences at 07:00am from Drummoyne and subsequent runs depart Spectacle Island at 15 minutes to the hour and the last is at 14:45pm.
The run’s history can be traced back to the early 1900s not long after the RAN took over Spectacle Island from Britain’s Royal Navy. The original “run” linked Spectacle Island, Drummoyne, Newington Armory, Cockatoo Island, Garden Island and Circular Quay. It incorporated the then active navy yards in Sydney including the UNESCO world heritage site Cockatoo Island dockyard which closed in 1991 and the heritage armament depot at Newington Armory in Homebush Bay, which closed in 1999 ahead of the 2000 Olympic Games.
The history of the boat itself dates to 1966, when Lars Halvorsen Sons Pty Ltd of Sydney designed and built it on spec as a one-off to replace “WWII 40-footers,” which were designed by Botterill and Fraser of Melbourne to support Allied operations in the islands north of Australia. Of the 400 produced, many have since become collector’s items, with some restored to their original form and others turned into pleasure craft. While guiding visitors on SY Ena just before the shutdown, I was lucky enough to meet the proud owners of a workboat now located in the Whitsundays.
The new boat was first launched in 1967 to serve as a tender for the trials of the 12-metre America’s Cup contender Gretel 11 (see ARHV) which was owned by media mogul Sir Frank Packer and syndicate. Five years before that, Gretel became the first Australian yacht to challenge the New York Yacht Club for the America’s Cup; previously only Great Britain and Canada had taken it on. Although Gretel lost 4-1 that year, she became the first yacht since the 1930s to beat the Americans in a single race. Gretel II was the last Cup boat with a wooden hull, rather than made of aluminium or fibreglass, to contest the America’s Cup challenge series in 1970. It wasn’t until 1983 that Australia won the Cup with a winged keel hull ending 132 years of US domination. Today’s competitors, which will next sail in the 36th America’s Cup Match in New Zealand from 6 to 21 March 2021, are shaped from high tech materials and are foiling monohulls.
The RAN procured the tender as soon as it returned from the America’s Cup trials, and she became known as AWB4011. The 40 prefix is a direct reference to the size of the boat. Slightly different from standard Australian workboats, with a flare at the stern and no forward coach house, it was used for defence and civilian passengers and cargo transport as well as assisting large “ammunition lighters”, a flat-bottomed barge used in loading and unloading naval ships and transporting goods for short distances. “Lighter” is possibly derived from an old Dutch or German word, lichten (to lighten or unload).
Clive Sewell, who was recently recognised by Serco for 50 years of service as a Tug Master and currently works in the Dockyard at Garden Island, recalls his time at the helm of AWB4011 as one of his favourite years, filled with his most cherished memories. “It was a time when you looked after your charge as if it were your own, always polishing the brass,” says Sewell, who dubbed the boat Sobraon after the 1800s clipper, because of his admiration for full-rig ships.
The original engine was a Cummins NH2 20 diesel, which gave the boat a lot of power. “There was only one way to drive it and it would throw a huge wash,” says Sewell. “You would see her coming.” The cockpit alone was big enough to carry a small car. Sewell never ferried a car in the boat, but he did count admirals and commodores among his passengers. And his most prized cargo? A full pallet of beer!
Having served through the end of the steam tug era, the introduction of diesel tugs and the launch of other propulsion units on the water today, Sewell remains passionate about the job. “Honestly some days I’ve been frightened and cold but I’ve still enjoyed every day.”
In the mid 2000s, AWB4011 was reassigned and refurbished to put seats in it specially to do the run it continues to do today and the hull number change to 379 happened when it changed service providers. It is now an asset number rather than a pennant number.
David Glasson who is a model-maker and master of many things marine, has conducted extensive research on Australian workboats, along with Mori Flapan, naval architect, author and administrator of boatregister.net, where a plethora of information about workboats’ history can be found. According to Glasson, as many as eight workboats were to go on display at this year’s Classic and Wooden Boat Festival, which was due to be hosted by the Museum during the first weekend in May before it was Covid 19 cancelled. Let’s hope we get to see those beauties in 2021.
In the meantime, AWB 379 will continue to be a welcome sight in my daily life, and a reminder to Sydneysiders of a storied era in Australia’s past.
For more information about Gretel and Gretel II, see the Australian Register of Historic Vessels: https://www.sea.museum/discover/arhv
Artwork titled Australian Work Boat 4011 ‘Sobraon’ at Spectacle Island, Sydney
Credit: Victoria Kitanov copyright 2017.
From 2016 to 2019, Victoria Kitanov was an archivist on Spectacle Island. She documented her time travelling back and forth on tender 379 in photographs. From archivist to artist, her passion is painting naval heritage reconstructed from the photos taken around Spectacle Island. She painted the original pennant number 4011 and ‘Sobraon’ in this painting as a historical tribute. To view her other works, visit https://www.victoriakitanovfineart.com.au/.