The following paper on the distinguished service of HMAS Anzac (II) was first published in the March 2011 edition of the Naval Historical Review available on the Society website. Other ships with her name are; HMAS Anzac (I), acquired from the Royal Navy, commissioned into the RAN in 1920 and decommissioned 30 July 1931. HMAS Anzac (III), lead ship of eight Anzac class frigates commissioned 18 May 1996.
HMAS Anzac (II) – the last ‘Battle’
With the end of World War II in sight the RAN had to plan for replacement ships of its hard worked destroyer force. The remaining ‘V&W’ destroyers HMA Ships Vendetta and Stuart were obsolete and worn out. The effective ‘N’ class had been returned to the Royal Navy and their replacement ‘Q’ class were inadequate for post-war requirements. In keeping with tradition of using Admiralty designs, the Naval Board considered the RN ‘Battle’ class destroyers as suitable replacements, and government approval was forthcoming to build two ships modified to RAN standards. One ship was to be built at Williamstown Naval Dockyard and the other at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
Originally the names of these ships were intended to commemorate recent World War II Australian naval actions with the names ‘Tobruk’ and ‘Matapan’ selected. While the former name was retained, a decision was made to rescind the second in favour of ‘Anzac’.
‘Battle’ Class Destroyers
The ‘Battle’ class destroyers were built in Britain in two groups. Group 1 of sixteen ships commenced construction in 1942, with Group 2 of eight ships laid down from 1943. A further Group 3 of eight ships was intended in 1944 but with the end of World War II in sight the Admiralty cancelled these orders. However,
two ships of Group 3 were built by the RAN. Two of the RN ships were subsequently transferred to other navies, one to Pakistan and another to Iran.
The 1942 ‘Battles’ were a new class of Fleet Destroyers designed to operate within a Fleet environment and provide anti-submarine and anti-aircraft support. The original armament comprised two twin 4.5 inch Mark IV turrets; four twin 40mm Hazemeyer Bofors (one on each bridge wing and two on the centreline aft); one single 4 inch Mark XXIII (Starshell) gun; and two single 2 pounder pom poms Mark XV or Mark XVI. There were two sets of pentad (5) torpedo tubes as well as depth charge throwers. The depth charges were later removed when the SQUID ahead-throwing mortar was developed. The mortar was sited on the quarterdeck and fired its charges over and ahead of the ship, thereby maintaining improved contact with underwater targets. In earlier versions of the ‘Battles’ the single Bofor mounting on the quarterdeck had to be removed to make way for SQUID.
Construction in Australia
Anzac and her sister HMAS Tobruk were the first major warships constructed in Australia after World War II, and at that time the largest destroyers and most complicated fighting ships ever constructed in this country. Local modifications included upgrading the main armament to two twin Mark VI turrets as opposed to the Mark IV DP (Dual Purpose) turrets fitted in the RN ships, and the gunnery control system was upgraded from Flyplane Mk 1 to Flyplane Mk II, noting that the RAN ships were the only ships with this system, as later ships had the much improved Flyplane Mk III. Improvements were also made to habitability, with better ventilation and higher standards of accommodation.
Anzac was laid down at Williamstown Naval Dockyard on 23 September 1946 and was launched on 20 August 1948 by Mrs Collins, wife of the First Naval Member Rear Admiral J.A. Collins, RAN. She commissioned on 14 March 1951 under Commander J. Plunkett-Cole, RAN, who was also appointed Commander of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla. In the same timeframe her sister ship Tobruk was being built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
After workup Anzac joined the United Nations Forces in Korea in August 1951. On arrival in Korean waters she teamed up with Tobruk and the ‘River’ class frigate HMAS Murchison. Her first operation on 6 September was a bombardment of Haeju on the west coast, north of the 38th Parallel. Targets included a two storey building believed to house the headquarters of local North Korean forces, as well as a gun emplacement. The shore facilities were left a smoking ruin with many casualties.
Her next patrol was carried out on the east coast off Songjin, just south of the Korean-Chinese border. The mission to harass rail and road traffic was successful, with direct hits on at least one train. She was also involved in guerrilla style operations, landing South Korean Marines to gather intelligence.
After steaming some 23,000 nautical miles on operations in Korean waters, Anzac returned to Sydney in October 1951, having escorted the light fleet carrier HMS Glory to Sydney for refit.
In May 1952, now under command of Captain G.G.O. Gatacre, RAN, Anzac cruised with HMAS Australia (II) to New Guinea and the Solomons. In September she left for a second tour in Korea, relieving HMAS Bataan and serving with units of the USN, maintaining blockades of the enemy coast and bombarding enemy positions. She was shelled off the west coast on 16 November 1952 but Australia Day 1953 saw her shelling the battery position which had shelled her. On another occasion she was called to come to the aid of HMAS Condamine, which had come under fire whilst supporting minesweeping operations. The severe Korean winter posed great difficulties, with the ship and equipment coated in ice and snow.
In April 1953 Captain J.S. Mesley, DSC, RAN, relieved Captain Gatacre in command. On 26 May Anzac steamed into Tokyo, representing Commonwealth Navies during celebrations of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. After returning to the war zone Anzac was relieved by Tobruk in July. She returned to Sydney, having logged 57,000 nautical miles during her tour of duty, which included 140 days in the combat area.
Following a refit at Williamstown and now under command of Commander D.A.H. Clarke, DSC, RAN, Anzac escorted the Royal Yacht Gothic during the royal tour of Australia in February 1954. Anzac then conveyed Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh to islands of the Great Barrier Reef.
In April 1955 Anzac visited New Caledonia prior to engaging in Commonwealth Fleet exercises in South East Asia. During this period she had a succession of commanding officers including Commanders MacDonald, Crabb and Peel. From November 1955, for several deployments up till March 1959, Anzac was attached to the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve based at Singapore. In September 1956, in company with Tobruk, she took part in the first of only two offensive actions taken by the RAN during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) when they bombarded terrorist positions in Johore State.
During gunnery exercises off Jervis Bay in September 1960 a misdirected shot from Anzac badly damaged Tobruk. The cause of the accident was neglecting to correctly apply six degrees of ‘throw-off’; as a result Anzac’s guns, while near maximum range, were directly facing Tobruk. Whilst there were no casualties, Tobruk’s engine room was flooded and her main machinery damaged. She limped into Jervis Bay for emergency repairs and then to Sydney for more extensive repairs but Tobruk saw little sea service after this.
In 1961 Anzac became the Fleet Training Ship with the gradual removal of armament in favour of additional accommodation. The process continued in 1963 when she was further modified with ‘B’ turret and torpedo tubes removed and replaced by classrooms. This once handsome ship was to become rather ungainly in later years.
In February/March 1963, during the royal visit to Australia, Anzac again acted as escort to HMS Britannia.
In October/November 1966 she under-took survey work off the north of Western Australia, and in June 1967 visited Tonga for the coronation of His Majesty King Taufa’Ahau Tupo IV.
In September 1967 Anzac conducted a South Pacific training cruise visiting Tahiti, Western Samoa and New Zealand. Following refit, and although a training ship, Anzac escorted the troop carrier HMAS Sydney to Vietnam in June 1968.
During 1970 she participated in the Captain Cook celebrations at Possession Island, Queensland, the site of Captain Cook’s final departure from Australian shores. In March 1972 Anzac acted as command ship during exercise ‘Planti Manua’, a large patrol boat exercise held in northern waters involving ten patrol vessels. New Zealand was again visited during a training cruise in September 1972.
In 1974 Anzac departed for her final training cruise to Fiji and New Zealand and returned to Sydney on 11 August of that year flying her paying-off pendant.
After twenty-three years of eventful service Anzac was taken out of commission in October 1974 and removed to Athol Bight. This ship, which had fired in anger in both Korea and Malaya, slipped almost unnoticed out of Sydney on New Year’s Eve 1975, under the tow of a Japanese tug on her way to be scrapped in China.
HMAS ANZAC (FFH150) III
Al Faw Peninsula Iraq – NGS MISSION
By Dennis J Weatherall JP TM AFAITT(L) LSM
Volunteer Researcher, Naval Historical Society of Australia
It took 31 years for the RAN to go to war and use a destroyer as a gun platform. HMAS Brisbane was the last DDG to serve on the Vietnam Gun Line and its last NGS mission occurred in September 1971.
HMAS ANZAC departed Fleet Base West for her deployment to the Gulf on 28th October 2002. She was to be the first RAN destroyer since the Vietnam conflict to be used for the duty she was designed, Naval Gun Support (NGS).
ANZAC was under the command of Captain Peter G. Lockwood, RAN, later to become Commodore P.G. Lockwood DSC, CSC, RAN now retired. Commodore Lockwood has been good enough to share his unclassified paperwork with the author.
His Supply officer, CMDR Stuart Wheeler RAN, wrote a paper titled “Five Inch Friday”. This paper was the only article other than the Captain’s post operation report which is still classified. In future this report may become general reading material so there is little information on which to base this paper in open source.
ANZAC was fitted with the following armament:
Single 5 inch 54 calibre (127mm)
Two Raphael Typhoon 12.7mm
Phalanx 20mm close-in-weapons system
Eight Harpoon Surface-to-surface missiles
Mk. 41 vertical launch system – Sea sparrow and evolved Sea Sparrow
Two triple Mk 32 torpedo launchers
Various 12.7mm Browning and small arms
ANZAC third deployment to the Persian Gulf took her through to May 2003, as part of Operation Falconer. On 21st March, ANZAC was called on to support a Royal Marine assault on the “Al Faw” Peninsula. The Royal Marine’s mission was to capture the peninsula before the Iraq forces could sabotage the oil terminals.
On 19th March, US Navy Seals and Polish GROM forces commenced a sea and air assault under the command of Naval Special Warfare Task Group (CTG 561). ANZAC stood by to extract forces if required. The US Navy Seals secured both oil terminals. This action was followed by a wave of “Tomahawk” land attack missiles. Over 800 missiles were delivered in the first 24 hours from 35 allied warships and submarines stationed in the Gulf.
On 20th March, Royal Navy ships Marlborough (Type 23), Chatham (Type 22) and Richmond (Type 23) were detached for bombardment duties.
The Royal Marines were faced by resistance from the Iraq Forces and called for immediate NGS to engage Iraq Command Posts. ANZAC received the first call-for-fire at 05:58. ANZAC fired six ranging salvos followed by a five-round fire-for-effect with the salvoes hitting bunkers and artillery positions. ANZAC answered another call-for-fire destroying a T59 artillery piece in a fire mission of just three rounds. It was extremely accurate fire and at near maximum range.
“Naval Gunfire Support was used to encourage capitulation with success on a number of occasions. It was employed to suppress enemy activity at short notice, to shatter confidence and neutralise fixed protective gun positions. The Battery Commander reported “success on the Al Faw was due to the aggressive use of indirect fire support, especially the swift response to NGS ships which had a huge impact on the ground and shattered the enemy’s will to fight.” A total of 17 fire missions were executed with just 155 rounds of 5 inch and 4.5 inch ammunition being expended”. Vice Admiral Peter Jones: “The Maritime Campaign in Iraq”.
ANZAC completed seven fire missions over a period of three days. The ship received a Meritorious Unit Citation on 27th November for her service during this deployment. In March 2010, ANZAC was awarded the battle honours “Persian Gulf 2001-03” and “Iraq 2003”.
- Semaphore newsletter of the Sea Power Centre Australia Issue # 6, August 2003
- Maritime Campaign in Iraq, Vice Admiral Peter Jones AO DSC RAN Rtd.
- Battle of Al Faw (2003) – 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines
- The War in Iraq – ADF Operations in the Middle East 2003, Australian Ministry of Defence – paper
- Five Inch Friday – paper by CMDR Stuart Wheeler RAN, HMAS ANZAC Supply Officer
- HMAS ANZAC – Ship’s general details RAN ships web page
The following story was first published in the June 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review. At the time, very little news about the RANs day to day activities was reported in the Australian media, apart from the occasional ‘good news’ story in Navy News. The remote location of Coalition naval forces in the Persian Gulf was the most likely reason.
A brief outline of this incident originally appeared in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper on 26 January 2006, announcing awards of the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) to both LCDR Johnston and PO Keitley, for coolly defusing a situation that could have ballooned into a major international incident.
The Courier-Mail article was subsequently republished in the February 2006 edition of TOUCHDOWN (the Australian Navy Aviation Safety and Information Magazine), acknowledged as the basis of this NHS article, with the kind permission of its editor, LCDR Shane Firkin RAN. Additional details were obtained by later discussions with LCDR Johnston, for publication in NHSA Review.
This unusual incident developed from a routine boarding operation carried out by the guided missile frigate HMAS Adelaide (Commander Bruce Victor RAN) on patrol at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab river at the extreme head of the Gulf on 6 December 2004. Acting on directions from the (USN) naval force commander, Adelaide was sent to investigate a large roll on/roll off (Ro Ro) cargo ship which had run aground on a sandbank and remained stuck there for an extended period. The boarding party was despatched several miles distant from the ship in two Rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB) (standard 7m and 12m seaboats carried in most RAN vessels, configured specially for carrying out boarding operations) to check the status of the vessel. This had been checked on several occasions previously. Overhead observation and top cover of the operation was conducted by the ship’s embarked Seahawk helicopter Adelaide’s Flight Commander, LCDR Tony Johnston, was airborne as TACCO and Mission Commander, along with Pilot Lieutenant Sam Dale and Sensor operator (SENSO) POA Andrew Watson. Once the boarding party of twelve personnel and two interpreters led by POCD Keitley had embarked without incident on the vessel and the boats had laid off, the helicopter departed to conduct a surface surveillance mission in the Northern Arabian Gulf (NAG).
Sometime after the helicopter had departed, the boarding party sighted a small boat in the distance coming towards them at speed. The unidentified boat was soon followed by several others. These were assessed as belonging to the Iranian Republican Guard Navy (IRGCN) – a maverick organisation known to have carried out the detention of a similar Royal Navy boarding party earlier in the year.
While the boarding party went about their business, Adelaide’s boats came under threat from the newcomers, and with only the coxswains remaining onboard, withdrew from the scene to avoid any escalation. At the height of the confrontation with the Iranians, as many as six IRGCN armed boats circled the stranded vessel, with their crews brandishing AK-47 rifles, assorted small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and rocket launchers. The Australian boarding party, armed only with light side arms, 9mm pistols and two shotguns, prepared to fend off the threatening boarders.
LCDR Johnston in the helicopter had by now completed his surface patrol and was returning to Adelaide. Once onboard, Johnston was informed of the developing situation by the Command Team and began making immediate preparations to relaunch. Upon returning, the aircraft had been released for programmed maintenance, which was quickly stopped. The flight maintainers set to, to return the helicopter to full serviceability, which they achieved in less than half an hour, enabling a rapid response to the unfolding crisis.
Johnston and his crew, now supplemented by Lieutenant John Flynn in the rear cabin, took up a watching position two miles to the west of the incident ship at 1000 feet. From this vantage point the aircraft could easily surveil the entire area and its approaches, keep clear of weapon envelopes and maintain good communications with all parties.
The boarding party was advised to maintain a low profile and stay out of sight as much as possible. It was with some relief that they realised that the Iranian gunboats could not get close enough to the merchantman in the shallow water. An attempt was made by some of the gunmen to board the ship via a commandeered cargo dhow, but this proved unsuccessful when the boat grounded on a sandbar some 65 yards short.
It was decided that it might be too risky to send the RHIBs back alongside to re-embark the boarding party, as the boats might be attacked, captured or sunk in any escalation, so they were ordered to return to the Adelaide. Indeed, the entire boarding party would run the risk of capture during a boat transfer back to the ship. Johnston decided to return to his ship refuel and to brief his command on the tight situation facing the recovery of the boarding party. PO Keitley later commented that the Iranians appeared to be testing the Australians’ resolve by being highly aggressive at times, then mellowing again afterwards.
Decision to recover
Meanwhile the tense situation had been relayed to other Allied forces in the area, to summon strong support in the event of outbreak of hostilities, or to prevent the capture of Adelaide’s boarding party by the Iranians. Ultimately the requested support was not forthcoming, and in the event, LCDR Johnston decided to recover the entire boarding party by winching them off the merchantman, without risking the boats. A dummy pass was made at low level to observe the reactions of the Iranian boats. This action tended to confuse them, although one in particular took up a close-in position, possibly to threaten the Seahawk in the hover.
Having relayed his intentions to PO Keitley, Johnston came in again and hovered low over the bridge. He winched off seven of the boarding party and promptly flew them safely back to Adelaide, less than 10 minutes away. He took off again immediately to attempt a similar operation for the remainder of the boarding party. This time the Iranian gunboats appeared more alert and tense, and Johnston was forced to carry out a series of approaches to mask his real intentions. Finally he came down low to winch the remaining members of the boarding party from the upper deck. Subsequently, while the evolution was precisely conducted in a remarkably short period, Johnston records it appeared to take ‘… an extraordinarily long five minutes…’ in the hover, and he swept away when PO Keitley was finally winched onboard, blindsiding the most aggressive of the Iranian boats by departing in the opposite direction to his earlier approach. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, the remaining boarding party members were returned safely to Adelaide.
Commenting on the situation much later, LCDR Johnston maintains that the ship’s previous mission-capability training, including the winching drills for all boarding parties, paid dividends when the crunch came in this unexpected incident. It was a measure of the dedication and professionalism of the entire ship’s team that a successful conclusion was achieved in the face of increasing threats and adversity, without having to rely on external armed support, which may well have led to a need to ‘fight it out’, perhaps with ensuing casualties, loss of prestige, adverse propaganda, or the indignity of capture in the circumstances.
The citation for the award to Lieutenant Commander Anthony Johnston of the Distinguished Service Medal reads:
‘For distinguished command and leadership in action as Mission Commander of HMAS Adelaide’s Seahawk helicopter during Operation Catalyst.
During December 2004, facing overwhelmingly superior and hostile forces and without the support of coalition aircraft or firepower, LCDR Johnston showed exemplary leadership, courage, composure and determination as Mission Commander and Scene of Action Commander to facilitate the safe extraction of HMAS Adelaide’s boarding party from perilous and harmful circumstances. ’
In another well-publicised incident, a group of fifteen sailors from HMS Cornwall, operating in circumstances not dissimilar to those described above, were taken prisoner by the Iranians and held for about two weeks. In light of the similarities between that incident and the one described above, I invited LCDR Johnston to clarify the means by which helicopters, and more particularly RHIBs, fixed their positions in such potentially contentious waters. His reply:
‘Re navigation. The Seahawk nav system is an integrated package that combines inertial x 2, Doppler and GPS. The boats have their own GPS. The ship has an excellent nav package itself.
In the case of 6Dec04, the ship easily established the exact location of the target vessel within Iraqi waters. They were only eight miles away, unable to close due to the shoal waters that had claimed the merchantman, as well as other duties precluding same. This check had occurred well prior to any boardings taking place.
We had all been operating in the area for almost 4 months and knew the region intimately. Weather and visibility on the day were excellent, allowing us to visually cross check our position with some well known local and coastal features. I also have radar coverage from a very watchful air controller onboard Adelaide to keep me honest. The bottom line here is that all of this is SOP and we all know where we are.
Clearly, I cannot speak for our ‘friends’, but you have to think that they have some sort of electronic navigation assistance. The simplest indication of where you are is whether you are North East or South West of the SAA channel as this is the inter-national boundary (as can be seen on any chart). The ship was obviously South of that line – placing it in Iraqi waters without doubt.’
Lieutenant Kenneth Robert Hudspeth, Distinguished Service Cross and 2 Bars, RANVR, WWII
Lieutenant Kenneth Robert Hudspeth, RANVR was one of many Royal Australian Naval personnel whose service in Royal Navy units during the darkest days of World War 2 has gone largely unnoticed in Australia. This story of the self-reliant and courageous LEUT Hudspeth who completed several hazardous missions in the then SECRET, X-Craft (midget submarine) earned him the Distinguished Service Cross and two Bars.
Thanks to a research query about Hudspeth received by the Society, the story of his remarkable war service can be told. This story was researched and compiled by Dennis J. Weatherall JP TM AFAITT(L) LSM an active volunteer of the Society. Dennis is a qualified Australian Military Historian and accredited Member of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides.
Kenneth Hudspeth was born in Echuca, Victoria on the Murray River on 31 March 1918. His Father Robert was born in 1891 in Carlton, and mother Ada (nee Sim) in 1894 in Box Hill, Victoria. There were two other brothers born into the Hudspeth family, Bruce in 1919 and Donald 1921 in Hobart, Tasmania.
Robert Senior started work at 14 years of age and studied at night school to become a teacher. He went on to become the first Principal of Hobart Technical College having established the school, recruited and trained staff in the specific trades required.
Kenneth Robert Hudspeth, was encouraged by his father to be aware of the bushland, and became a keen bushwalker in Tasmania’s south-west region. He was also interested in all water activities and subsequently became a Sea Scout and crewed local cruising yachts. With such involvement, Kenneth never lost his deep interest in maritime matters.
On finishing school Kenneth, following in his father’s footsteps became a trainee in the Tasmanian Education Department and was assigned to Hythe area school in the suburb of Southport following training.
Following the outbreak of WWII, Kenneth offered his service to the Navy and was selected as a Sub Lieutenant RANVR. His first posting being to HMAS Cerberus for induction followed by HMAS Rushcutter to undertake Anti-Submarine warfare training in the newly established school commanded by CMDR Harvey Newcomb RN.
During the Battle of the Atlantic up to 20 percent of all A/S Officers were Australian RANR/RANVR serving in the Royal Navy (RN).
Hudspeth departed for the UK in the “Imperial Star” in January. Postings then followed in quick succession and included; HMS Ferret and HMS Clarkia. After gaining his Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate and serving 15 months on North Atlantic convoy escort duties in 1941 & 1942, he volunteered for submarines and was posted to HMS Dolphin, HMS Cyclops (Submarine Depot Ship) and from October 1942 to August 1944, HMS Varbel I and II.
He was promoted LEUT RANVR on 15th January 1943 and assigned for commanding officer duties in Midget Submarine “X-Craft”. His first command was X-Craft X10.
The Admiralty had requested volunteers for special and hazardous service, stating they must be below 24 years of age on selection, unmarried, be good swimmers and of strong and enduring physique”. After volunteering and selection interview at HMS Dolphin Hudspeth was accepted without an explanation of what ‘hazardous service’ was. He was subsequently posted to HMS Cyclops then HMS Varbel where he commenced training (and was told what hazardous service he’d just volunteered for). Training commenced immediately in the new midget submarines known as X-Craft.
Operation Source: 22nd September 1943
Operation Source was a Top Secret Operation to neutralise three German Capital ships, SMS Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and Lutzow. Hudspeth was one of six midget submarine CO’s detailed to attack these vessels. His target was the battleship SMS Scharnhorst, later downgraded by the RN to a Battlecruiser due to carrying only 11 inch main guns. All were at anchor in the Kaa Fjord.
X5 was the Mission commander commanded by Commander LEUT “Henty” Henty-Creer RN who was Australian born. X6 was commended by LEUT Donald Cameron RNR and X7 commanded by LEUT Godfrey Place RNR. These three X-Craft were detailed to attack the SMS Tirpitz. X5 was lost with all hands either during the attack or withdrawal (there is no definitive record), although the Admiralty refuses to dive on the wreck (located in 1974) to check if, in fact, they had deployed their two tons of explosives and were actually sunk on their escape from completing their attack on Tirpitz. Both X6 and X7 succeeded in damaging their target, although both X-Craft were forced to the surface within the anti submarine net around the Tirpitz. Both were craft were scuttled. Two X7 crew members never escaped their craft. The six surviving crew members were taken as prisoners of war (POW’s). Both CO’s Cameron and Place were awarded the Victoria Cross.
On the 18th September 1943, X8 commanded by LEUT J Smart RNVR was en-route to attack the SMS Lutzow (Pocket Battleship). It was under tow by its mother submarine, HMS Sea Nymph when the tow line parted. It was found the next day. As LEUT Smart had been forced to jettison both saddle charges during the passage X8s participation in the mission was cancelled. Unfortunately, X8 was scuttled on the 18th September and the crew returned to the “mother” submarine for passage home.
X9 commanded by SBLT E.V. Kearon RNVR and X10 were designated to attack SMS Scharnhorst on the 16th September 1943. Unfortunately, X9 under tow from HM Submarine Syrtis had dived and failed to surface on the same day. It was found the towing hawser had also parted. All four of its crew were lost.
Other crew members of X10, unofficially named “Excalibur”, the legendary sword of King Arthur, included; SBLT Bruce Enzer RNVR, 1st LEUT SBLT Geoff Harding RNVR and Diver, ERA Tilley (who been seconded from fleet submarines). Harding was the youngest of all X-Craft crewmen, he’d just turned 19. Passage CO was “Ernie” Page, a tall, red-bearded Irishman.
X10’s target was the SMS Scharnhorst, believed at the time of departure from home base to be at anchor astern of the SMS Tirpitz in the Kaa Fjord. Unknown to X10 as at 1300, 12 September when she left base under the tow of HM Submarine Sceptre, the Scharnhorst had slipped her moorings on the morning of 22 September and headed to Alten Fjord to undertake Gunnery practice. Subsequently, Scharnhorst received a signal from Tirpitz advising she’d been under attack and had been torpedoed. As a consequence, Scharnhorst did not return to her berth in the Kaa Fjord. This situation unknown to LEUT Hudspeth became important post mission.
After slipping her tow from HM Submarine Sceptre at 2000 on 20 September, X10 dived to test her trim. All was satisfactory, so course was set for the allocated target SMS Scharnhorst. Given known technical reliability issues with the X-Craft it is not surprising that Hudspeth was beset with multiple mechanical break downs. First the periscope motor started to smell pungent when raised and lowered, then the motor burnt out and the craft filled with fumes. Next the Gyro compass failed as did the magnetic compass light, finally the boat started to leak above the switchboard and all fuses blew. Every crew member, regardless of trade, was put to work in an endeavour to rectify the defects and hopefully resume X10 its mission. At 0215, X10 bottomed out at 195 feet just 4 miles from Kaa Fjord and where it was presumed SMS Scharnhorst was at anchor. Finally, one of the two side saddles (explosives) flooded. It seemed little else could go wrong?
LEUT Hudspeth asked his crew if they wanted to proceed to their target in the condition they now found themselves in. All responded yes. After serious consideration as their CO and having heard multiple explosions at 0815 from the other attacking X-Craft, he weighed carefully if he should continue and if forced to the surface, the consequences of losing both his craft and crew. He also considered the impact on other craft successfully attacking their targets. X10 stayed bottomed all day then at 1800 Hudspeth called off the mission and limped back down the Fjord to the rendezvous for return to Loch Striven, Scotland.
LEUT Hudspeth was awarded a DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) on 11 January 1944. His citation read: “For outstanding courage whilst in command of HM Submarine X10 during Operation Source in September 1943. This submarine penetrated Alten Fjord on 22 September 1943 to within four miles of where Tirpitz was lying. LEUT Hudspeth bottomed in this position in enemy waters throughout 22 September while he and his crew worked in trying conditions to make good the vessel’s defects. The attempt was in vain and LEUT Hudspeth had to come to the correct though bitter decision to withdraw, when so near his goal. The successful double passage of the approaches to Alten Fjord required determination and skill of a high order. The application and endurance shown in the attempt to remedy defects deserve credit. The information this Officer was able to bring back was of great value”.
Operation Postage Able: 17 to 21 January 1944
As the planning went ahead for the invasion of Europe, scheduled for the summer of 1944, it was realised that the Admiralty had no close inshore charts of the French coastline. Therefore, towards the end of 1943 (December) a group of specialised servicemen arrived at the X-Craft Scottish base to check out if it was possible to use these craft to gain the information required for the upgrade of what would become the “invasion charts”. The name of the group was Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) their role was to gain all possible information on the shore line both above and below the expected tide levels. The Normandy coast was their target shoreline. COPP was a mixture of Naval and Army personnel, the latter being trained commando swimmers. It was Navy’s job to take these commandos, land them unseen to reconnoitre ashore before returning to their X-Craft for passage home.
Two X-Craft (X20 and X23) were shipped by rail from Loch Striven (Scotland) to Portsmouth (south coast) for the operation. The original crew from X10 that was scuttled on its return from the aborted SMS Scharnhorst raid (Sep 43) were reassigned to X20 where they practised passage in the shallow waters of the Solent. Due to last minute “second thoughts” by senior officers, the first planned COPP mission was carried out by small surface craft. The planners were concerned about the possible discovery by the enemy of an X-Craft operation close inshore.
LEUT Hudspeth was awarded a bar to his DSC on 4 April 1944 for his missions in landing COPP personnel on enemy held coasts, his citation reads; “For outstanding courage and devotion to duty whilst commanding HM Submarine X20 in hazardous operations. He showed great coolness, grasp and ability in manoeuvring his X-Craft submerged in shallow water close under enemy defences during the first attempt at putting Combined Operations Pilotage Parties on beach reconnaissance on a heavily guarded position of an enemy coast, in unknown and unpleasant conditions during the period 17 to 21 January 1944”.
Operation “Gambit”: 2 to 6 June 1944 of the Normandy Coast
Following the successful charting of the Normandy coast X20 and X23 were retained for the subsequent operation, Operation Gambit. LEUT Hudspeth continued in command of X20 whilst LEUT George Honour RNVR was CO of X23. For this operation the the crew of each was to be five men. Originally designed for a crew of three, each carried divers and one other. Conditions were cramped!
This operation was part of the overall D-Day Naval Operation known as “Operation Neptune”. Basically both craft had to approach the British / Canadian allocated sector beaches and position themselves at the outer markers of Sword (X23) and Juno (X20). Their role was to sit it out until the allocated time and date of the invasion, then surface and act as navigation beacons for landing force craft heading to the two beaches.
With D-Day set for Monday 5 June 1944, both X-Craft left their berths at Fort Blockhouse and set course to exit the east gate on the Portsmouth Boom Defence. Operation “Gambit” had commenced. It was Friday 2 June at 2130 hours. The X-Craft were under tow by two trawlers the Darthem (X20) and the Sapper (X23), they broke their tow the next day and headed for what are now known as Sword and Juno invasion beaches. They positioned themselves (submerged) on the 4 June to be the leads for the biggest invasion force the world had ever seen.
The X-Craft needed to ventilate every five hours to draw in fresh air. They also had to confirm their allocated station by periscope sightings each evening. At 2200 daily they tuned into the BBC news broadcast for any coded message that would confirm the landings would commence the following morning. During one such broadcast, the code was transmitted that the invasion landings would be delayed due to weather (at the UK end) for a day. As their supplies were limited, especially oxygen backup (in bottles) this message caused some concern onboard X20. Their mission on D-Day was to illuminate mast head beacons (to sea) from the deck and periscope to give the landing armada a tested navigation course to their landing beaches of Sword and Juno.
The allocation of operation names is of interest. In this case the Admiralty had chosen Gambit which, as in Chess, a piece is risked so as to gain advantage later! No words were ever so true for X20 and X23.
For this mission not only did they carry extra crew but enough equipment to open a deep sea fishermen’s store! Before departure Portsmouth they stowed onboard the following kit:
- Two coastal quick release anchors,
- Three flashing lamps with batteries,
- Several taut-string measuring reels,
- Two small portable radar beacons,
- One 18 foot sounding pole with two telescopic masts of similar length and
- Twelve extra bottles of oxygen in addition to the X-Crafts normal fixed supply.
The crew were given fake identification papers and told if the mission was aborted they were to swim ashore make contact with the local resistance who would help them return to England. That is of course, if they weren’t drowned or shot by German sentries. If they survived and escaped, they still had to find the local resistance which was easier said than done. Essentially, they were on their own if the mission was aborted.
X20 positioned herself off Juno Beach less than a mile and a half from the coast on Sunday 4 June 1944. When the coded message was received it simply read “trouble in Scarborough” so X20 manoeuvred into deeper water to wait until Tuesday 6 June, the new D-Day. At 0502 the periscope was raised along with the telescopic mast, lights affixed (looking seaward) the radio beacons and echo sounders activated……the final phase of the invasion of Europe was about to commence!
X20 had completed her mission successfully so had X23, so the crew hunkered down had breakfast and waited until it was time to get themselves off the beach and rendezvous with their two craft for a well-deserved return to Portsmouth.
For this operation, LEUT Hudspeth was awarded a second bar to his DSC on 28 Nov 1944. The citation read: “For gallantry, skill, determination and undaunted devotion to duty whilst commanding HM Submarine X20 during Operation Gambit, the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties beach reconnaissance of the French coast prior to Operation Neptune and the landing of Allied Forces on the coast of Normandy”.
After D-Day LEUT Hudspeth was posted back to HMS Varbel (12th Submarine Flotilla – Midget X-Craft) and was involved in training new crew, he also wrote a manual on X-Craft operations, something he was well suited for having been a teacher prior to his war service.
On the 23 September 1944 LEUT Hudspeth was posted to HMS Orwell (G98) an Oscar Class destroyer and back to his old trade as an Anti-Submarine Officer. The Orwell had been launched on 2 April 1942, commissioned 17 October 1942 and assigned immediately to North Atlantic and Russian Convoy duties. LEUT Hudspeth served under LCDR John Randall Gower, CO from 15 July 44 through to 16 October 1945. During Hudspeth’s time onboard most sailings were on the Russian run north until returning to Scapa Flow at the end of April 1945 Orwell rejoined the Home Fleet and assumed duties as required. During this period LEUT Hudspeth served as First Lieutenant until released from his RN service.
On 10 September 1945 LEUT Hudspeth was posted to HMS President pending return to Australia and demobilisation. He embarked on the passenger liner “SS Aquitania” leaving Southampton on 28 October and arrived in Tasmania in early December 1946. His service concluded at HMAS Huon on 5 February 1946
Post demobilisation, Hudspeth continued to serve in the Reserve, was promoted to LCDR on 31 December 1951 eventually resigning his commission on the 21 January 1965. Thus ended, a distinguished career of 25 years in war and peace in the RN, RANVR and post war RANR.
Post war Hudspeth obtained his teaching diploma and returned to his pre-war occupation as a teacher with the Tasmanian Department of Education. He became the warden of “Werndee”, a hostel in Hobart for junior and trainee teachers. Then followed several appointments to several schools in northern Tasmania before becoming Principal, and Superintendent of Building for the Education Department throughout Tasmania. Kenneth Hudspeth retired from education in 1979 aged 61.
Kenneth married an English woman, Audrey Nicholson in 1959. They produced three sons: Andrew, David and Donald. None followed in their father into the services. In retirement Kenneth followed his interests in music and literature, although his chief interest was anything maritime and his love and involvement in the Tasmanian Maritime Museum.
Kenneth Robert Hudspeth passed away on the 3 December 2000 at the age of 82 years. He was a war time hero, a volunteer, a Reservist and one of the most decorated Australian Naval Officers of WWII.
Midget Submarines Specifications – X-Craft
Overall length: 52 feet
Displacement: 30 tons
Propulsion: Diesel engine and Electric motor
Range: Approximately 1,000 miles
Speed: 6.5 Knots surfaced, 2 knots submerged economical speed
Armament: Two crescent sectioned charges 30 foot long each with two tons of explosives
Crew: Three to five subject to mission
Diving depth: 300 feet
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