On this day:

1940 > WW2

10 Jan 1940

The first Australian and New Zealand troop convoy of the Second World War, US 1, sailed from Sydney for the Middle East. The escort consisted of HMA Ships CANBERRA and SYDNEY,(cruisers), and HMS RAMILLIES, (battleship).

The auxiliary minesweeper HMAS NAMBUCCA was commissioned. NAMBUCCA was built as a wooden coastal steamer by E. Wright, Tuncurry, NSW, for the North Coast Steam Navigation Co. NAMBUCCA was requisitioned for naval service on 7 November 1939. The ship was transferred to the USN on 19 April 1943.

12 Jan 1940

The Australian tug HEROS, (escort vessel), was commissioned into the RAN. She was re-commissioned on 12 February 1943 as a naval salvage tug.

15 Jan 1940

The auxiliary patrol vessel HMAS ST. GILES was commissioned. ST. GILES was built in 1919 at Ferguson Bros. Scotland. In 1922 ST. GILES was purchased by J. & A. Brown of Newcastle, NSW, and brought to Australia. She was requisitioned for naval service in 1939.

17 Jan 1940

The armed merchant cruiser/landing ship infantry, HMAS WESTRALIA, (CMDR A. S. Rosenthal, RAN), was commissioned. WESTRALIA was laid down in Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1929. She was requisitioned for the RAN, from her owners Huddart Parker Ltd, Melbourne, on 2 November 1939.

The first Australian and New Zealand troop convoy of the Second World War, US1, sailed from Fremantle. Ships in the convoy were:- STRATHAIRD, STRATHNAVER, OTRANTO, SOBIESKI, ORION, ORFORD, DUNERA 11, EMPRESS OF JAPAN, EMPRESS OF CANADA, ORCADES, and RANGITARA. Escort ships were; HM Ships RAMILLIES and KENT, and the French cruiser SUFFREN.

19 Jan 1940

A rating in HMAS STUART, (destroyer), wrote: “I always count those early months in the Mediterranean before Italy came in as the worst period of the war. The Australian destroyers operated in exceptionally cold weather and high seas. Lifelines were rigged and the decks were buried in green water. Below decks was a chaos of floating clothes and gear”.

20 Jan 1940

The troop convoy US1, left Fremantle, escorted by HM Ships RAMILLES, (battleship), and KENT, (cruiser), and the French cruiser SUFFREN. Australia had refused a request to involve HMA Ships CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA, and SYDNEY, (cruisers), for fear of depleting defences in local coastal waters.

30 Jan 1940

The troop convoy US1 reached Colombo. HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), joined the convoy as an escort, for part of the voyage.

05 Feb 1940

The auxiliary anti-submarine vessel HMAS BINGERA, was commissioned. BINGERA was laid down in Denny Bros Ltd, Dumbarton, Scotland, in 1935, for the Australian Steam Navigation Co Ltd, and requisitioned for the RAN on 2 December 1939.

The auxiliary minesweeper HMAS BONTHORPE was commissioned. BONTHORPE was laid down in 1927 as a fishing trawler.

07 Feb 1940

The boom working vessel HMAS KOALA, was commissioned. KOALA was laid down in Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, on 21 June 1939, and launched on 21 November 1939. Mrs Custance, (Wife of RADM W. N. Custance, RN), performed the launching ceremony.

10 Feb 1940

HMAS WARREGO, (sloop), was launched at Cockatoo Island, Sydney.

17 Feb 1940

HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), embarked eight Midshipmen at Aden for transfer to the battleship HMS RAMILLIES. One of the midshipmen was HRH Prince Philip of Greece, later to become the Duke of Edinburgh.

14 Mar 1940

HMS RAMILLIES, (battleship), was refitted at Garden Island Naval Dockyard, Sydney.

A. G. Cameron was appointed to the post of Australian Minister for the Navy.

24 Mar 1940

Volunteers from ships of Australia’s “Scrap Iron Flotilla”, in the Mediterranean, embarked on a mission to block the Danube River at a feature known as the Iron Gates. The operation was planned by DNI from a suggestion made by LCDR M. Minshall, RNVR, who had voyaged down the river on an intelligence mission shortly before the outbreak of hostilities. Coordinator for the operation was LCDR Ian Fleming, creator of the fictional hero James Bond. LCDR Fleming smuggled 14 tons of explosives across Europe on the Orient Express. The operation was discovered by German agents before the RAN-manned barges reached the target. In the withdrawal one barge loaded with explosives was detonated beneath a railway viaduct. All Australian members of the Commando-style mission succeeded in returning to their ships.

27 Mar 1940

HMAS STUART, (destroyer), salvaged the tanker TROCAS in heavy seas in the Mediterranean.

08 Apr 1940

The Grimbsy type escort sloop HMAS PARRAMATTA, (LCDR J.H. Walker, RAN), was commissioned. PARRAMATTA was laid down at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, on 9 November 1938, and launched on 18 June 1939. Mrs G.A. Street, (wife of the Federal Minister for Defence), performed the launching ceremony.

HMAS VAMPIRE, (destroyer), took off the crew of the tanker BRITISH LORD, which had been disabled by German bombers north of Crete. The tanker was then safely towed safely to the port of Gavdhos.

HMS GLOWWORM, (destroyer), was sunk in a gallant but one sided fight against the German cruiser HIPPER, off the coast of Norway. AB R.E. Bampton, an RAN rating, was among those who lost his life when GLOWWORM was sunk.

09 Apr 1940

AB A. Kennedy, RAN, survived the sinking of the destroyer HMS GHURKA by dive bombers off Norway. Kennedy was the only Australian in the crew.

12 Apr 1940

HMAS MANOORA, (armed merchant cruiser), intercepted the Norwegian tanker HARBOR, and escorted her to Darwin.

13 Apr 1940

HMAS SWAN, (sloop), intercepted the Norwegian ship SOLHEIM off Fremantle, and escorted the vessel into port.

HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), intercepted the Danish merchant vessel AFRIKA between Colombo and Aden. A prize crew steamed the ship to Colombo.

24 Apr 1940

The Cunard liner QUEEN MARY commenced conversion to a troop ship at Sydney.

04 May 1940

HMAS KANGAROO, (boom defence vessel), was launched at Cockatoo Island, Sydney.

05 May 1940

Australian troop convoy US3, consisting of liners QUEEN MARY, AQUITANIA, EMPRESS OF JAPAN, EMPRESS OF BRITAIN, MAURETANIA, and ANDES, escorted by HMA Ships CANBERRA and PERTH, and HMS LEANDER, sailed from Sydney.

09 May 1940

PO A. J. Fisher, RAN was awarded the DSC for daring, endurance, and resource, while serving in HM Submarine TRUANT. Fifteen months later he was MID for skill and enterprise in the same submarine.

15 May 1940

HMA Ships CANBERRA and AUSTRALIA, (cruisers), were escorting convoy US3, when about halfway between Fremantle and Colombo, The British Admiralty ordered it alter course for Britain via the Cape Town.

17 May 1940

The Australian War Cabinet accepted the Admiralty offer of HMS CERES and HMS COLOMBO, (cruisers), for service in Australian waters. The decision was reversed a week later.

20 May 1940

HMS SHROPSHIRE, (cruiser), relieved HMAS CANBERRA, (cruiser), as escort for troop convoy US3, in the Indian Ocean. SHROPSHIRE was commissioned into the RAN as a replacement for CANBERRA in 1943.

21 May 1940

The Australian Government approved the building of the Captain Cook Graving Dock between Potts Point and Garden Island Navy Base, Sydney.

22 May 1940

The cruiser HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN), arrived at Aden, en-route to the Mediterranean. During the ship’s passage from Sydney, she had struck, and cut in half, a whale.

HMAS NAPIER, (destroyer), was launched at Fairfield’s Yard, England.

HMS MELBOURNE, (armed trawler), was sunk by German aircraft during the battle for Narvik, Norway. The battle honour ‘Narvik’ is now carried by all RAN ships to carry the name MELBOURNE.

26 May 1940

The cruiser HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN), joined the 7th Cruiser Squadron operating in the Mediterranean.

LEUT F. N. Cook, RAN, was rescued from the sea off Narvik, following the sinking of his ship, HMS CURLEW, (anti-aircraft cruiser), by German bombers. This was LEUT Cook’s second sinking in less then a year. He was also a survivor from the sinking of HMS ROYAL OAK, (battleship), which had been sunk at Scapa Flow, Scotland, by a German U-Boat, (U-47), in October 1939.

31 May 1940

Convoy US3, escorted by HMA Ships CANBERRA and AUSTRALIA, (cruisers), headed north from Cape Town.

03 Jun 1940

HMAS VENDETTA, (destroyer), commenced a long refit at Malta. During this time her ships company were loaned to the Army, and became part of the force ready to repel a possible invasion of the island by enemy forces.

09 Jun 1940

LEUT G. L. Fowle, RAN, commanded the former Dutch schuyt HMS DOGGER BANK, in the evacuation of troops from Cherbourg and St Malo. He later brought out civilians from the Channel Islands, hours before the German occupation. Fowle was later awarded the DSC for gallantry while serving in HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), in the Philippines.

10 Jun 1940

Italy entered the war on the side of Germany. An officer in HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), at the time of the announcement commented, ‘The news came like the proverbial bomb in our midst.’

HMAS MANOORA, (armed merchant cruiser), shadowed the Italian merchantman ROMOLO in the Pacific, west of Nauru.

11 Jun 1940

HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), with HMA Ships STUART, VAMPIRE, and VOYAGER, (destroyers), sailed at 0100, westward from Alexandria.

12 Jun 1940

The crew of the Italian liner ROMOLO, scuttled their ship west of Nauru, after a long pursuit by HMAS MANOORA, (armed merchant cruiser). MANOORA picked up the survivors from their boats.

The destroyer HMAS STUART, (CAPT H. L. M. Waller, RAN), detected an Italian minefield 17 miles from Alexandria. STUART, with HMA Ships VAMPIRE and VOYAGER, (destroyers), were returning to Alexandria.

13 Jun 1940

HMAS VOYAGER, with HMS DECOY, (destroyers), engaged the surfaced Italian submarine FOCA, which was laying mines, with gunfire off Alexandria. The submarine submerged, and VOYAGER, (CMDR Morrow), dropped depth charges without success.

19 Jun 1940

A Seagull amphibian aircraft from HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), made a solo bombing attack on the Italian wireless station at Centre Peak Island, in the Red Sea.

The GM was awarded to LCDR A. W. R. McNicoll, RAN, who was serving in HMS KANDAHAR, for disarming eight torpedoes in the captured Italian submarine GALILEO GALELEI, off Aden. The submarine had been forced to surrender by the trawler HMS MOONSTONE. LEUT G. F. E. Knox, RAN, also serving in KANDAHAR, was appointed prize captain of the submarine for the passage into Aden.

21 Jun 1940

HMA Ships SYDNEY, (cruiser), and STUART, (destroyer), supported a combined British and French Squadron in the bombardment of Bardia. During the action SYDNEY’S Seagull amphibian aircraft was shot down by three Italian fighters, and crashed on landing. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant. T. McB. Price, RAAF, was awarded the DFC for this action.

LEUT V. A. T. Smith, RAN, participated in an attack by six Swordfish torpedo bombers of 821 Squadron, on the German battleship SCHARNHORST, off the coast of Norway. The attack was unsuccessful. LEUT Smith, who was serving in HMS ARK ROYAL, (aircraft carrier), was MID. He was later to be awarded the DSC for gallantry while serving in ARK ROYAL in the Mediterranean.

25 Jun 1940

France capitulated. ADML A. B. Cunningham concentrated the Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria to contain the French Squadron in the port. RAN ships with the Mediterranean Fleet were HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), and HMA Ships STUART, VAMPIRE, VENDETTA, VOYAGER, and WATERHEN, (destroyers, the ‘Scrap Iron Flotilla’).

27 Jun 1940

HMAS VOYAGER, (destroyer), rescued 13 of the crew of the Italian submarine LIAZZI, sunk by HMS DAINTY, off Crete.

28 Jun 1940

The cruiser HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN), participated in the sinking of the Italian destroyer ESPERO, in the central Mediterranean.

'On This Day' is based on the book "Navy Day by Day: Historic Naval Events in Australia and Abroad" written by the late Lew Lind. More information.

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