On this day:

1940 > WW2

01 Jul 1940

HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), landed 687 officers and men of a Punjabi battalion at Berbera, to reinforce British Somaliland.

04 Jul 1940

HMAS NIZAM, (destroyer), was launched at John Brown’s, Yard, Scotland.

HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), engaged in the removal of the French fleet from the Mediterranean, records in her war diary, ‘Situation with French very critical’.

06 Jul 1940

LCDR O. Becher, RAN, was awarded the DSC for conspicuous gallantry in the evacuation of troops from Namsos, Norway, while serving in HMS DEVONSHIRE.

07 Jul 1940

HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), was straddled by a stick of bombs while operating with the Mediterranean Fleet. The C in C, ADML A.B. Cunningham, recorded in his journal: ‘On this day I saw the SYDNEY, which was in company, disappear in a line of towering pillars of spray as high as church steeples, to emerge unharmed’.

HMAS AUSTRALIA, (cruiser), and HM Ships DORSETSHIRE, (cruiser), and HERMES, (aircraft carrier), covered the attack on the French battleship RICHELIEU at Dakar, by a British Fleet. After a preliminary bombardment by guns of the fleet a motorboat entered the enemy harbour and dropped depth charges under the battleship’s stern, but because of the shallow water they failed to explode. A flight of torpedo bombers from HERMES then attacked the enemy battleship causing damage to her stern.

08 Jul 1940

HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), came under air attack whilst preparing for the Battle of Calibria.

09 Jul 1940

HMA Ships SYDNEY, (cruiser), STUART, VAMPIRE, and VOYAGER, (destroyers), participated in the Battle of Calabria. The signal, ‘Enemy battle fleet in sight,’ was hoisted for the first time in the Mediterranean since the Napoleonic Wars.

HMAS NESTOR, (destroyer), was launched at Fairfield’s Yard, UK.

HMAS AUSTRALIA, (cruiser), left the Dakar force and proceeded to the Clyde.

11 Jul 1940

Gunner(T) Mr. J. H. Endicott, RN, in HMAS VAMPIRE, (destroyer), was killed in an Italian air attack on the ship. He was the RAN’s first battle casualty in WWII.

13 Jul 1940

HMAS AUSTRALIA, (cruiser), joined the 1st Cruiser Squadron at Scappa Flow, Scotland.

15 Jul 1940

The examination vessel HMAS KING BAY, was commissioned. KING BAY was laid down in Fremantle, WA, in 1938. She was requisitioned for the RAN on 8 July 1940, from her owners, Cossack Lightering and Trades Ltd, Perth, WA.

The examination vessel HMAS WONGALA, was commissioned. WONGALA was laid down in Norway in 1919 as the wooden steamer FANEFJORD. She later became HMAS WYATT EARP in November 1947.

17 Jul 1940

HMAS FALIE, (transport and stores ship), was commissioned.

The cruiser HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN), returned from the fleet action in the central Mediterranean to Alexandria, was immediately readied for sea again, after being refuelled, ammunitioned, and having a bottom clean.

18 Jul 1940

The cruiser HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN), with HMS HAVOCK, (destroyer), left Alexandria to protect four destroyers which were to hunt down Italian submarines, (HM Ships HYPERION, ILEX, HERO, and HASTY), and to intercept Italian shipping in the Gulf of Athens.

19 Jul 1940

The cruiser, HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN), sank the Italian ship BARTOLOMEO COLLEONI, (cruiser), off Cape Spada, Crete. BATOLOMEO COLLEONI, and her sister ship GIOVANNI DELLE BANDA NERE, were sighted by the HM Ships HASTY and HERO, (destroyers), 20 miles south of the SYDNEY. The destroyers turned north with the enemy in pursuit. HASTY signalled HERO: ‘Don’t look now but I think we are being followed’. Fifty minutes later SYDNEY opened fire at extreme range. By 9.20 am, the battle was over, with BARTOLOMEO COLLEONI sinking, and GIOVANNI DELLE BANDA NERE withdrawing damaged.The following gallantry awards were gazetted for the action:-CB CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN; DSO CMDR T. J. M. Hilken, RAN; DSO CMDR(E) L. S. Dalton, RAN; DSC LCDR M. M. Singer, RAN; DSC LCDR E. W. Thruston, RAN; DSM CPO A. P. Prior; DSM CPO S. G. Silk; DSM COA W. J. Keane; DSM CS T. Beaumont; DSM Stoker E. C. Evans; Thirteen officers and ratings were MID.

22 Jul 1940

HMAS ALFIE CAM, (auxiliary minesweeper), was commissioned.

25 Jul 1940

HMAS SYDNEY, (cruiser), was painted in camouflage colours at Alexandria. The effectiveness of camouflage on ships at sea was the subject of controversy throughout the war.

26 Jul 1940

HMA Ships VAMPIRE and VENDETTA, (destroyers), with HMS ORION, (cruiser), demonstrated off the Italian-held island of Castellorizo to divert enemy attention from an important convoy bound for Greece.

27 Jul 1940

HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN), was near-missed by two bombs which caused minor casualties, and damaged the ship’s new aircraft. ADML A. B. Cunningham saw the cruiser veiled in spray and signalled: ‘Are you all right?’ Collins replied: ‘I hope so’.

28 Jul 1940

The auxiliary minesweeper HMAS ALFIE CAM, was commissioned. ALFIE CAM, (as ASAMA, fishing trawler), was laid down in 1919, in Cardiff, Wales. She was requisitioned for the RAN on 28 July 1940, from her owners Cam & Sons, Sydney.

HMAS SYDNEY and HMS NEPTUNE, (cruisers), sank the Italian tanker ERMIOMI in the Aegean Sea.

29 Jul 1940

HMAS DURRAWEEN, (auxiliary minesweeper), was commissioned.

HMAS STUART, (destroyer), picked up the pilot of a Gladiator fighter from HMS EAGLE, (aircraft carrier), in the central Mediterranean. The fighter shot down an Italian bomber, but exhausted her petrol and crashed into the sea.

30 Jul 1940

HMAS PARRAMATTA, (sloop), and HMS REGENT, (submarine), arrived at Aden after an unsuccessful search in the Indian Ocean for the German raider ATLANTIS.

01 Aug 1940

HMAS BATHURST, (minesweeper), the first of 60 of the class to be built in Australia, was launched at Cockatoo Island, Sydney.

The RAN Depot at Fremantle was commissioned as HMAS LEEUWIN. The depot had been created in 1926 when a drill hall was erected in Croke Lane, for the training of naval reservists. The base was moved to nearby Preston Point on 1 July 1942, following the appointment of the first Naval Officer in Charge Fremantle.

The Naval Depot in Brisbane, (HMAS PENGUIN IV), was re-commissioned as HMAS BRISBANE. This name lasted just over two years, before the depot was re-named again; this time as HMAS MORETON.

08 Aug 1940

HMAS HOBART’S, (cruiser), amphibian aircraft, made a solo bombing raid on the Italian airfield at Zeila, Somaliland. Italian bombers retaliated by straddling HOBART with bombs.

09 Aug 1940

The auxiliary minesweeper HMAS GOONAMBEE, was commissioned. GOONAMBEE was laid down in the State Dockyard, Newcastle, NSW, in 1919. She was requisitioned for the RAN, from her owners, Cam & Sons Pty Ltd, on 28 June 1940.

Engaged in the Battle of Tug Argan Gap, HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), landed her 1.3kg Hotchkiss saluting gun, mounted on a temporary carriage, to stiffen the British line near Berber. A crew of three volunteers, PO H. Jones, AB H.C. Sweeney, and AB W.J. Hurran, manned the gun, and fought alongside the troops until the position was captured by the overwhelming Italian forces. The gun crew was taken prisoner, until 1 April 1941, when British troops captured Eritrea.

10 Aug 1940

At the request of the army HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), sent ashore 3 volunteers to man a 3-pounder Hotchkiss saluting gun. The sailors were PO H. Jones, AB H. C. Sweeney, and AB W. J. Hurren. The gun was in position at Tug Argan Gap. In a losing struggle they were taken prisoner, unharmed, and later in April 1941.

HMAS LISMORE, (minesweeper), was launched at Evans Deakin, QLD.

14 Aug 1940

CMDR H. J. Buchanan, RAN, was awarded the DSO for conspicuous gallantry while commanding HMS VANITY, (destroyer), during the evacuation of Dunkirk. CMDR Buchanan later commanded HMA Ships NORMAN and NAPIER, the latter as CAPT (D), in the Burma Campaign.

15 Aug 1940

CAPT H. Howden, RAN, commanding HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), was appointed Senior Naval Officer at Berbera. Howden successfully directed the evacuation of the port as it was invaded by superior Italian forces. The ships available for the task were HMAS HOBART, HM Ships CARLISLE, CERES, KIMBERLEY, KANDAHAR, CHAKDINA, LAOMEDON, SHOREHAM, VITA, (hospital ship), and AKBAR, (transport ship). Two tugs, ZEILA, and QUEEN, and four barges were manned by HOBART’S crew. The evacuation was completed on the night of 18th August, and the only loss was the tug QUEEN.

16 Aug 1940

LEUT E. T. Lees, RANVR, was awarded the DSC for bravery and conspicuous service while serving in HM trawler ARAB, during the Norwegian Campaign. Lees was First Lieutenant of the trawler, which fought off continuous German air attacks over a period of six weeks, and carried out a series of evacuations of British and French troops cut off by German advances. ARAB’S CO, LEUT R. B. Stannard, RNR, was awarded the VC.

17 Aug 1940

The Port of Sydney was closed, when objects suspected of being mines were sighted, off Botany Bay.

HMA Ships STUART, VENDETTA, and WATERHEN, (destroyers), were on the screen of HM Ships WARSPITE, MALAYA, and RAMMILLIES, (battleships), during the bombardment of Italian military positions near Bardia, Libya.

18 Aug 1940

The evacuation of Berbera was completed. HMAS HOBART, (cruiser), launched her Seagull amphibian aircraft soon after dawn, on a reconnaissance of the Berbera Plains. No enemy activity was observed.

19 Aug 1940

The cruiser HMAS HOBART, (CAPT H. Howden, RAN), bombarded the main buildings and port installations of Berbera, as the Italian Army entered the port. During the bombardment three exhausted soldiers of the King’s African Rifles were seen on the beach. LEUT T. M. Synnot, RAN, took a boat in close to the beach, and stood off while AB V. E. Lewis swam ashore and brought the men off.

22 Aug 1940

The Grimsby type escort sloop HMAS WARREGO, (CMDR R. V. Wheatley), was commissioned. WARREGO was laid down in Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, on 15 May 1939, and launched on 10 February 1940. Mrs R. G. Menzies, (Wife of the Prime Minister, Mr R. G. Menzies), performed the launching ceremony.

23 Aug 1940

HMAS WATERHEN, (destroyer), covered HMS LADYBIRD, (monitor), when she entered the enemy held port of Bardia, and fired point-blank on buildings and harbour defences. Both vessels withdrew safely after the attack.

24 Aug 1940

HMAS WATERHEN, (destroyer), and HM Ships DIAMOND, ILEX, and JUNO, of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla, bombarded the Italian seaplane base at Bomba, Libya.

26 Aug 1940

HMAS AUSTRALIA, (cruiser), launched her Seagull amphibian aircraft on a solo bombing attack of Tromso, Norway. Heavy cloud and poor visibility caused the aircraft to turn back.

02 Sep 1940

The German raider ORION laid dummy mines off Albany, WA.

The auxiliary anti-submarine vessel HMAS WILCANNIA, (LCDR G. Tancred, RAN), was commissioned. WILCANNIA, (as WYRALLAH), was laid down in Burmeister & Wain, Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1934. She was requisitioned for the RAN, from her owners, the North Coast Steam Navigation Co Ltd, in 1940.

04 Sep 1940

The cruiser, HMAS SYDNEY, (CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN), and HM Ships DAINTY and ILEX, (destroyers), bombarded Italian airfields at Scarpanto. Three Italian E-boats attacked the squadron, but accurate fire from ILEX sank two, and the other withdrew.

05 Sep 1940

The auxiliary minesweeper HMAS SAMUEL BENBOW, was commissioned. SAMUEL BENBOW was laid down in the UK in 1918. She was requisitioned for the RAN, from her owners, Cam & Sons Pty Ltd, Sydney, on 4 August 1940

07 Sep 1940

HMAS ADELAIDE, (cruiser), arrived at Vila to install De Gaullist M. Sautot as French Commissioner of the New Hebrides. Vila was in the hands of Vichy sympathisers, and ADELAIDE stood off the port until 16 September, before sailing for Noumea. On her arrival at the latter port the French sloop DUMONT D’URVILLE was observed at the wharf. A signal from a shore station warned ADELAIDE:- ‘You must not enter harbour’. Conflict was avoided when De Gaullist supporters seized control. DUMONT D’URVILLE sailed for Saigon on 25 September, and M Sautot was installed as Commissioner.

19 Sep 1940

HMAS AUSTRALIA, (cruiser), sighted three Vichy French cruisers, 250 miles south of Dakar, and shadowed them north.

The cruiser HMAS ADELAIDE, (CAPT H. A. Showers), escorted the Norwegian tanker NORDEN, which was carrying the new governor of New Caledonia, Henri Sautot, into Noumea. ADELAIDE sailed in with the French sloop, DUMONT d’URVILLE alongside the wharf, with her guns trained fore-and-aft.

20 Sep 1940

HMAS AUSTRALIA, (cruiser), intercepted the French Ship GLOIRE, (cruiser), and forced her into Casablanca.

22 Sep 1940

The auxiliary anti-submarine vessel HMAS YANDRA, was commissioned. YANDRA was laid down in Burmeister & Wain, Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1928. She was requisitioned for the RAN, from her owners, Coast Steamship Co Ltd, Adelaide, on 27 June 1940.

'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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