On this day:

1942 > WW2

02 Mar 1942

CAPT J. A. Collins, RAN, and staff of the Australian-British-Dutch-American Command, (ABDA), were evacuated by corvette HMAS BURNIE from Tjilatjap, Java.

The former Japanese fishing fleet supply vessel, KOFUKO MARU, 70 foot long and 68 tons, slipped out of the Inderagiri River in Sumatra hours before the Japanese seized the island. She was sailed to India by W. R. Reynolds and later to Australia where she was taken over by the Special Reconnaissance Department and renamed KRAIT.

03 Mar 1942

The Commonwealth Government appointed Mr Justice Lowe as Royal Commissioner to inquire into the circumstances of the Japanese air raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942.

The Australian transport KOOLAMA was sunk by Japanese bombers at Broome, WA.

HMAS YARRA, (sloop), picked up 40 survivors from the Dutch merchant ship PARIGI that had been sunk by the Japanese south of Java. Unfortunately YARRA was sunk the next day and none of the Dutch survivors from PARIGI survived this second sinking.

HMAS BALLARAT, (minesweeper), sank HMS GEMAS, (minesweeper), at Tjilatjap, Java, to prevent it falling into enemy hands. The vessel did not have the range to reach Australia.

The auxiliary minesweeper HMAS PATRICIA CAM was commissioned. PATRICIA CAM was launched as a tuna fishing vessel for Cam & Sons Pty Ltd, Sydney.

04 Mar 1942

HMA Ships, MARYBOROUGH, (CMDR G.L. Cant, RAN, Commander of the Australian corvettes), BURNIE, GOULBURN, BALLARAT, TOOWOOMBA, WOLLONGONG, and BENDIGO, (corvettes), were headed for Australia, from Tjilatjap.

The sloop HMAS YARRA, (LCDR Robert Rankin, RAN), MMS 51, (minesweeper), and the merchant ships ANKING and FRANCO, were overwhelmed and sunk in the Indian Ocean by Japanese fleet of 3 cruisers, (ATAGO, TAKAO and MAYA), and destroyers, commanded by VADM Kondo. YARRA, senior ship in the convoy, engaged the enemy fleet after ordering her convoy to scatter. Of the ship’s complement of 151, 138 lost their lives, and the 13 survivors were later picked up by a Dutch submarine. LS R. Taylor, in charge of the last remaining gun, continued to fire after the abandon ship order, until he too was killed.

05 Mar 1942

VADM Nagumo’s fleet bombarded Tjilatjap, sinking 17 ships. The Dutch disputed the report, claiming 16 vessels had been scuttled in the port. Two days before the attack the Australian Minesweeping Flotilla was at Tjilatjap.

06 Mar 1942

HMAS MARYBOROUGH, (minesweeper), signalled the old coal-burning Dutch ship VERSPICK, which had straggled behind the convoy: “Get all those bloody passengers into the stoke hole”.

07 Mar 1942

Australian Coastwatcher SBLT A.R. Olander, RANVR, was believed executed by the Japanese in New Britain.

HMAS IPSWICH, (minesweeper), was launched at Mort’s Dock, Sydney.

09 Mar 1942

Thirteen survivors from HMAS YARRA, (sloop), were picked up by the Dutch submarine K11 in the Indian Ocean.

Coastwatcher P. Good was executed by the Japanese at Kessa on Buka Island. Good was betrayed by an Australian news broadcast reporting enemy shipping movements.

HMS WARSPITE, (battleship), sailed from Spencer Gulf, SA, for Ceylon. The battleship had been dispatched from the USA, where she had been repaired to bolster Australian defence. Her presence in Australian waters was one of the best kept secrets of the war.

10 Mar 1942

The flotilla of 7 corvettes, HMA Ships MARYBOROUGH, GOULBURN, BURNIE, BALLARAT, TOOWOOMBA, WOLLONGONG, and BENDIGO, reached Fremantle, WA, from Tjilatjap.

11 Mar 1942

HMS NAIAD, (cruiser), was sunk while escorting a convoy to Malta. The cruiser’s First Lieutenant, LCDR A. S. Storey, RAN, was awarded the DSC for conspicuous bravery in the operation. A Bar to the DSC was awarded to this officer some months later “for gallantry, skill and seamanship in a brilliant action against strong enemy forces” when serving in his next ship, HMS CLEOPATRA, (cruiser).

14 Mar 1942

HMAS TAMWORTH, (minesweeper), was launched at Walkers Ltd., QLD. She was paid off in 1946 and transferred to the Royal Netherlands Navy, and renamed TIDORE.

15 Mar 1942

A boat from HMAS PERTH, (LEUT Thode), surrendered to the Japanese at Tjilatjap, 16 days after the sinking of the cruiser in the Battle of Sunda Strait. The party of 10 survivors had set sail for Australia, but contrary winds and a shortage of food and water caused them to turn back to Java.

17 Mar 1942

General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Australia and was appointed Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific.

HMS KINGSTON OLIVINE, (LEUT T. Lewis, RANVR), took in tow the mined freighter CRESSDINE in the English Channel. The tow was passed in darkness with German E-boats in the vicinity. Lewis towed the damaged ship to harbour where it sank before it could be secured alongside. Both Lewis and his First Lieutenant, SBLT P. McCormack, were commended for their coolness and determination.

18 Mar 1942

HMAS WESTRALIA, (armed merchant cruiser), landed a garrison and engineers on Efate Island, New Hebrides, to develop a base for operations against the Japanese through the Solomon and Bismarck Groups.

The merchant ship CHARON was requisitioned by the RAN and converted into a provisions ship for service in the Pacific. She was not commissioned and was returned to her owners in early May 1942.

President Roosevelt telegraphed the British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill:- “There is no use giving a single further thought to Singapore or the Dutch East Indies. They are gone. Australia must be held and we are willing to undertake that. You must hold Egypt, the Canal, Syria, Iran and the route to the Caucasus”.

20 Mar 1942

HMAS MAROUBRA was commissioned as an auxiliary minesweeper. The vessel was sunk by enemy action in 1943.

HMAS NORMAN, (destroyer), located a torpedoed allied tanker in the Indian Ocean, and escorted the vessel into port.

Australian Coastwatcher PO W. L. Tupling, RANVR, was reported executed by the Japanese in New Britain.

24 Mar 1942

US Congress accepted an Australian proposal for dividing the Pacific into distinct naval operational zones. The two areas proposed were the Southwest Pacific and the Southern Pacific.

“Harris’s Navy”, an unusual flotilla of small vessels led by Burns Philp’s 300 ton steamer LAKATOI, commanded by Patrol Officer G. C. Harris, evacuated hundreds of troops and civilians from New Britain under the nose of the Japanese.

26 Mar 1942

The merchant ship LAKATOI arrived at Cairns, QLD, with 214 troops and civilians evacuated from Japanese-occupied New Britain.

28 Mar 1942

The raid on St Nazaire, France, was conducted with the aim of damaging the port facilities there. LEUT N. B. H. Wallis, RANVR, (ML 192), and SBLT P. W. Landy, RANVR, (ML 306), were wounded during the operation.

31 Mar 1942

USS SEAWOLF, (submarine), on passage to Australia, attacked a Japanese invasion fleet off Christmas Island and damaged a cruiser.

02 Apr 1942

ADML Sir James Somerville ordered his battleships HMS RAMILLES, REVENGE, RESOLUTION, and ROYAL SOVEREIGN, to withdraw to Addu Atoll to avoid a clash with ADML Naguma’s superior modern fleet. The overwhelming Japanese carrier force would have sunk the slow British capital ships. HMA Ships NAPIER, NIZAM and NORMAN, (destroyers), were operating with ADML Somerville’s fleet in the Indian Ocean.

03 Apr 1942

A lifeboat, commanded by PO J. Tyrrell, containing 23 survivors from HMAS PERTH, (cruiser), surrendered to the Japanese at Semangka Bay, Sumatra. The party set out to sail to Australia after their ship sank, but 37 days of adverse winds and constant searching for food and water weakened them. On 1 April the boat was shelled by a Japanese destroyer, but they escaped under cover of dark. After their capture they were taken to a prison camp at Palembang, where they remained until the end of the war.

LCDR V.A. Smith, DSC, RAN, participated in operations from the escort carrier, HMS TRACKER, which resulted in the destruction of six German long range aircraft and the sinking of the submarines U288 and U366, in the period 1 to 3 April. TRACKER, equipped with Avenger fighter bombers and Wildcat fighters, was escorting an Arctic convoy to Murmansk.

07 Apr 1942

HMAS WARRAMUNGA, the second Tribal class destroyer built in Australia, was launched at Cockatoo Island, Sydney.

The Bathurst class minesweeper, (corvette), HMAS KALGOORLIE, (LCDR H.A. Litchfield, RANR), was commissioned. KALGOORLIE was laid down on 26 July 1940 at Broken Hill Co Yard, Whyalla, SA, on 26 July 1940, and launched on 7 August 1941. Mrs T. Playford, (wife of the Premier of South Australia), performed the launching ceremony.

09 Apr 1942

The Bathurst class minesweeper, (corvette), HMAS LAUNCESTON, (LCDR P.G. Collins, RANR), was commissioned. LAUNCESTON was laid down at Evans Deakin Yard, Brisbane, on 23 December 1940, and launched on 30 June 1941.

Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Lowe, submitted his report on the Japanese attack on Darwin to the Australian Government. The report criticised the action of the Army, RAAF and Civil Administration, but praised the RAN.

Japanese carrier-borne aircraft sank the destroyer HMAS VAMPIRE, (CMDR W.T.A. Moran, RAN), and HMS HERMES, (light aircraft carrier), off Trincomalee, Ceylon. CMDR Moran, and 7 ratings from VAMPIRE were lost in the action. A total of 590 survivors from both ships were picked up by the hospital ship VITA, and landed at Colombo.

11 Apr 1942

The destroyer HMS QUICKMATCH, (later HMAS QUICKMATCH), was launched at White’s Yard in England.

12 Apr 1942

The Fremantle-based US Submarine SEARAVEN, (LCDR. H. Cassedy, USN), rescued 33 Australian soldiers north of Koepang, Timor. To effect the rescue, Ensign G. C. Cook, USN, was landed on two nights to locate the party of soldiers. On the passage to Fremantle the submarine caught fire and was towed to port.

13 Apr 1942

The Bathurst class minesweeper, (corvette), HMAS GERALDTON, (LCDR H. M. Harris, RNR), was commissioned. GERALDTON was laid down at Poole and Steel’s Yard, Sydney, on 20 March 1940. She was launched on 16 August 1941.

15 Apr 1942

HMAS VENDETTA, (destroyer), reached Port Phillip after an epic 72 day tow from Singapore. The destroyer had been immobilized in dry dock at Singapore when the Japanese invaded, and was towed south to Australia by a variety of vessels. She endured air attack and bad weather during the 5000 mile journey. Her Commanding Officer during this period was LEUT W. G. Whiting, RANR, who was awarded the DSC for ‘outstanding leadership, initiative and seamanship’.

The US Submarines S38, S42, S43, S44, S45, S46 and S47, arrived at Brisbane to operate against the Japanese in the Solomons.

17 Apr 1942

The wireless station at Darwin, NT, received the first message from occupied Timor, indicating that the lost commando force, (Sparrow Force), was still fighting. The signal read; ‘Force intact. Still fighting. Badly need boots, money, quinine, tommy-gun ammunition’. A reply to the commandos’ signal was transmitted on the next night.

18 Apr 1942

The Australian Prime Minister Mr John Curtin handed over to General Douglas MacArthur, (US Army), the operational command of all combat sections of the Australian army, navy, and air force in the Australian area. MacArthur appointed VADM H. Leary, USN, in command of all naval forces, including the RAN.

19 Apr 1942

HMAS VOYAGER, (destroyer), was in a near collision with the troop ship QUEEN MARY, south of Melbourne.

25 Apr 1942

The Director of the Combined Intelligence Centre in Melbourne, warned the Australian Government of an imminent move by Japanese forces against New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The Centre intercepted enemy wireless traffic and confirmed the information with messages from the Coastwatcher network.

28 Apr 1942

HMAS BENDIGO, (minesweeper), picked up 50 survivors from the Dutch merchant vessel DUPLIEX, sunk off Java Head.

The patrol vessel HMAS LAURABADA, (LEUT Ivan Champion, RANVR), evacuated the last troops and civilians from New Britain as the Japanese advanced southward.

30 Apr 1942

The Tribal class destroyer HMAS ARUNTA, (CMDR J. C. Morrow, DSO, RAN), was commissioned. ARUNTA was laid down at Cockatoo Island Dockyard on 15 November 1939, and launched on 30 November 1940. Lady Gowrie, (Wife of the Governor General, Baron Gowrie), performed the launching ceremony.

01 May 1942

The N class destroyer HMAS NEPAL, (CMDR F. B. Morris, RAN), was commissioned. NEPAL, (formerly NORSEMAN), was laid down at John I Thornycroft Yard, Southampton, England, on 9 September 1939, and launched on 4 December 1941. With her sister ship NORMAN, she was allotted to the Royal Netherlands Navy. NEPAL was the last of the N’s to be allotted to the RAN.

02 May 1942

Coastwatcher Major D. G. Kennedy, DSO, reported from Ysabel Island the massing of Japanese shipping in Thousand Ship Bay, for an attack on the Solomon Islands.

HMAS INVERELL, (minesweeper), was launched at Mort’s Dock, Sydney.

03 May 1942

Coastwatcher LEUT D. S. Macfarlane, RANVR, signalled the arrival of the Japanese invasion fleet at Tulagi, Solomon Islands. His signal confirmed the sinking of four enemy transports by American aircraft.

04 May 1942

The Battle of the Coral Sea commenced. HMA cruisers, AUSTRALIA, (CAPT H. B. Farncomb, RAN), flagship of RADM J. Crace, RN, and HOBART, (CAPT H. L. Howden, RAN), were ordered to rendezvous with the American warships in the Coral Sea. The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval battle in history where opposing fleets were never in visual contact.

07 May 1942

HMA Ships AUSTRALIA and HOBART, (Task Force 44, under RADM John Crace, RN), were attacked by 19 Japanese land based aircraft during the Battle of the Coral Sea. While some bombs fell close, the two warships escaped damage. US air attacks, launched from US Ships YORKTOWN and LEXINGTON, (aircraft carriers), sank the Japanese ship SHOHO, (light aircraft carrier), off Misima Island. On the same day USS SIMS, (destroyer), was sunk by Japanese dive bombers.

08 May 1942

HMA Ships AUSTRALIA and HOBART continued to patrol the western part of the Coral Sea, to prevent Japanese transports moving towards Port Moresby. US air attacks in the eastern Coral Sea badly damaged the SHOKAKU, (aircraft carrier), but simultaneous air attacks by Japanese aircraft sank the USS LEXINGTON, (aircraft carrier). Despite the loss of the LEXINGTON, the Battle of the Coral Sea was a tactical victory for the Allies, as the Japanese lost substantial numbers of aircraft, and thus weakened the Japanese forces which were later committed to the Battle of Midway. While some have speculated that the battle saved Australia from invasion, this is not true, but it did postpone the planned Japanese invasion of Port Moresby, and bolstered Allied morale after four moths of continual defeat in South East Asia.

10 May 1942

The Australian merchant ship NANKIN was sunk by the German raider, THOR, in the Indian Ocean. The captain of NANKIN at the time was CAPT B. W. Dunn, RANR, who had entered the RAN College in 1919 as a Cadet Midshipman. He was withdrawn from the College in 1920 as numbers were reduced due to economic reasons. Dunn, and his crew were made Prisoners of War, and placed in a Japanese POW Camp. CAPT Dunn survived his incarceration, and was released from the camp in 1945.

The Japanese raiders, AIKOKU MARU and HOKOKU MARU, captured the British merchant ship GENOTA off Madagascar. Later in the month a seaplane from one of the raiders conducted a reconnaissance of the British base at Diego Suarez, in preparation for a midget submarine attack on the port. This attack was conducted on the same day, (in fact, taking into account time zone changes the attacks were only 70 minutes apart), as the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour on 30 May/1 June.

11 May 1942

The Brisbane-based US Submarine S42, (LCDR O. G. Kirk, USN), sank the Japanese minelayer OKINOSHIMA, off New Ireland.

'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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