HMAS Bendigo 1941 – 42

Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
None noted.
RAN Ships
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March 1975 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)

Diaries in any form were disallowed in HMA Ships during World War II but fortunately for history some were kept and many survived. One such diary was kept by C Richardson in HMAS Bendigo and his faithful jottings published in this article tell the story not only of his ship but also the story of the 21st Flotilla.

HMAS BENDIGO was built at Cockatoo Docks in Sydney, and took only a little over two months to complete. She commissioned on the 10th May 1941, after a couple of days of speed trials up and down the harbour. Bendigo was the fifth of this class to be completed and had promise of being the best. Speed was clocked at 15.7 knots, which wasn’t bad, and we had hopes of more to come.

Slipped from the buoy on Friday 16th and proceeded to Melbourne, via Jervis Bay and Westernport Bay, to carry out a short ‘shake down’ cruise. Ship’s company proceeded on seven days’ leave, in two watches, the first leaving 12.6.41 and the latter on the 19.6.41. The ship left Melbourne on 26.6.41 bound for Sydney, arriving there 28.6.41. The crew had settled down excellently and seemed a good mob, although a trifle wild. We spent our last week in Sydney for many months.

The great day arrived, and on the 4th July we proceeded to sea on the first lap of our journey to Singapore, which was no secret.

Arrived at Townsville 9.7.41 after five days of perfect weather. The boys called the ship the ‘fair weather’ ship, and we believed the ship’s cat, Smokey (whom we stole in Melbourne) to be the cause of this. On the 8th, we passed through Whitsunday Passage, the scenery here being unexcelled on the east coast.

Put to sea 11.7.41 after doing up Townsville so that they’ll never forget us. I’ll bet the good citizens heaved a sigh of relief to see the last of us. Arrived at Darwin 17.7.41 still maintaining our reputation for a fair weather ship.

During the afternoon of 13.7.41 we sailed through Albany Pass, or Jardine’s Passage, as it is more commonly called. This is by far the most beautiful spot on the Australian coastline. It is very narrow, the widest place being half a mile, but the water is deep enough for the Queen Mary to pass in safety. There’s a large house just inside the southern entrance, owned by Frank Jardine, a well known identity in these waters.

Nine weeks (weary weeks) we spent in Darwin carrying out various duties, such as minesweeping, patrols, target-towing and invasion manoeuvres. Stored ship on the 22.9.41 and sailed out on the last lap of our journey, arriving in Singapore on 30.9.41 after a calm trip through Dutch East Indies.

Carried out A/S patrols in Johore Straits until 14th November, only getting shore leave while doing a boiler clean. We all like Singapore, a fascinating city of contrasts, and tons of beer. The Union Jack Club is the last word in comfort, and caters for thousands of servicemen at a time.

HMAS Burnie of 21st Flotilla.

Sailed up the coast (west coast) to Port Dickson where we had five days rest. Travelled to the capital city, Seremban, by bus, and had a great time. This is in the state of Negri Sembilin, a typical rubber country. Arrived back at Naval Base 20.11.41. 28.11.41 we sailed up the coast again, only further to Port Swettenham where we oiled. This is the seaport for Kuala Lumpur, which is Federal Capital of the Malay States. I may state that the corvettes of this station now number four, Bendigo, Goulburn, Burnie and Maryborough, and known as the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla. On the 29.11.41 we swept ahead of the battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse and destroyers Jupiter, Electra, Express and Encounter down to Singapore through Malacca Straits. Arrived in the Naval Base 7.12.41.

Japanese entered the war on 8.12.41, which was my 21st birthday, and they celebrated by raiding us with seven bombers at two and four a.m., killing 60 and wounding 173.

Carried out usual A/S patrols until 11.12.41. On this day we picked up a submarine on the A/S and immediately attacked. A torpedo passed our bows as we stopped, so, altering course, increased speed and dropped depth charges. River gunboat Grasshopper was having fun about two miles away, making lots of noise. We are credited with one Japanese sub. Returned to Naval Base 21.12.41 about 1500. Dutch submarine K13 had an internal explosion (just astern of us) killing four men. Only prompt work on the part of her officers by closing the hatch saved the ship. She was towed out into the stream.

22.12.41. Air raid today lasted two hours.

27.12.41. Slipped and proceeded to sea escorting K13, which can’t submerge. At the southern end of Banka Straits a Dutch destroyer took over for the rest of the trip to Batavia, about 1700 on 29.12.41. Sea is roughening.

30.12.41. Arrived back in Base after a choppy trip. Quite a few of the younger lads sick.

1.1.42. Sirens sounded at 0030 and a short while later 15 twin engined bombers came over and dropped a few tons of noisy death near the big oil tanks and close to the Graving Dock which is about 160 yards from here. Many dud bombs, presumably some of ours taken at Khota Baru.

2.1.42. Slipped and proceeded, heavy seas running. Mines exploding all around us in Johore Straits, thought to have been dropped from Japanese planes. Rather exciting wondering where the next explosion will be.

8.1.42. Big convoy passed, with Hobart.

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