- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1981 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
THE AUSTRALIA CONTINUED HER REFIT at Garden Island until May 1947. The ship’s company was greatly reduced, but there was always a reasonable number living on board. Harry Adlam left to join the Hobart and others left to be demobilised. Perks, like free travel on public transport for servicemen in uniform, were stopped in 1946 and the only free rides we got were from Fort Macquarie to Circular Quay, the same as everyone else.
During this period Commander H.C. Wright, DSC, RAN, relinquished command of Australia and Commander Gellatly, DSO, RAN, assumed command. Commander G.L. Cant, RAN, replaced Commander Gellatly in November 1946, and in May 1947, Captain H.J. Buchanan, DSO, RAN, (whom the ship’s company nicknamed ‘Buck’) assumed command with Commander Gellatly, DSO, RAN, as Executive Officer; Commander Cant, RAN, became Commanding Officer of HMAS Shropshire after most of her ship’s company transferred to the Aussie.
In June 1947, after ammunitioning ship a fire broke out in ‘B’ Cordite Handling room. Captain Buchanan ordered the ship’s company to muster on the quarterdeck in case there was an explosion. However, fortunately the fire was extinguished without any casualties being suffered.
In June, Rear Admiral H.B. Farncomb, CB, DSO, MVO, RAN, hoisted his flag in Australia, and Australia became flagship of the Australian Squadron for the first time since January 1945.
During July Australia played the part of a Japanese cruiser in the film Always Another Dawn, a film about the sinking of HMAS Yarra in 1942, followed by exercises with the Theseus and Glory off the New South Wales coast and a fleet entry into Sydney.
In the post-war period the RAN had about 16 General Purpose Vessels (GPV) used for surveying, minesweeping and when the cruisers were out on the buoy or at Jervis Bay a GPV would be manned and used by the ship for tender duties. One Sunday morning a leading seaman took the 75 foot GPV to collect the milk cans. In those days there was a Maritime Services Board residence that jutted out above the water next to Man O’War steps. The GPV came into the wharf too fast and its bows came to rest in the Maritime Services Board’s employee’s bedroom while a couple were still in bed.
After twelve days in Sydney the exercises were continued as the fleet headed for Brisbane. On August 6th, after Glory and Theseus had five aircraft accidents and a sailor was lost overboard from Theseus, flying exercises were cancelled. The RN fleet air arm pilots seemed to be suffering from all the entertainment they received during their visit to Sydney.
Australia, Glory, Theseus and their escorting destroyers remained in Brisbane for ten days. During this period the Brisbane show was being held and the people of Brisbane did everything possible to entertain the 5,000 visiting sailors, including free entrance to many functions. The Mayor of Coolangatta arranged for a special train to bring the sailors to Coolangatta and entertained the sailors, providing them with all they could eat and drink as well as taking them on car drives. Hobart, at the end of her last commission, was in Brisbane during this period; she eventually paid off into reserve after arriving in Sydney on August 19 1947. This left Australia as the only RAN seagoing cruiser. The main cause of this was the shortage of RAN personnel to man the seagoing ships, as the total strength of RAN personnel in 1947 was below 10,000 officers and men, and a proportion of these joined the RAN for only two years in 1946 and were due out of the Navy in 1948. The overwhelming majority of the ship’s company of the 1947 crew of Australia below Leading rate had joined the Navy since the war ended.
Australia sailed from Brisbane on August 18th with the first naval member, Admiral Sir Louis Hamilton, KCB, DSC, RN and the Minister for the Navy, Hon. W.J. Riordan, MHR who were going as far as Manus. Theseus departed for New Zealand. Glory sailed to return to England where, unknown at this time, a year later 800 RAN personnel were to join Glory and use her as an accommodation ship while waiting to commission the Sydney.