- Letter Writer
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Kuru
- September 1990 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I read with interest John Leggoe’s report in the June edition of Naval Historical Review of the naval operations in support of the Australian commandos fighting in Timor 1942-43.
To put the record straight, while in no way wishing to detract from the splendid services of Lieutenant-Commander Alan Bennett, the fact is that the initial naval runs from Darwin to the commandoes in Timor were made by HMAS Kuru a former Northern Territory patrol vessel under the command of my late brother Lieutenant-Commander (then Lieutenant) Joe Joel, RANVR.
The first run began on May 26, 1942 with a second trip on Sunday, May 31. In G. Hermon Gill’s Official War History of the Royal Australian Navy reference is made to both these voyages and that the instructions for the voyage outlined the procedure that was followed on later missions.
In several articles written by my late brother, including one for ‘Reveille’, he described the skipper and crew of the Kuru on these first hazardous runs as just another collection of ‘rookies’ including a former butcher, baker, radio announcer, motion picture publicity man and dairy farmer.
Joe, who was one of the first to be trained at the A/S School at Rushcutters prior to the outbreak of World War II, wrote a graphic description of the meeting with the first of the three hundred commandos who had been given up as a ‘lost legion’ by the authorities and posted ‘Missing’, believed prisoners.
‘Streaming down the beach from hidden sources came our kinsmen – bedraggled, bearded, wounded, but, nonetheless, all sustained with a spirit that left little doubt that they knew they had never, or would ever be likely to be regarded as forgotten men.
‘Whilst there is no place for emotions in time of war, the cheerfulness of these warriors, their expressed desire to fight on in Timor with the renewed confidence of Kuru’s arrival now assuring them of regular contact with the mainland, summed up all the great traditions of those privileged to be born into the British Commonwealth of Nations.
‘Following the unloading of the supplies, the Officer Commanding the Sparrow Force, with his Intelligence Officer, repaired aboard to pay his respects to the Kuru’s captain. Their uniforms must rank as quite the strangest ever worn for an official call.’ Despite the hazardous undertaking of those earliest voyages, my brother chose to regard them as not greatly spectacular, although later when the Japanese intelligence discovered the escape route things became much more torrid.
Kuru limped back to Darwin and with the sending of the signal to NOIC that the mission had been successfully completed, it was with a realisation that a really worthwhile job had been accomplished. After repairs by the shipwrights, she resumed a regular service to the island.
The commandos, I understand, put up my brother’s name to NOIC Darwin for an award but, as Commodore Pope is reported to have replied, ‘He and his crew did no more than what they had joined the Navy to do’.
Sir Asher Joel, K.B.E., A.O.