- Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Warramunga I
- December 1987 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
A DREADED CRY, which all sailors hope and trust that they never hear. However it does happen and when it does, all crew members try their hardest to help and hopefully save their shipmate.
It happened aboard HMAS Warramunga during the invasion of the Philippines, but no cry was heard. It was shortly after the bombardments of Leyte, in the early hours of the morning of the 25th November 1944. Warramunga was patrolling off the island of Samar, the seas were fairly calm with intermittent tropical rain. Able Seaman Jim Hunt was to go on watch at 0400 but shortly before that he was overboard. No one heard his cry and when he did not report to his cruising watch station on ‘X’ gun, the other members thought that he had failed to wake up and was still in his hammock. When dawn action stations were called and he still did not appear, checks were made and he was reported missing. The Captain, John Alliston, ordered a full search of the ship. This was done from stern to stern and even hatches and compartments that were padlocked were opened but there was no sign of him. At 0800 Alliston reported to the squadron commander that one, S8125 Able Seaman J.R. Hunt, was missing presumed lost overboard. Warramunga left the area for Manus. The following is Jim Hunt’s record of the event.
‘About 0330 on the morning of the 25th November 1944, I went amidships, on the iron deck before going on the morning watch on ‘X’ gun. I had stopped on the way at the galley and grabbed a mug of ‘kai’. The morning was hot, steamy and raining off and on. As we were on patrol our guardrails were down. I was wearing only my shorts and sandshoes and sat down on a bollard to cool off in the light breeze. After finishing my drink I put the mug on the deck, sat for a while longer, then stood up. On bending down to pick up the mug I slipped, falling backwards over the side. I called out but was not heard. The ship was moving fairly fast and it was not long before she was out of sight. Two other destroyers, also on patrol and American, passed close by but my shouting was not heard.
Just after 1400 on the same day, the USS Mugford (a four stacker) approached on an anti-submarine patrol in the Dingat Strait. They were on lookout for the crew of an ML lost that morning. I called out, they heard my cry, circled and dropped a scrambling net over the side. I swam to it and climbed aboard. I was taken to their sick bay, my identity disc checked, given a drink, had a shower and fell asleep on the bunk of the sick bay.
After treatment next day for sunburn, exposure, swollen eyes and ulcers on my legs, I was given clothing and a spare bunk in the CPO’s mess. I was allocated an action station with the fire control crews. It had been estimated that I had drifted some 20 miles from where I had gone overboard. As most of the Australian squadron had left the Leyte area I was allowed to stay aboard the Mugford which became the lead ship as ‘Captain D’ for a new landing at Ormoc Bay together with 50 LCIs.
The landing was without much opposition. As we started to retire we were attacked by a large number of Japanese aircraft. Mugford had in tow an LCI, which had been damaged and she made an easy target for the kamikazes. One plane dropped its bombs and then hurtled towards the ship, striking it at deck level and into a boiler room stack, killing the gun’s crew of a multiple .50 gun. It also caused fires in the boiler and engine rooms, which resulted in several ratings being killed.
I assisted in pulling the plane over the side, helped put out the fires and gave assistance in the sick bay where there were 20 seriously burnt crew members. Mugford was towed back to Leyte, temporarily repaired and after two days was ordered back to the US. I was transferred to the only ship at Leyte with Australians aboard and ordered to wait for the return of Warramunga.