- Zammitt, Alan
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Perth I, HMAS Australia II
- December 1984 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By January 1945 the cruiser was Commodore Farncomb’s flagship, and was hit on five occasions, Japanese Kamikaze aircraft killing 39 men and wounding 46. Two actually crashed near to the bridge. They may have hit had they not been damaged by hits from the Australia‘s anti- aircraft guns. With parts of the Kamikaze damaged they were usually out of control before they struck the ship.
Captain J.M. (‘Black Jack’) Armstrong, CBE, DSO, RAN, (Rtd.), remembers very well those five days. His own fearless courage was an inspiration to the United States Navy as well as our own.
The stained glass windows would not have been possible if it was not for the hard money raising efforts of the HMAS Perth and Ex-Prisoners of War Association and Commander Dick Bourke, Ken Coggins, David Hopkins, Stan McDougall, Keith Roberts, Bill Worthington and Bob Baynes of the HMAS Australia Veterans Association.
Rear Admiral David Martin’s father, Commander W.H. Martin, RAN, commanded HMAS Moresby in 1940 before being appointed RAN Hydrographer in 1941. From February 1942 he served as Executive Officer of HMAS Perth. Rear Admiral David Martin served in HMAS Sydney during the Korean War in 1951-1952. In his later service he commanded HMA Ships Queenborough, Torrens, Supply and Melbourne. His current appointment is Flag Officer Naval Support Command.
Captain Peter Dechaineaux’s father. Captain E.F.V. Dechaineaux, DSC, RAN, commanded HMS Vivacious at Dunkirk followed by HMS Eglington, HMAS Warramunga and HMAS Australia.
HMAS Perth and USS Houston fought their last battle in Sunda Straits where the two cruisers sailed into a force of 1 aircraft carrier, 7 cruisers, 20 destroyers and 35 transports. This is an account of Perth‘s last hour. February 28th, 1942:
11.32 p.m. shell hit forward funnel
11.50 p.m. shell hit waterline
12.05 a.m. March 1st, torpedo hit forward engine and boiler room.
12.10 a.m. torpedo hit starboard side near A turret. Followed by;
Torpedo hit starboard side aft Shell hit bridge Shell hit 4 inch gun deck Torpedo hit port side
Perth sank at 0025 a.m.
USS Houston sank at 0045 a.m. March 1st, 1942 after being hit by 6 torpedos.
‘HMAS Australia and HMAS Perth‘ by Alan Payne, published by The Naval Historical Society and ‘Australia’s Ships of War‘ by John Bastock. Jim Roberts HMAS Australia chronological movements.
Alan Payne in the Society’s book ‘HMAS Perth‘ described the last moments of Perth‘s bridge:
‘The bridge had been cleared except for Captain Waller, Lieutenant Hancock and myself,’ recorded Lieutenant Gay. ‘The upper bridge was deserted. Peter Hancock turned and said to me: ‘Let’s get off before she turns over.’ I replied: ‘What about Hec?’ indicating the Captain. ‘He says he won’t come,’ Hancock answered – Captain Waller apparently heard this exchange for he turned to me and said: ‘Get off the bridge, Gay.’
‘I went down the starboard ladder, Peter Hancock took the port ladder. It was the last time I saw him. He was not among the survivors.’
Captain Waller was last seen with his ‘Mae West’ blown up at the front of the bridge looking down at the silent guns. Shortly afterwards the bridge was seen to receive a shell and Perth‘s Captain must have been killed instantly.’
Iris Nesdale, John Bastock and the President of the Naval Historical Society of Australia, Lew Lind, for suggesting improvements to the article and Betty Wright for the typing.