On This Day - 21 January

CDRE James E. Erskine, RN, was appointed Flag Officer Commanding Australia Station. His flagship was HMS NELSON.
HMAS MELBOURNE, (light cruiser), rescued the crew of 22 of the four-masted schooner HELEN B STIRLING north of Newcastle, NSW.
Engineer VADM Sir William Clarkson, KBE, CMG, died at his home in Sydney. Clarkson had commenced service in the South Australian Navy in 1884, seen service in the Boxer Rebellion as the Engineer of South Australian gunboat HMCS PROTECTOR, and been Third Naval Member of the Australian Naval Board from 1911 to 1922. VADM Clarkson is considered the "father of engineering in the RAN", and the Clarkson School of Engineering at HMAS CERBERUS is named after him.
The Grimsby class escort sloop, HMAS YARRA, was commissioned. Mrs Parkhill, (Wife of the Minister for Defence), performed the commissioning ceremony. YARRA was laid down in Cockatoo Island Dockyard on 28 March 1935. YARRA was sunk in action in the Sunda Strait, on 4 March 1942.
The Grimsby class escort sloop, HMAS SWAN, (CMDR R. R. Dowling, RAN), was commissioned. SWAN was laid down in Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, 1 May 1935, and launched on 28 March 1936. Mrs J. A. Lyons, (Wife of the Australian Prime Minister), performed the launching ceremony.
HMA Ships STUART, VAMPIRE, and VOYAGER, (destroyers), took part in the assault on Tobruk, breaking through the outer defences at dawn. The Australian Forces Club opened in Alexandria, Egypt. A sailor from HMAS STUART later wrote: "Within a few minutes of reaching the city we were sampling a glass of Australian beer. It was our first Australian liquor for 15 months, and it was thoroughly appreciated."
Off Darwin, NT, HMA Ships DELORAINE, KATOOMBA, and LITHGOW, (corvettes), with the USS EDSALL, (destroyer), took part in depth-charge attacks which destroyed the Japanese submarine I124, the first warship of the Japanese navy to fall victim to the RAN in WWII. The Bathurst class minesweeper, (corvette), HMAS ROCKHAMPTON, was commissioned.
Cook R. W. Andrews was swept overboard when a freak wave caused HMAS NEPAL, (destroyer), to almost broach to south of Cape Town. The man was sighted when an albatross was observed pecking at his scalp. He was picked up and treated for a fractured leg and beak wounds.
HMAS NAPIER, (destroyer), supported RN units involved in Operation Matador, which was the assault on Rameree Island, Burma.
The landing ship, tank, HMAS LABUAN, (LCDR G. M. Dixon, RAN), sailed from Melbourne for Heard and Kerguelen islands in the Antarctic.
The RAN School of Underwater Medicine was established at HMAS RUSHCUTTER, Sydney. It later moved to HMAS PENGUIN.
HMAS DUBBO, (Fremantle class patrol boat), was launched at Cairns, QLD.
The patrol boat, HMAS GLADSTONE, (LCDR M. Moore, RAN), apprehended the illegal fishing vessel SUMUT SAKHON in the Gulf of Carpentaria. GLADSTONE was forced to fire rifle shots across the bow of the vessel, but it still refused to stop and eventually a boarding party was put onboard to take control of the vessel.
'On This Day' is based on the book "Navy Day by Day: Historic Naval Events in Australia and Abroad" written by the late Lew Lind. More information.

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