- Wright, Ken
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2005 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Japanese submarine had long since gone when a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft arrived on the scene just after sunrise.
The RAAF Operations log book records the flight crew reported seeing 12-15 persons in each of the four lifeboats and that the vessel was on fire and a number of service trucks and jeeps on deck were also burning. The crew investigating the devastated ship also reported sighting a submarine at 10.15 am, three miles south of the stricken vessel moving southeast. The aircraft attacked the submarine with bombs. The aircraft’s target could have been Shichiji’s submarine, as his course did take him south, or a whale mistaken for a submarine, but official Japanese records indicate no attack on the 1-11 taking place. The burning wreck of the William Dawes finally sank stern first around about 4.30 pm the same day.
Most of the remaining crew were gladly accommodated in the homes of the local townspeople until the military authorities could make further arrangements as to their future.
Commander Shichiji continued his patrol further down the Australian coast where he again used his night surface attack tactics and fired one torpedo at an Australian vessel, SS Coolana (2,197 tons). The Japanese thought they had hit the ship but as the vessel showed no sign of sinking, Shichiji ordered the use of the deck gun. In the rough seas, it was difficult to aim and when the Australian vessel began to send a SOS signal, it was time to leave the scene. Fortunately, there was no damage to crew or ship.
Two days later on 29 July, the giant 1-11 almost became a victim herself. One of three RAAF Beaufort aircraft patrolling off Cape Howe sighted an object 22 miles NE of Gabo island, identifying the submarine on the surface. After several attacks a large patch of oil convinced the crew that they had accounted for the submarine. It was a very close call and it was the first time the 1-11‘s crew had been in a bombing attack and it shook them up rather badly. The only damage to the submarine was some cracking to the wooden decking and a few embedded bomb fragments in the deck.
The 1-11 began her next war patrol during the first week of August in a new theatre of operations, this time in the Pacific. Over the next 2 months, there were only two events worthy of note during this phase of her operations. On 6 September 1942, the submarine managed to slip past a screen of escort ships off Espiritu Santo and fired a spread of torpedoes at the aircraft carrier, USS Hornet (CV8) but a circling aircraft spotted the torpedoes and dropped its bombs disrupting the torpedo’s direction. All missed the carrier ((The USS Hornet had, back in April, launched the famous ‘Doolittle Raid’ where l6 B25s attacked Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe in one of the most daring raids of modern warfare. Although the 1-11 failed to sink her, the carrier would fall victim to the Japanese the following month in the battle of Santa Cruz Islands, one year and six days after she was commissioned.)).
The next day, the 1-11 was attacked by a PBY Catalina from the “Black Cats” squadron (VP-11) and may have suffered some damage as she returned to Kure for repairs on the 22 September.
Early January 1943, a repaired, provisioned and ready for action 1-11 returned to active service in the Pacific. But the earlier successes of 1942 eluded the 1-11. On 20 July 1943 off San Cristobal, New Hebrides in the Solomons, the 1-11 fired two torpedoes at the Australian light cruiser, HMAS Hobart. One torpedo hit, killing 15 crewmen and wounding seven others but the Hobart managed to limp into Espiritu Santo and carry out temporary repairs. On 11 August, the 1-11 torpedoed and damaged the 7,176 ton American Liberty ship, SS Mathew Lyon off Noumea, New Caledonia. With nothing much to show for almost nine months of operations at sea, the 1-11 returned again to the Kure shipyards for repairs on 26 September.
Three months later, the giant 1-11 and her crew lay on the bottom of the ocean, listed officially as an operational loss off Ellice Island. Some historians suggest she hit a mine but the cause of her demise has yet to be historically proved.