- Thomson, Max
- Naval Intelligence, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1987 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Warships received some strange orders in some strange places during World War II.
Midget Submarines and Human Torpedoes:
Milne Bay was a pretty forlorn place in the early days of the New Guinea campaigns, remembered mainly for its incredible rainfall. Over the name of Commander G.C.F. Branson, RN (Naval Officer in Charge, Fall River), some fascinating orders for action to be taken in the event of enemy submarine attack were detailed this way:
(A) BY DAY: ALARM SIGNAL. Naval Signal Station will hoist W International inferior to a large RED ensign – which will be repeated by all Allied warships in harbour. Rapid ringing of a bell should accompany this signal.
(B) BY NIGHT: Naval Signal Station will fire TWO WHITE ROCKETS and flash W. Ships are NOT to repeat this signal.
On receipt of the above signals all watertight doors are to be closed and ships are to man low-angle armament. At all times ANY SHIP should raise the alarm on first sighting.
Enemy Surface Craft: Motor Torpedo Boats, Canoes, etc.: Day or night:
The alarm signal for the port is ONE GREEN ROCKET or Very’s Light.
The orders are fascinating upon reflection, all these years afterwards. Especially when it is remembered that the Signal Station at Gili Gili, in Milne Bay, was in a rough tin hut erected precariously upon the branch of a tree hanging out over the water’s edge adjacent to the area where the steamer SS Anshun lay on its side after Japanese attack.
The NOIC sheets of orders for Milne Bay also detailed procedures for DAY and NIGHT AIR RAID WARNINGS, classified as:
RED (considered imminent)
GREEN (Raiders have passed)
WHITE (Cancel yellow warning)
each with a great deal of qualification and explanation.
Masters of all ships arriving in Milne Bay also received a fascinating, detailed sheet from the Office of the Surgeon, indicating forthrightly that ALL WATER from the Pontoon and Lyle area at Milne Bay was contaminated.
The injunction read this way: ‘If impure water is drunk, you and your man run the risk of typhoid fever which may kill; and dysentery which may cause continued illness for years after your return to civil life. Every stream that has been tested in the area has been found contaminated. TAB injections only give you a certain amount of protection. It is not safe to rely on these’. The sheets of instructions went on to detail:
How to tell if water is safe to drink:
Use of the Horrocks box to find out how much chlorine must be added. Superchlorination and Detasting (one detasting tablet to every hundred gallons of water):
and much detailed information and guidance, especially for sterilising water in large quantities as for ships.
Tarakan – Borneo .. Suicide Swimmers
Equally fascinating, if not dramatic, was the order to warships during the initial nights of the Tarakan beach-head invasion in Borneo. Fearful that Japanese suicide swimmers would try and fix limpet mines to the hulls of ships, all Commanding Officers received instructions to put their motor cutters over the side and have them cruise slowly around their ship all night — with a machine gun mounted in the bows to attack anything unusual that moved in the water.