- Royle, Guy, Admiral
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Westralia I, HMAS Stella, HMAS Lithgow, HMAS Warramunga I, HMAS Yunnan, HMAS Ballarat I, HMAS Vendetta I, HMAS Barcoo, HMAS Shropshire, HMAS Warrnambool I, ML310, HMAS Stuart I, HMAS Bendigo I, HMAS Gascoyne I, HMAS Warrego II, HMAS Benalla I, HMAS Colac, HMAS Hobart I, RFA Bishopdale, HMAS Australia II, HMAS Broome, HMAS Canberra I, HMAS Paluma II, HMAS Manoora I, HMAS Polaris, HMAS Arunta I, HMAS Kanimbla I, HMAS Poyang, HMAS Katoomba
- March 2001 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
An address by RADM Guy Griffiths, AO, DSO, DSC, RAN Retd at the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne (Oct 2000)
Together with the widely dispersed set-backs in late 1941 – early 1942 in Malaya, Indian Ocean, Dutch East Indies, in which our small Navy suffered heavy losses, Japanese aggression had also enveloped the Philippines and the Central Pacific.
US strategy provided a two-pronged thrust back – through the Central Pacific towards the Japanese mainland and in the S.W. Pacific to counter Japanese operations towards New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and towards the New Hebrides.
The naval battle of the Coral Sea was the first step and our cruisers, Australia and Hobart, were part of the allied force.
In this short address it is not possible to cover operations in the Central Pacific to capture island bases, but those operations were linked with the various amphibious landings and battles along the New Guinea to Luzon toll road in which the RAN was closely involved.
In early August 1942, Australia, Canberra and Hobart operated in support of US landings on Guadalcanal. Canberra was lost at the battle of Savo with 193 casualties out of a crew of 819. 109 were killed or died of wounds, including Captain Getting.
In New Guinea the Japanese began their offensive across the Owen Stanleys towards Port Moresby and the courage of our troops on the Kokoda Track forms an indelible part of our military history.
Supporting our troops in New Guinea in August/September 1942 were Arunta, Warrnambool, Stuart, Ballarat and Bendigo. In October/November 1942 Warrego, Paluma, Stella and Polaris were surveying in unfriendly waters northward from Milne Bay.
Katoomba, Ballarat and Lithgow were escorting supplies to the Army and transporting troops. We hear a great deal about the land battle at Buna, but little about Colac, Ballarat and Broome transporting three battalions of troops to Buna. From mid December 1942 to June 1943 the New Guinea coastal supply to the Army involved 15 corvettes and 24 merchant ships.
Task Force 74 – May 1943
In March 1943 the US 7 FLT was established and Task Force 74 formed with Australia (flag of RADM Crutchley), US Cruiser Phoenix and 7 US DDs; Warramunga and Arunta joined in May 1943. In April, Shropshire commissioned in Chatham to replace Canberra and joined TF74 in Brisbane at the end of October.
The Solomons were an area of intense activity during 1943 with the US determined to hold Henderson Airfield in order to neutralise the enemy base at Rabaul. A considerable number of US Naval personnel and ships were sacrificed before the Jap Naval Force withdrew from Rabaul to Truk. It was during this period that the RAN Coastwatchers in the Solomons established a firm place in our history.
About this time General Macarthur’s strategy developed to leap-frog Japanese bases which no longer constituted a threat.
In June 1943 Fairmiles began to arrive in the New Guinea area. In July Hobart was torpedoed about 200′ west of Espiritu Santa with 13 killed and 7 injured.
In September 1943 the 9th Division was embarked in an amphibious force for the capture of Lae, Salamua and Finschafen. It was escorted by corvettes and MLs.
At the beginning of November TF74 moved from Palm Island to be based at Milne Bay and the USS Nashville joined end November.
On 26 December with TF74 in support US troops landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain to capture airstrips and bottle up some 135,000 Japanese troops in Rabaul. This was Shropshire’s introduction to the gunfire support of amphibious landings.
May, June & July 1944
In March 1944, TF74 was involved when General Macarthur took the Admiralty Islands. Benalla surveyed Seeadler Harbour which became a major base in the S.W. Pacific, and the departure point for further landings at Aitape, Humbolt Bay and Tanahmerah Bay on 27 April.
By this time the RAN had three landing ships, Westralia, Kanimbla and Manoora, to play a key role in the transport of first wave troops, and they set a very high standard for their US counterparts.
In May 1944, TF74 supported landings to take Wadke Island and Biak and by the end of June those airfields provided a counter to enemy air operations south of Palau.
On 13 June in Seeadler Harbour, Cdre John Collins assumed command of TF74 in succession to RADM Crutchley. At this time TF74 consisted of Australia, Shropshire, Arunta, Warramunga and 2 US DDS. TF75 comprised US cruisers Phoenix, Boise and Nashville, plus US destroyers.