- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- RAN operations, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Japanese suffered another serious defeat during the first week in June, when a projected naval and air attack on Midway Island was beaten back with very severe losses to the enemy in both ships and aircraft, accompanied by heavy losses of personnel. This was a United States show, but two months later a most important operation was carried out in which the Royal Australian Navy played a leading role.
The Battle of the Solomon Islands, which opened at dawn on August 7, is notable as being the first of the large scale aggressive operations carried out by the Allied forces against the Japanese. The object of the operation – in which a squadron of heavy and light cruisers of the Royal Australian Navy, under the command of Rear-Admiral V.A.C. Crutchley, VC, DSC, participated – was to attack and capture the Japanese-held islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi.
The attacking force consisted of United States naval units and an Australian cruiser squadron escorting a large fleet of transports carrying landing craft and the force of United States Marines who were to carry out the landing and subsequent operations ashore. Heavy air support, both bomber and fighter, was with the naval forces. The operations were under the immediate command of Vice-Admiral Ghormley, USN, commanding in the South Pacific Area.
The Japanese were taken completely by surprise. Australian heavy cruisers led the attacking forces assigned to both Tulagi and Guadalcanal, the attack on the two islands being made simultaneously. The landings were carried out successfully, and within a few hours the islands were in Allied hands, operations subsequently being extended to other islands in the group. Having recovered from their first surprise, the Japanese fought back heavily against the naval forces in a series of intensive air attacks on August 7 and August 8, but the only success they achieved in these efforts was on a United States transport, set on fire when a bomber crashed on it. That was on August 8, when the attack was carried out by torpedo bombers and practically the entire large force of Japanese aircraft was shot down.
In the early hours of the morning following, Australia suffered another naval loss when HMAS Canberra (Captain F.E. Getting, RAN) was sunk during a night attack by Japanese naval forces off Guadalcanal, with 74 of her complement missing, believed killed, while 10 – including the Commanding Officer – died of wounds. Once again the Royal Australian Navy had paid the price of admiralty, the price that has to be paid for sea power. It is a price that the British Navy, of which the Australian Navy is a proud part, has paid and is paying heavily in this war.
To the total sum paid to date the Royal Australian Navy has given its contributions in ships and men in the Atlantic, the Indian, the Arctic, and the Pacific Oceans, during more than three years of war. The story is still unfolding. When it is finally told, it will be shown that Australia’s part in the naval war was neither the least, nor her sacrifices thrown away.