Famous Squadrons – 450 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) – ‘The Desert Harassers’

450 Sqn RAAF Operation Bowler

450 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was formed on 16 February 1941 at RAAF Williamtown near Newcastle in New South Wales as the first Australian squadron established under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS).

450 Sqn Kittyhawks

Nicknamed the ‘Desert Harassers’, the Squadron was one of the most famous RAAF units of the Second World War and derived its nickname from taunts made by the German propaganda broadcaster ‘Lord Haw Haw’ who, during the squadron’s operations in the Western Desert branded it a band of “Australian mercenaries whose harassing tactics were easily beaten off by the Luftwaffe”.

450 Sqn crest

Motto: ‘Harass’

Battle Honours: 10

  • South-East Europe 1942-1945
  • Egypt and Libya 1940-1943
  • El Alamein
  • El Hamma
  • North Africa 1942-1943
  • Sicily 1943
  • Italy 1943-1945
  • Gustav Line
  • Gothic Line
  • Syria 1941

450 Sqn Bombing up a Fighter Bomber

450 Squadron’s war ended with the surrender of German forces in Italy on 2 May 1945. It was disbanded at Lavarino in Italy on 20 August 1945.

450 Sqn Plaque

The 450 Squadron ‘number plate’ was inadvertently given to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) after the Second World War. Although Canadian squadrons were numbered from 400 to 449 during the war, an unusual twist of history resulted in the number 450 being allocated to a Canadian heavy transport squadron. Nevertheless, Canada received permission to adopt the number and 450 Heavy Transport Helicopter Squadron was formed at RCAF Station St. Hubert, Quebec on March 29, 1968. Whilst the Squadron inherited the 450 number plate it did not inherit the above Battle Honours.

You can find out more about the 450 Sqn RAAF Assocation here: http://www.450squadronraaf.org.au/

On this day – Australia’s worst peacetime naval disaster – HMAS Melbourne (R21) and HMAS Voyager (D04) collide at night off Jervis Bay

HMAS Voyager

On this day in 1964 what is considered to be Australia’s worst peacetime naval disaster occurred 20 nautical miles off Point Perpendicular near Jervis Bay in New South Wales, when at 8.56pm the Majestic class aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21) and the Daring class destroyer HMAS Voyager (D04) collided at night during manoeuvres.

At the time HMAS Melbourne was performing flying exercises and HMAS Voyager was performing plane guard duties, positioned behind and to port (left) in order to rescue any aircrew if a plane was forced to ditch.

HMAS Melbourne following Voyager collision

After a series of turns effected to reverse the course of the ships HMAS Voyager ended up ahead and starboard (right) of HMAS Melbourne. Voyager was then ordered by Melbourne to resume plane guard position, which involved turning to starboard, but then she came around to port. The crew on the bridge of HMAS Melbourne thought that Voyager was zig-zagging and would turn to starboard and resume her correct position.

At 8.55pm both ships began desperate avoiding manoeuvres but a collision was inevitable. One minute later the bow of HMAS Melbourne (travelling at about 22 knots) struck behind the Bridge and Operations Room of HMAS Voyager, effectively cutting the ship in two.

Over the coming hours, frantic efforts were made to rescue the crew of HMAS Voyager, with helicopters from both HMAS Melbourne and Naval Air Station (NAS) Nowra, as well as five Minesweepers and two search and rescue boats were dispatched from the shore establishment HMAS Creswell, moving to the scene to pick up survivors.

HMAS Voyager Crest

Sadly, of the 314 crew on board HMAS Voyager, 82 were killed, most of whom died immediately or were trapped in the bow section, which sank after 10 minutes. HMAS Melbourne was damaged, but suffered no fatalities.

CPO Rogers GC DSM

One particular crew member of HMAS Voyager showed great bravery and sadly lost his life as a result. Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rogers DSM, a Welshman and Second World War Royal Navy  veteran, along with 50 other men, was trapped in the sinking forward part of the stricken destroyer.

Recognising that he was too large to fit through the escape hatch, he organised the evacuation of those that could escape, then led his trapped comrades in a prayer and hymn as they met their fate. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross (GC), which is now held by the Australian War Memorial.

CPO Rogers GC DSM Medal Collection

Following the disaster two Royal Commissions were held in 1964 and 1968. The first Royal Commission ruled that the collision was the fault of HMAS Voyager’s bridge crew and also blamed the Commanding Officer of HMAS Melbourne, Captain John Robertson and two other officers on that ship. Robertson resigned after the first Royal Commission, rather than accept a shore posting to HMAS Watson (in effect a demotion) and was widely seen in the media as a scapegoat for the incident.

In 1967 a second Royal Commission was announced following increasing pressure from the public and the media, including claims made that the Commanding Officer of HMAS Voyager, Captain Duncan Stevens (who had died in the tragedy), was a heavy drinker and unfit for command. The second Royal Commission came to that finding and absolved Captain Robertson and the two other officers from HMAS Melbourne, of any blame.

You can find out more about HMAS Voyager (II) here: http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-voyager-ii

On this day – Queen Victoria approves the introduction of the Victoria Cross (VC) awarded for gallantry ‘in the face of the enemy’ – 29 January 1856

Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross, Britain’s (and some Commonwealth countries) highest award for gallantry for members of the Armed Forces, was officially constituted by warrant on this day in 1856.

Since that time the medal has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients. Only 15 medals have been awarded since the Second World War.

As of 2018, there are six (6) living recipients of the Victoria Cross, three (3) living recipients of the Victoria Cross for Australia and one (1) living recipient of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand. They are:

  • Flight Lieutenant John Cruickshank VC, 210 Sqn RAF (awarded  for his actions in the Battle of the Atlantic in 1944)
  • Sergeant Bill Speakman VC, Black Watch attached to King’s Own Scottish Borderers (awarded for his actions in Korea in 1951)
  • Captain Rambahadur Limbu, VC, MVO, 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles (awarded for his actions in Borneo in 1965)
  • Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Payne VC, AM, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (awarded for his actions in South Vietnam in 1969)
  • Corporal Willie Apiata VC, New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2004
  • Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry, VC, CNG, 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (awarded for his actions in Iraq in 2005)
  • Corporal Mark Donaldson VC, Australian Special Air Service Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2008)
  • Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC, MG, Australian Special Air Service Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2010)
  • Corporal Dan Keighran VC, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2010)
  • Corporal Joshua Leakey VC (shown below), 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2015)

Joshua Leakey VC

The largest collections of VCs in the world are held by the Ashcroft Collection in Britain (established in 1986) which now contains 210 medals and the Australian War Memorial, which has 69 medals on public display.

You can find out more about the Ashcroft Collection here: http://www.lordashcroftmedals.com/

You can find out more about the AWM collection here: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/vic_cross

 

 

 

Army News – 9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA) re-formed to command all Army Reserve Light Batteries

F2 Mortar

9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA) was re-formed on 15 January 2018 to command all of the Army Reserve (ARes) Light Batteries, who previously from 2013 onward were placed under operational command (OPCOM) of Infantry battalions, providing indirect fire support utilising F2 81mm Mortars.

RAA Badge           9 Regt RAA Unit Colour Patch

RHQ 9 Regt RAA is based at Kogarah Multi-user Deport (MUD) in Sydney and now commands the following sub-units:

  • 2nd/10th Light Battery (formerly part of the 5th/6th Battalion, The Royal Victoria Regiment the based in St Kilda in Melbourne)
  • 3rd Light Battery (formerly part of the 11th/28th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment based at Irwin Barracks in Perth)
  • 5th/11th Light Battery (formely part of the 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment based at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast)
  • 6th/13th Light Battery (formerly part of the 10th/27th Battalion, The Royal South Australian Regiment based at Keswick Barracks in Adelaide and Glenorchy in Hobart)
  • 7th Light Battery (formerly part of the 2nd/17th Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment based at Dee Why and Adamstown in Sydney)
  • 23rd Light Battery (formerly part of the 4th/3rd Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment based at Kogarah in Sydney)

9 Regt RAA takes its lineage from the 9th Australian Field Artillery (AFA) Brigade (part of the 3rd Australian Division in the First World War) and 2/9th Field Regiment RAA (part of the 8th Australian Division in the Second World War). Each of the above Batteries also take their own lineage from predecessor Regiments and Batteries stretching back to before Federation in 1901.

You can find out more about the Royal Australian Artillery here: https://www.army.gov.au/our-people/corps/royal-regiment-of-australian-artillery

On this day – 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment capture the standard of the 80th Turkish Infantry Regiment during the battle of Magdhaba – 23 December, 1916

80th Turkish Infantry Regiment Standard

This Turkish Standard was captured by Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant (SQMS) Dennis Walker, of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment AIF (2 LH) during the Battle of Magdhaba, on 23 December 1916.

Magdhaba, a village in the northern Sinai desert was occupied by Turkish forces blocking the route to Palestine, was attacked by the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Corps. After a night march of 22 miles from El Arish the hard fought action was secured by a bayonet assault by the 1st Light Horse Brigade, of which the 2nd Light Horse Regiment was a part, just as the entire Division had been ordered to withdraw.

Walker captured the standard of the 80th Turkish Infantry Regiment from a Turkish officer who was struggling to remove it from it from its elaborate pole and cords. In the process the standard was torn and Walker repaired it with black thread the following night.

The Standard is made of crimson silk with a gold bullion fringe on the upper and lower edges, and on the fly.

One side of the standard is embroidered in gold bullion thread with the toghra (personal cypher) of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet V (1909-1918) within a circle. The circle is surrounded by embroidered representations of four regimental flags and various military symbols, including pikes, double-headed axes and trumpets. Beneath is a scroll of leaves from which are suspended embroidered representations of five medals.

The other side of the standard is also embroidered in gold and shows two texts from the Koran written in arabic script. They translate as ‘There is no god but God‘ and ‘Mohammed, the Messenger of God‘.

The Standard is one of at least three captured in the course of the campaign in Palestine. All are now in the collection of the Australian War Memorial.

You can find out more about the successor to 2 LH, the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment here: https://www.army.gov.au/our-people/units/forces-command/7th-brigade/2nd14th-light-horse-regiment-queensland-mounted-infantry

 

 

Naval News – Missing Australian World War 1 Submarine AE1 found off the coast of New Guinea after 103 years

AE!

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) announced today that they have discovered the wreck of the Australian WW1 submarine AE1, which had been missing for over a century.

AE1

HMAS AE1 (originally known as just AE1) was an E-class submarine and the first to serve in the RAN. She was lost at sea with all hands near East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, on 14 September 1914, after less than seven months in service.

AE1 was discovered by a team led by the Submarine Institute of Australia on board the specialist Dutch survey ship the MV Fugro Equator. With $1 million in funding from the Australian Government and a private consortium they had commenced their search last Sunday.

Fugro Equator.jpg

They discovered that the boat suffered a catastrophic failure, probably during a practice dive, and struck a hard rocky bottom southeast of the Duke of York islands group.

AE1 Mao

The precise location of the wreck, and even details of the time it was discovered, are being kept secret to protect it from unauthorised salvage attempts.

It is understood there is no intention of attempting to retrieve the submarine, resting at a depth of more than 300 metres, which is regarded as a war grave.

AE1 Memorial Plaque

There had been several previous attempts over the years to locate the vessel, all unsuccessful. MV Fugro Equator is a specially designed offshore survey ship, that was involved in the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

You can find out more about AE1 here: http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-ae1