On this day – The loss of HMAS Yarra (U77) – 4 March 1942

HMAS Yarra Canberra Times 14 March 1942

On this day in 1942, HMAS Yarra (U-77) was lost defending a small allied convoy south of Java against overwhelming odds.

A ‘Grimsby class’ sloop, HMAS Yarra was launched at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney, in March 1935 and commissioned the following January. Displacing more than 1,000 tons, she was over 80 metres long with a beam of 11 metres and armed with three 4-inch anti aircraft guns, four 3-pounder guns, a quadruple .5-inch anti aircraft machine-gun, and depth charges. She had a top speed of 16.5 knots and a complement of 151.

HMAS Yarra‘s initial war service was in Australian waters, on patrol and escort duties. In August 1940 she left for the Middle East. In April 1941 she escorted a convoy from Bombay to the Persian Gulf followed by service again in the Mediterranean in November-December 1941.

With the outbreak of war with Japan, HMAS Yarra left the Mediterranean for now Indonesian waters, arriving in January 1942. She carried out escort and patrol duties, including the successful rescue of over 1,800 survivors from the troopship Empress of Asia, which was sunk along with many other ships in the convoy BM 12 off the southwest coast of Singapore.

On 27 February 1942 orders were given to clear all remaining allied ships from Batavia (now Jakarta). At about midnight HMAS Yarra and another sloop HMIS Jumna sailed escorting a convoy to Tjilatjap.

HMAS Yarra II

Arriving off Tjilatjap (modern day Cilacap) at 11am on 2 March 1942, the ships were warned not to enter harbour. HMAS Yarra was ordered to take the convoy, which consisted of the depot ship Anking, the tanker Francol and the motor minesweeper MMS 51, to Fremantle in Western Australia while HMIS Jumna sailed for Colombo. No time was to be lost, as powerful Japanese naval forces were known to be operating in the waters south of Java.

Steaming south east at an average speed of 8.5 knots, HMAS Yarra and her convoy made steady progress during the night of 2-3 March 1942.  The following morning two lifeboats were sighted and HMAS Yarra picked up survivors of the Dutch merchant ship Parigi, which had been sunk by the Japanese two days earlier.

At 6.30am on 4 March 1942, the lookout in HMAS Yarra sighted a Japanese heavy cruiser squadron to the north-east consisting of the IJS Atago (pictured below), IJS Takao and IJS Maya, each armed with ten 8-inch guns, and two destroyers.

IJS Atago

Immediately the commander of HMAS Yarra, Lieutenant Commander Robert Rankin (pictured below) made a sighting report, ordered the convoy to scatter and, placed his ship between them and the enemy, laying smoke and preparing to engage.

Robert Rankin

HMAS Yarra was out-gunned and out-ranged. Against such odds her task was hopeless, yet she kept fighting even as her convoy was overwhelmed and sunk, ship by ship.

Anking received many hits before sinking 10 minutes later. By that time HMAS Yarra was also on fire and listing heavily to port. MMS 51 was on fire and sunk by close range automatic gunfire from one of the Japanese cruisers. The Francol was also hit many times but still remained afloat, finally sinking at about 7.30am. HMAS Yarra, shattered by numerous hits, was the last to go.

HMAS Yarra 2

Soon after 8.00am, Lt Cdr Rankin ordered abandon ship. Minutes later he was killed when an 8-inch salvo hit the bridge. HMAS Yarra‘s end, which came after close-range shelling by the two Japanese destroyers, was witnessed by 34 survivors on two rafts.

HMAS Yarra Ships Crest

After sinking HMAS Yarra the Japanese cruisers made off to the north-east, picking up one boatload of survivors from Francol as they departed. A collection of boats, rafts and floats was left scattered over a wide area. Before dusk a passing Dutch vessel, Tawali, rescued 57 officers and men from Anking. However, in spite of frantic signals, she failed to sight two Carley floats containing 14 men from MMS 51. For the next two and a half days they drifted about until picked up by the Dutch steamer Tjimanjoek on 7 March.

Meanwhile Yarra’s men, their numbers sadly reduced by wounds, exposure, and thirst, continued to drift helplessly. On 9 March, 13 of the sloop’s ratings were picked up by the Dutch submarine KlL. Of HMAS Yarra‘s complement of 151, 138 (including the Captain and all of the officers) were killed in the action or died subsequently on the liferafts.

Rankin crest

In commemoration of Lieutenant Commander Rankin’s leadership commanding HMAS Yarra (II), the sixth and final Collins class submarine (commissioned in 2003) was named in his honour (HMAS Rankin (SSG-78) is pictured below).

HMAS Rankin at Beuaty Point TAS

On the 4th of March 2014, the then Governor General of Australia, Her Excellency Quentin Bryce AO, CVO presented the current HMAS Yarra (IV) with the Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) (insignia shown below) in commemoration of the loss of her predecessor.

Unit Citation for Gallantry

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

You can find out more about HMAS Rankin here: http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-rankin

You can find out more about the presentation of the Citation here: http://news.navy.gov.au/en/Mar2014/Events/890/Brave-crew-recognised-for-extraordinary-acts-of-gallantry-in-1942.htm#.WlLvzFWWbIU

On this day – The Battle of the Sunda Strait – 28 February 1942

HMAS Perth Sunda Strait.JPG

The naval Battle of the Sunda Strait began on this day 76 years ago.

Sunda Strait lies between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. On the night of 28 February-1 March 1942 it was the location for a fierce naval battle between the Australian modified Leander class light cruiser HMAS Perth (shown above during the battle) and the American Northampton class heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30), and a numerically superior Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) task force.

Following the disatrous Battle of the Java Sea the day before, late on 28 February 1942, USS Houston and HMAS Perth received orders to sail through Sunda Strait to Tjilatjap, on the south coast of Java.  They departed without any escort at 7pm under the command of Captain Hector Waller (shown below), the Commanding Officer of HMAS Perth.

Hec Waller

At 10pm that night the Japanese invasion convoy of over 50 transports was entering Bantam Bay near the north west tip of Java. The convoy was escorted by the 5th Destroyer Flotilla (8 destroyers) and 7th Cruiser Division (3 cruisers).

USS-Houston-And-HMAS-Perth-Stood-Tall-At-the-Battle-Of-Sunda-Strait-1

 

At 11.15pm the Japanese destroyer IJS Fubuki sighted the allied Cruisers halfway across Bantam Bay. In the ferocious action that followed both HMAS Perth and USS Houston (shown below) were sunk with the loss of 1,071 sailors lives. Japanese losses were two Transports and a minesweeper.

USS Houston Sunda Strait

The Captains of both Allied ships were among those lost. Captain Albert Rooks of USS Houston was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

You can find out more about HMAS Perth II here: http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-perth-ii

You can find out more about USS Houston here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Houston_(CA-30)

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

Famous Regiments – The Korps Mariniers

Korps Mariniers

Formed: 1665

Country: The Netherlands

Armed Service: Royal Netherlands Navy

Royal Netherlands Navy Jack

Current Role: Marine Corps

Locations: Doorn, Texel and Aruba

Structure: The Korps is 2,300 strong and part of the Netherlands Maritime Force and consists of:

  • Maritime Force Command Staff
  • 1st Marine Combat Group
    • 10th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron (10 RSTA Sqn)
    • 11th (Parachute) Raiding Squadron (11 (Para) R Sqn)
    • 12th Raiding Squadron (12 R Sqn)
    • 13th Raiding Squadron (13 R Sqn)
    • 14th Combat Support Squadron (14 CS Sqn)
    • 15th Combat Service Support Squadron (15 CSS Sqn)
  • 2nd Marine Combat Group
    • 20th Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron (20 RSTA Sqn)
    • 21st Raiding Squadron (21 R Sqn)
    • 22nd Raiding Squadron (22 R Sqn)
    • 23rd (Parachute) Raiding Squadron (23 (Para) R Sqn)
    • 24th Combat Support Squadron (24 CS Sqn)

Motto: Qua Patet Orbis (“As Far as the World Extends”)

Korps Mariniers Capbadge

Battle Honours: 16

  • Chatham (1667)
  • Kijkduin (1673)
  • Senneffe (1674)
  • Spain (1702–13)
  • West Indies (1764. 1772–77)
  • Dogger Bank (1781)
  • Algiers (1816)
  • Bali (1846–49)
  • Aceh (1873–76)
  • Rotterdam (1940)
  • Java Sea (1942)
  • East Java (1942)
  • Java and Madura (1946–49)
  • New Guinea (1962)
  • Cambodia (1992–93)
  • Uruzgan (2006–10)

Korps Mariniers Beret

More information on the Korps Mariners can be found here:

Official website – http://korpsmariniers.com/

Naval News – HMS Ocean (L12) sold to Brazilian Navy for £84 million ($145 million)

HMS Ocean

The current flagship of the Royal Navy (RN), HMS Ocean, has been sold to Brazil for £84 million.

The 22,000-tonne Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) carrier will be formally decommissioned from the RN in spring this year. Whilst it was well known that HMS Ocean was up for sale, with interest from Brazil and Turkey, reference to the sale was contained in the Brazilian Navy’s end of year statement published on Christmas Eve. To date, no official statement confirming the sale has been released by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) or the Royal Navy.

HMS Ocean was built for £150 million and was commissioned in September 1998. She underwent a £65 million refit in 2012, extending her life by three years.

Six RN ships have borne the name HMS Ocean.

HMS Ocean Badge

Motto: Ex undis surgit victoria (‘From the waves rises victory’)

Battle Honours:  Al Faw 2003

You can find out more about HMS Ocean here: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/surface-fleet/assault-ships/hms-oceanhttps://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/surface-fleet/assault-ships/hms-ocean

 

Naval News – New additions to the RN and RAN Surface Fleets

HMS Queen Elizabeth conducts vital system tests off the coast of Scotland

There have been two recent significant additions to the Surface Fleets of both the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

On Thursday 7 December 2017 HMS Queen Elizabeth (R09), the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers, was commissioned in front of Her Majesty The Queen.

At almost 70,000 tons, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy as is based in Portsmouth. She begins Operational Sea Trials (OST) in January 2018 before conducting integrated flight trials with F-35Bs from 617 Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF) later in the year in the US.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Ships Crest

The ship’s motto is ‘Semper eadem‘ which means ‘Always the same‘ and she inherits five (5) battle honours from the two previous RN ships of the same name:

DARDANELLES 1915

CRETE 1941

SABANG 1944

BURMA 1944-45

EAST INDIES 1945

You can find out more about her here: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/queenelizabeth

On Saturday 23 September 2017, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) welcomed HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) to the fleet.

HMAS Hobart Commissioning

HMAS Hobart is the first of three Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers (DDGs) based on the Spanish F100 class Frigate, and equipped with the Aegis Baseline 7.1 Combat System from the United States.

HMAS Hobart III Crest

The ship’s motto is ‘Grow with Strength’ which is taken from the coat of arms of the City of Hobart. She inherits nine (9) battle honours from the two previous RAN ships of the same name:

MEDITERRANEAN 1941

INDIAN OCEAN 1941

CORAL SEA 1942

SAVO ISLAND 1942

GUADALCANAL 1942

PACIFIC 1942–45

EAST INDIES 1940

BORNEO 1945

VIETNAM 1967-70

HMAS Hobart Battle Honours Board

You can find out more about her here:  http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-hobart-iii

 

 

 

Naval News – RFA Tidespring commissioned

RFA Tidespring

Britain’s Royal Fleet Auxilary (RFA) welcomed RFA Tidespring (A136) to the Fleet on Monday 27 November 2017.

Built in South Korea by Daewoo, the new 37,000 tonne ship, one of the four biggest tankers to be purpose built for the RFA, will provide fuel, food and stores for Royal Navy warships all around the world.

She is the first of class of the Military Afloat Reach & Sustainability (MARS) Tankers and together with her three sister ships Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce, are flexible, state-of-the-art double hulled vessels, which will provide key future support to the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers.

RFA Tidespring Ships Crest

The last RFA ship to bear the same name was RFA Tidespring (A75) in service from 1963 to 1991. Tidespring took part in the Falklands War, particularly in the recapture of South Georgia.

You can find out more here:

https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2017/november/27/171127-rfa-tidespring

https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/royal-fleet-auxiliary/tankers/rfa-tidespring