Category Archives: Australia

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022: Ozzie Bird Boat

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022: Ozzie Bird Boat

RAN Photo

Here we see something of an ugly duckling, the Royal Australian Navy’s seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross in Hobart around 1930 with five of her six early Supermarine Seagull amphibians aloft. She is considered by many to be the first aircraft carrier of the RAN, sparking a tradition that endures almost a century later.

Purpose-built for her role at the Cockatoo Docks, she was the size of a small cruiser, weighing some 7,000-tons (full load) on a 444-foot long steel hull. She was the largest ship built in dominion at the time. Powered by a quartet of Yarrow boilers driving a pair of Parsons steam turbines, she could make 22.5 knots which was reasonably fast for the age. She carried four QF 4.7-inch Mk VIII naval guns with two forward and two over her stern as well as a variety of Vickers 40mm pom-poms and .303-caliber machine guns, equivalent to a decently armed destroyer.

However, her primary purpose and armament was her airwing of up to nine (six active, three stowed in reserve) floatplanes or amphibians. These would augment and support the RAN’s two planned new Kent (County) class heavy cruisers, HMAS Australia (I84/D84/C01) and HMAS Canberra (I33/D33), who would also carry the same type of catapult-launched/crane recovered seaplanes as Albatross. In fact, it was felt that Albatross could operate in conjunction with those two cruisers in the Pacific, with the seaplane carrier forward deploying to anticipated areas in advance of the more capable surface ships to screen their operations with her aircraft. Besides, her cruise speed was the same rate as the warships. 

Her aviation facilities included safe stowage of 9,967 gallons of avgas– enough for at least 80 sorties for the planned floatplanes she would carry– a large forward hangar space, and two large cranes capable of lifting aircraft aboard.

The 1931 Jane’s entry for Albatross.

She was a much-updated revised design of the first seaplane/aircraft carrier, the Great War-era HMS Ark Royal.

Albatross, the only Australian warship ever named for the large and iconic seabird, was laid down in 1926 and commissioned on 23 January 1929.

The launch of the Royal Australian Navy’s first seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross on 23 February 1928 at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney. Australian National Maritime Museum’s Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Object no. 00035168

It was originally thought Albatross would carry and operate RAN’s fleet of six Fairey 111D seaplanes, which they had received starting in 1921. One was awarded the Britannia Trophy in 1924 by the Royal Aero Club for circumnavigating Australia in 44 days.

The Fairey III could carry up to 500 pounds of bombs as well as two .303 guns. When used in a pure recon role, sans bombs, they had a 1,500-mile range, which was long ranged for the 1920s. Here are IIIFs floatplanes of No. 47 Squadron on the Blue Nile at Khartoum before departing for a series of exploratory flights over Southern Sudan on 8 July 1930. The aircraft pictured are J9796, J9809, and J9802. RAF MOD Image 45163722

However, the Supermarine Seagull III, an amphibian design by Reginald Joseph Mitchell— father of the Spitfire– superseded the Fairy floatplane before Albatross entered the fleet, with nine of the flying boats delivered by 1927. Able to remain aloft for five-hour patrols, the Seagull III was the direct antecedent of the Walrus (Seagull V), one of the best amphibians of WWII. 

As explained by the Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia in reference to the Seagull III:

A total of nine of these aircraft were delivered to the RAAF 101 Fleet Cooperation Flight, who worked closely with the RAN. Of the nine, two were wrecked in (separate) storms whilst at mooring, one crashed after entering a spin during a gunnery spotting exercise (fatal) and six survived for eventual retirement.

Six Seagulls were attached to HMAS Albatross in 1929, but their low freeboard and relatively low powered engine gave poor performance at sea, including the ability to only operate in relatively low sea states.

Wings folded, a Seagull Mk III is lowered onto the foredeck of “Australia’s first aircraft carrier,” the seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross, RAN 1929-1938. Notes on photo: HMAS CERBERUS Museum. It has been kindly made available to the Unofficial RAN Centenary 1911-2011 photo stream courtesy of the Curator, Warrant Officer Martin Grogan RANR. The photo also appears in Topmill Pty Ltd book ‘Aircraft Carriers and Squadrons of the Royal Australian Navy [Topmill, Sydney] edited by Johnathan Nally, p8; also, in Ross Guillett’s book ‘Wings Across the Sea [Aerospace Publications, Canberra 1988] p33.

A great image showing much detail of Albatross’s amidships as she lifts a Seagull Mk III aboard. Note the Naval Number 0 five-cross flag flying, and her two deck guns sandwiched among her cranes. Image via State Library of NSW

A Seagull III amphibian moored in calm water via FAAA

Note the 4.7-inch guns, which surely proved a hassle to plane operations. Nonetheless, she would use them for NGFS at Normandy. 

Although she never operated with more than nine aircraft, measurements of her hangar deck allowed for as many as 14 folded Seagulls.

Albatross’s RAN career was not lengthy, with LCDR Geoffrey B Mason RN (Rtd)’s Naval History Homepage detailing that she completed trials and workups in 1929 to include embarking the Governor-General and wife for a visit to the Australian Mandated Territories in the Pacific then completed a series of local deployments. The next couple of years were spent in a cycle of winter cruises to the New Guinea area, spring cruises in coastal Australian waters, and various fleet exercises.

HMAS Albatross seen at the fleet exercise area in Hervey Bay, Queensland, “we think this image may have been taken around 1931.” Photo: Collection of the late CPO Bill Westwood, courtesy John Westwood, RANR 1965-1967. 

HMAS Albatross craning an amphibian aboard.

HMAS Albatross maneuvering away from Garden Island dockyard (RAN image)

HMAS Albatross. State Library of Victoria – Allan C. Green collection

She was a very beamy ship

Two Supermarine Seagull III amphibians taxi near HMAS Albatross at Hervey Bay, QLD. (RAN image)

In April 1933, her Seagulls were disembarked, and the vessel was reduced to reserve status, used occasionally to tend visiting seaplanes. While in reserve in 1936 she was briefly reactivated for the installation and testing of a new catapult then returned to storage.

In 1937, the Australian government brokered a deal to swap the still very young and low-mileage Albatross to the British Admiralty in partial payment for the recently completed Leander-class light cruiser HMS Apollo, soon to be the HMAS Hobart (D63). The cruiser arrived in Australia at the end of 1938– and went on to earn eight battle honors for her WWII service: “Mediterranean 1941”, “Indian Ocean 1941”, “Coral Sea 1942”, “Savo Island 1942”, “Guadalcanal 1942”, “Pacific 1942–45”, “East Indies 1940”, and “Borneo 1945,” while Albatross, recommissioned 19 April 1938, waved goodbye to Sydney for the last time that July.

HMAS Albatross about 1938, likely on her way to England. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Meet HMS Albatross

Arriving at Portsmouth in September 1938, Albatross was paid off by the Australians and officially transferred to the Royal Navy, a force that promptly put her in reserve with a wartime mission being to provide air surveillance with a force of Walrus amphibians. Her reserve time would be short, as she was fully manned and commissioned as HMS Albatross in June 1939 on the lead-up to Hitler marching into Poland.

Outfitted with six (later nine) Walruses of 710 Naval Air Squadron, she was dispatched in September 1939 to West Africa with a homeport at Freetown– along with visits to Bathurst in the Gambia and French naval base at Dakar– tasked with searching for German blockade runners, U-boats, and commerce raiders plying the South Atlantic.

Artwork, Supermarine Walrus MKI RN FAA 710NAS 9F HMS Albatross W2771. Note the Walrus was a pusher type rather than the Seagull III’s tractor type, and had an enclosed cabin.

HMS ALBATROSS (FL 3052) Underway, coastal waters. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205120269

When France fell in June 1940, Albatross carried Jutland veteran RADM George Hamilton D’Oyly Lyon (CiC Africa Station) to Dakar to try and negotiate the neutralization of the French Fleet there, and her aircraft shadowed the incomplete but still dangerous battleship, Richelieu.

Except for a brief refit in Mobile, Alabama, Albatross would maintain her quiet Freetown outpost station for 31 months until, fresh from her Dixie overhaul, she was assigned to the East Indies Station in May 1942 for trade defense against the Japanese and long-ranging German and Italian raiders/submarines.

After sailing around the Cape of Good Hope with convoy WS18– and dodging Axis minefields– she was soon part of South African-born RADM Edward Syfret’s Force H for Operation(s) Ironclad/Stream Line Jane, the seizure of the Vichy French colony of Mayotte, the port of Diego-Suarez, and the island of Madagascar, where the Japanese hoped to base long-ranging Kaidai-type submarines.

The extended Madagascar operation was a sideshow, historically significant as it was the first British amphibious assault since the disastrous landings in the Dardanelles in 1915. During the seven-month campaign, Albatross provided care and feeding for her pack of 710 NAS Walruses used in ASW patrols against Japanese RADM Noboru Ishizaki’s 8th Submarine Squadron and five locally-based Vichy subs as Syfret had the large the aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and HMS Indomitable— equipped with a mix of Martlets, Albacores, and Swordfish– for heavy lifting and to cover the landings themselves.

Embarrassingly, the old battleship HMS Ramillies was heavily damaged while in the “protected” Diego-Suarez harbor at the end of May after Japanese midget submarines, launched from IJN I-16 and I-20, penetrated the layered defenses.

USN ONI image of Albatross 1942 with a CVS (carrier, anti-submarine) designation

Post-Madagascar, Albatross would continue her Indian Ocean service as a headquarters and combined operations training ship at Bombay until July 1943 when, as the Japanese threat to the region had receded, she was sent back to European waters. The Walruses of 710 Squadron were put ashore at Kilindini and ferried to Nairobi before the ship sailed without aircraft, the squadron disbanding at RNAS Lee-on-Solent soon after arrival.

Arriving at Devonport in September, Albatross was paid off for conversion from a seaplane tender to a floating repair ship, a change that included the removal of her catapult and forward main armament while her hangar space was converted to workshops. As she would be sent in harm’s way still, a Type 286 air search radar was fitted as was a half dozen Oerlikons.

Assigned to Force S for the upcoming Operation Neptune, the RN’s support of the D-Day landings at Normandy, she was part of the huge invasion fleet on 6 June 1966 on “The Longest Day.” Her role would be to help install and tend the Gooseberry 5 (Sword Beach) breakwater while plying her repair services there for small craft.

She had a busy month, as noted by Mason, logging an air attack from a German Me109, taking shore fire that killed one rating, providing naval gunfire support and AAA defense of the anchorage, surviving the infamously fierce gale of 19 June, and saving 79 craft from total loss while enabling 132 others to resume service off the beachhead.

By July, Albatross was given a short break to resupply and was then back at it, working repairs off Juno Beach. There, in the pre-dawn darkness of 11 August, she was hit by a new type of German long-range/low-speed circling torpedo– a G7e/TIIID Dackel (dachshund) fired by S-boats (S79, S97, and S177 engaged in the attack, with 10 torpedos fired) of out of Le Harve that killed 66 men and left her with a 15-degree list.

Towed to Portsmouth by a “Free Dutch” salvage tug, Albatross spent most of the remainder of the war under repair with the eye to keep her around as a minesweeper tender. However, as the conflict soon wound down, on 3 August 1945 she was paid off to the reserve and laid up at the Isle of Wright.

Post War career

Placed on the Disposal List in 1946, she was sold to the South Western Steam Navigation Company for continued merchant use. Initially named SS Pride of Torquay in line with a plan to convert her to a floating casino by the Chatham Dockyards, in October 1948 she was bought at auction by the Greek-owned China Hellenic Lines, and she soon became SS Hellenic Prince, ostensibly to recognize the birth of Prince Charles in November, himself the son of Greek nobility, WWII-naval veteran Prince Phillip. Her bread and butter would be to carry World War II refugees to new lives abroad.

SS Hellenic Prince

Reuben Goossens, who details the lives of classic 20th Century liners, has an interesting page covering Hellenic Prince’s short career with the CHL and Pacific Salvage Co. Ltd, which included turning “migrant voyages into a living hell” from Europe to Australia that included allegations of mutiny and a stint as a troopship taking Commonwealth ground forces to Kenya to fight the Mau Mau.

He notes this about the vessel:

The completed 6.558 GRT (Gross Registered Tons) SS Hellenic Prince was certainly no luxury liner, was able to accommodate up 1,200 persons in 200 cabins and dormitories with up to 20 persons, as well some eight and some 4 bunk cabins all having the most basic of facilities, yet all accommodations were fully air-conditioned. The spacious Dining Room seated 560 persons and this venue at certain times also was used as a lounge area, for there were no formal lounges, but there were two Cinemas for entertainment. In the three bays of her hangar deck there were three separate Hospitals – one for men, one for women, and an isolation Ward for sick children who would most likely have come out of one of the concentration camps of post-war Europe.

SS Hellenic Prince (former HMAS Albatross), in rough condition, between 1949 and 1951. State Library of Victoria.

Sold to a British Ship-breaker in 1954, ex-HMAS/HMS Albatross was broken up in Hong Kong where she arrived in tow on 12th August 1954. As far as I can tell, there is little that remains of her in terms of relics.

A Portuguese sister?

Portuguese Navy Capt. Artur de Sacadura Freire Cabral was famed for the first flight across the South Atlantic Ocean in 1922– a 5,200nm trip from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro that took 79 days to log 62 hours of flight time! His aircraft was dubbed Lusitania, a Fairey III-D seaplane specifically outfitted for the journey and, if you remember, the same type of aircraft the Australians intended to operate from HMAS Albatross.

Portugal this month celebrated the centennial of that feat. 

Sadly, Cabral would disappear two years later while flying over the foggy English Channel and never be recovered.

In a salute to him, the Portuguese Navy in 1931 planned the acquisition of a seaplane tender based on Albatross to be constructed at an Italian yard. To be built at Cantieri Riunii dell Adriatico at Trieste as part of an extensive naval shipbuilding program, funding was never realized and all we have is the 1931 Jane’s entry for the vessel.

Sacadura Cabral, based on HMAS Albatross, per Janes.

Epilogue

Albatross is remembered in Australia via a variety of maritime art.

HMAS Albatross operating her Sea Gull III amphibian aircraft. Painting by Phil Belbin. (RAN Naval Heritage Collection)

HMAS Albatross watercolor by John Alcott. AWM ART28074

The Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, including four squadrons of helicopters (723, 725, 808, and 816) along with one of UAVs (822X Squadron), and the Fleet Air Arm Museum, are located at a shore establishment near Nowra, New South Wales. The base, originally formed in 1942 by the Royal Australian Air Force as RAAF Nowra, was transferred to the RAN in 1944 and commissioned in 1948 as HMAS Albatross, recognizing the name of the old seaplane carrier.

RAN MH-60R crew with 725 Squadron at HMAS Albatross

Further, the RAN would revisit aircraft carrier operations with the Colossus-class light aircraft carrier HMS Vengeance (as HMAS Vengeance, from 1952 to 1955) along with the Majestic-class light aircraft carriers HMS Majestic (as HMAS Melbourne, from 1955 to 1982) and HMS Terrible (as HMAS Sydney from 1948 to 1973), spanning a solid 34 years of running fixed-wing flattops.

Today, the RAN’s pair of Canberra-class LHDs, big ships of some 27,500-tons and 757-feet overall length, can carry as many as 18 helicopters and it is thought they could eventually operate F-35B models, continuing the legacy the humble Albatross began a century ago.

September 2021, HMAS Sirius (AO-266) conducts a dual replenishment at sea with HMAS Canberra (LHD-2) and USCGC Munro (WMSL-755), during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021. (RAN Photo by LSIS Leo Baumgartner)

Specs:

As seaplane tender/carrier
Displacement: 4,800 tons (standard), 7,000 full
Length 443 ft 7 in
Beam: 58 ft molded, 77.75 ft at sponsons
Draft:
1930: 16 ft 11.5 in
1936: 17.25 ft
Propulsion: 4 × Yarrow boilers, 2 x Parsons Turbines, 12,000 shp, 2 shafts
Speed: 22 knots
Range:
4,280 nm at 22 knots; 7,900 nm at 10 knots on 942 tons of oil
Complement: 29 RAN officers, 375 RAN sailors, 8 RAAF officers, 38 RAAF enlisted
Armament:
4 x 120/40 QF Mk VIII guns
2 x single 2-pounder (40-mm) pom-poms (later replaced by quadruple pom-poms in 1943)
4 x 47/40 3pdr Hotchkiss Mk I saluting guns
Aircraft carried: 9 aircraft (six actives, three reserves)

As Hellenic Prince (1949-54, Lloyd’s specs)
Tonnage: 6.558 GRT.
Length: 443.7 ft
Width: 61ft
Draught: 17.25 ft
Propulsion: 4 × Yarrow boilers, Parsons Turbines, 12,000 SHP
Speed: 17 knots service speed, 22 maximum.
Passengers: around 1,000, but up to 1,200 maximum in Steerage.
Crew: 250


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Saluting AB Clark, late of HMAS Sydney

From the office of the Australian Defense Minister:

Eighty years after the Australian warship HMAS Sydney (II) sunk off the West Australian coast, the only body recovered from the tragedy has now been identified.

New DNA evidence has confirmed Able Seaman (AB) Thomas Welsby Clark from New Farm in Brisbane as the previously unidentified sailor.

The Sydney sank on 19 November, 1941 following an intense battle with the disguised German merchant raider HSK Kormoran, about 120 nautical miles (222 km) west of Steep Point, WA.

AB Clark is believed to be the only sailor to have made it to a life raft after the ship went down.

Despite surviving the battle and the sinking, he tragically died at sea in the life raft. His remains were found near Rocky Point on Christmas Island nearly three months later.

DNA samples collected from his body in 2006 have been extensively tested over the past 15 years and revealed both mitochondrial DNA, passed from mother to child, and Y chromosome DNA passed from father to son.

Research facilitated by the Sea Power Centre – Australia has successfully identified two living direct relatives.

Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Andrew Gee said the formal identification was a significant development in Sydney’s story and an historic moment for Australia.

“To finally learn Tom’s name, rank, service number and home town, 80 years after he was lost is truly remarkable”, Minister Gee said.

“It is says a lot about Australia that, despite the decades that have passed, our nation is still working so hard to identify those lost in war and ensuring we honour the sacred commitment to remember them.

“I know this is a terribly sad time for Tom’s family. Like his brave shipmates, he died defending Australia, our values and way of life. His family should be immensely proud.

“The Office of Australian War Graves has agreed that next year Tom’s grave in Geraldton War Cemetery will be marked by a new headstone bearing his name. He will be ‘unknown’ no longer.

“By identifying Tom, our nation honours all those who lost their lives in HMAS Sydney (II).

“His story helps Australia understand the immense sacrifice made for our country and also the loss and grief that is still felt by the descendants of those who perished on that day.

“Today our nation also extends its deepest sympathies to the descendants of the 644 other crew members who were sadly never recovered after that infamous battle.

“They gave their lives protecting our nation and fighting tyranny, and by ending the threat posed by the Kormoran they undoubtedly saved many other Australian lives.

“At this time we remember them and all of the 39,000 Australians who lost their lives in the Second World War.”

Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan said AB Clark was just 21 years old when he died and was representative of the many young lives lost in the battle.

“Of Sydney’s total complement of 645 men no one survived. This included six Royal Australian Air Force members, eight Royal Navy personnel and four civilian canteen staff. Eighty-two officers and sailors were killed in Kormoran,” said Vice Admiral Noonan.

“We revere the service and sacrifice of all who perished.

“Solving this World War II case involved specialists in DNA analysis, forensic pathology and dentistry, ballistics, anthropology, archaeology and naval history. I commend the combined effort spearheaded by the Sea Power Centre to confirm AB Clark’s identity.

“The Australian Federal Police National DNA Program for Unidentified and Missing Persons was instrumental, as were the Australian National University, Australian War Memorial, University of Adelaide and University of Sydney, not to mention Able Seaman Thomas Clark’s family.”

“His long voyage is complete, may he Rest in Peace.”

Dr Leigh Lehane, (a retired academic) was surprised and saddened to learn her Uncle Tom was the unknown sailor.

“To be quite honest it was a bit upsetting,” she said.

However, she said establishing the truth was important.

“I am so grateful for the many, many people, well over a hundred, who helped ascertain the truth about his identity,” Dr Lehane said.

She was born in July 1941, the month before her Uncle Tom joined Sydney. According to a family story he met his new niece on a final visit to Brisbane.

“He came and held me as a little baby. That’s a very pleasurable thought because I don’t think anyone else is alive now who knew Tom sort of eye to eye,” Dr Lehane said.

To Find a Path

77 Years Ago Today:

Jacquinot Bay, New Britain. 1944-11-06. Members of B Company, 1st New Guinea Infantry Battalion aboard the former Hawkesbury River (New South Wales) vehicular ferry, the Frances Peat, which is to transport them to Pomio Village where the unit is to establish its headquarters. Identified personnel is company Sergeant Major Kube (with machete).

Note the machetes, Owen SMGs, No. III Lee-Enfields, dog tags, and British kit– along with not much else. Interestingly, many of the men have bicep dressings, possibly from recent inoculations. AWM Photo 076702 https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/076702

One of four battalions raised in New Guinea during WWII, 1 NGIB was formed in March 1944 from a cadre that had been in the ranks as early as 1942 and soon started deploying company-sized elements in support of combat operations on Bougainville and on New Guinea, where their particular skillset was in high-demand in the thick jungle.

The unit was folded into the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment (RPIR) before being disbanded in June 1946.

Reformed in 1951 as part of the Australian Army, the RPIR became part of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) in 1975 and carried the battle honors of the old 1 NGIB on its crest. In an ode to their old task of ranging and scouting, the RPIR’s motto today is “To Find a Path.”

The Devil’s Own, Fighting All-Comers

1 September 1943: The Tommy gun-toting “Devil’s Own” a group of salty Australians of 2/5th Infantry Bn (6 Australian Division), who helped drive the Japanese from Mount Tambu, clearing the way for the advance on Salamaua, Papua New Guinea.

Left to Right (Back) Corporal Don Mather of South Yarra, Vic, Pte. Frank Mcgreevy of Redbank, Qld, Pte Frank Townsend, of Box Hill, Vic, Pte Eddie Watkins of Grafton, NSW, Pte Jim Mcgovern of Richmond, SA, Front Pte Ron Miller of Merino. Victoria, Pte. Walter Dudley, of Woy Woy, NSW and, Pte. Arthur Wallin of Seymour, Victoria. (AWM Photo 015639

Formed in Melbourne on 18 October 1939, the Diggers of 2/5th Battalion left for the Middle East early the next year– arriving in time to fight at Bardia and Tobruk before a “vacation” in Greece and fighting the Vichy French in Syria. Shipped back home to defend Australia after the Japanese entered the war, they landed at Milne Bay, in Papua, in early October 1942 and remained engaged against the Empire until VJ Day, most of it in the triple canopied mountains along the Torricelli and Prince Alexander ranges.

Disbanded at Puckapunyal in early February 1946, 2/5 had fought the French, Germans, Italians, and Japanese– across three continents– during the course of its short existence.

The 10th Light Horse Rides Again

Irwin Barracks, Karrakatta, recently saw the return to the Australian Army, in regimental strength, of the venerable 10th Light Horse Regiment. With a lineage that hails back to the country’s colonial militia units, notably the Western Australia Mounted Infantry (WAMI) of Boer War fame, the 10th LHR was officially formed 10 October 1914 for service in the Great War.

Mounted on his horse in front of the Pyramids, 244 Trooper T. Buckingham, 10th Light Horse. He died of wounds on 10 August 1915 at Gallipoli. AWM photo H05686A

And serve it did, earning battle honors at Gallipoli (with its doomed action at A-Nek immortalized in the 1981 Mel Gibson film of the same name), Gaza-Beersheba, Jerusalem, Megiddo, and Damascus.

Notably, one of the 10th’s squadron commanders, Capt. Hugo Vivian Hope Throssell, was the only light horseman during the “War to End All Wars” to receive the Victoria Cross, appropriately earned at Gallipoli.

During WWII, the unit was the last Australian Army outfit to be mounted on horses, maintaining them into April 1944, spending the war patrolling the remote Western Australian coastline for landings and saboteurs.

Disbanded as a regiment once the threat of Japanese invasion disappeared, it was only reformed in understrength squadron strength in 1949, using a combination of Land Rovers, armored cars, and APCs since then in the light reconnaissance role.

Now, on 10 October, the 107th anniversary of its founding prior to heading out to fight the Ottomans, the regiment is back.

As noted by the Australian Army:

The sound of hooves has blended with the dull roar of protected mobility vehicle engines during the re-raising of a historic Australian Army unit in Western Australia.

The 10th Light Horse Regiment has been re-raised at a ceremony in Perth, which also marked the 107th anniversary of the raising of the regiment in 1914.

The return of the unit to Army’s Order of Battle is a significant milestone of the Army Objective Force in enhancing Army Capability and Defence in Western Australia.

The regiment will now considerably increase its size to form a well-trained and capable new cavalry squadron for the West as part of the Australian Army’s modernisation program to be Future Ready.

Rather than horse, however, they will use Hawkei PMVs and Bushmasters (6×6 up-armored variants of the G-Wagon), in at least two squadrons and an HHC unit.

Their regimental motto is Percute et Percute Velociter (Strike and Strike Swiftly)

“Members of the 10th Light Horse Regiment fire a Feu-de Joie at the ceremonial parade to commemorating the re-raising of the Regiment at Langley Park, Perth.”

Remembering Sydney vs. Kormoran in a unique, and mutual, way

The Type 123 Brandenburg-class frigate Bayern (F-217) deployed to the Pacific in August in an effort to “show more presence in the Indo-Pacific region.”

She has completed exercises and steamed with a host of foreign navies along the way.

PASSEX on Sept 7 2021 with the German frigate Bayern, Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67), and the Pakistani Navy frigate PNS Alamgir (F260)– formerly USS McInerney (FFG-8)–in the Indian Ocean. (Photos: German Navy)

Notably, when Bayern arrived in Fremantle last week she was the first German navy ship to visit Australia since the tall ship Gorch Fock berthed in Sydney in 1988.

Historically, German and Australian naval ships don’t interact very often.

Speaking of which, there was one very memorable meeting between the two countries at sea on 19 November 1941 when the Leander-class light cruiser HMAS Sydney (D48) came across the notorious German auxiliary cruiser (Hilfskreuzer) Kormoran which was brazenly steaming just 150 miles south-west of the coast of Western Australia. The heavily-armed commerce raider, known as “Raider G” to the Allies, had been at sea for 352 days and her crack crew had chalked up some 75,000 tons of shipping. A wolf in sheep’s clothing found by Sydney while flying a Dutch flag, with the action beginning at what was effectively point-blank range. 

In the mutually destructive surface action that followed, both ships were lost with a combined butcher’s bill of 727 men dead to include every single member of the Australian cruiser’s complement.

The engagement echoed a similar one between the Dresden-class cruiser SMS Emden and the Chatam-class light cruiser HMAS Sydney off Cocos Islands in November 1914, only much bloodier.

Only a few weeks away from the 80th anniversary of the loss of Kormoran and the later Sydney, embarked exchange sailors from the Royal Australian Navy on Bayern this week joined a solemn ceremony held by the crew to observe the battle, over at 26°S 111°E.

Members of the Bayern’s ship’s company also participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the State War Memorial in Perth’s Kings Park. 
 

I thought this was a RedBull commercial or something at first

Via the Australian Army:

The 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment [amalmataed 2nd Moreton Light Horse and 14th West Moreton Light Horse of the old Queensland Mounted Infantry] has commenced trialling Stealth Reconnaissance E-Bikes in conjunction with the Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle.

The electric bike allows reconnaissance soldiers to move quickly and quietly throughout the battlefield, covering long distances to gather vital information.

The E-Bikes have a range of up to 100 kilometres, meaning soldiers can travel further in a shorter time frame. With less of a noise and dust footprint than traditional motorcycles, the E-Bikes help prevent reconnaissance scouts being detected by enemy forces.

As 2nd/14th LHR is currently made up of three battalions, including one of M1A1 Abrams and two of light cavalry scouts based at Gallipoli Barracks in Queensland on the island continent’s northeastern corner, the E-bikes make a certain amount of sense.

However, I worry about the problem when fielding any electric equipment: how do you keep it charged?

An Unwanted Sword, 76 Years Ago Today

17 September 1945: Surrender of Borneo at Bandjermasin. The Japanese major general, a career officer in his full uniform with some 2,500 of the Emperor’s troops under his command, attempted to hand his family sword to the senior Allied officer on the scene, a malarial temporary lieutenant colonel in field dress with rolled-up sleeves and a bush hat, who, after suffering the loss of one out of four men in his battalion in the preceding campaign to reach that moment, ordered the general via an interpreter to place his sword on the ground before of the Australians.

Note the Digger with his Enfield revolver at the ready. Photo by Corp. Robert Eric Donaldson, AWM 118033

“Major General Michio Uno, Imperial Japanese Army, Commanding the Japanese 37th Army Forces in the area, lays his sword at the feet of NX349 Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Ewan Murray Robson, CBE, DSO, Commanding Officer, 2/31 Infantry Battalion during the Japanese surrender ceremony on the local sports ground. Also identified is Warrant Officer Class 2 Arthur Pappadopoulos, Interpreter with the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS), GHQ beside Robson, and on the extreme left, behind Lt Col Robson is Warrant Officer Class 1 George Hawkins.”

Part of the 25th Brigade, 7th Division, the 2/31st was formed just as the 70th Battalion (Australia) after Dunkirk in England from assorted Australian non-infantry types and trained to be infantry to defend the British Isles against a looming invasion by Hitler. Renamed the 2/31st, following the end of the Battle of Britain, the unit was sent to North Africa then served in the Syrian campaign before being rushed back to defend Australia in early 1942 after Japan entered the war.

This photograph from State Library Victoria is of the 2/31 Australian Infantry Battalion walking in high cane along the Banks of the Brown River, circa 1943. When the Japanese arrived in Papua, their goal was to make their way across the Kokoda Track and form a base from which to attack the mainland of Australia. The Kokoda campaign is remembered as one of the most difficult operations in Australian military history – a campaign that cost the lives of many soldiers.

After being decimated through two years of fighting in the fierce jungle during the New Guinea campaigns, the reconstituted battalion landed at Green Beach at Balikpapan along with the rest of the 7th Division on 2 July 1945. Overcoming fierce Japanese opposition as they pushed inland from the beach, they were again in the Green Hell of jungle fighting, suffering the highest casualties of any Allied unit in the Borneo campaign, with nearly a quarter of the battalion killed or injured. On the way, they liberated a huge camp at Kandangan, which held Dutch women and children that had been interned since 1942, as well as a second large camp that held some 2,000 Indian POWs captured in Burma.

Soldiers of the Australian 2/31st Battalion passing through the town of Bandjermasin in Borneo as they took responsibility for the area from the Japanese. “They are being given an enthusiastic welcome by local civilians.” AWM photo 118018

The 2/31st Battalion received 22 battle honors for its service during the war, and its members earned a VC, three DSOs, four MCs, one DCM, and a score of MMs. It was disbanded in March 1946, and the unit, assembled from “odds and ends” had never since uncased its flag.

Its commander, Lt. Col. Murray Robson had been mustered out even before then, discharged in November 1945, his war service at an end. A solicitor by trade and a member of the NSW parliament, he had joined the Australian militia at age 33 as a reserve lieutenant three weeks after Hitler crossed into Poland in 1939 and, serving with the 2/31st since June 1940, earned the DSO in New Guinea after being wounded in Syria and mentioned thrice in dispatches.

No word on whatever became of Major General Uno’s katana.

RAN getting into the SSN Game, apparently

The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service has been around since 1964 but the Ozzies have been running subs going back to the Great War-era British E class submarines AE1 and AE2, which we have covered here on a Warship Wednesday.

Besides the Es, the Australians operated a half-dozen J-class boats in WWI, two O-class boats in the 1920s, and eight British Oberon-class submarines through the Cold War.

Barbecue on top of HMAS Onslow, a diesel submarine operated by Australia’s Navy from 1968 to 1999.

Today, they have the half dozen controversial (but Australian-built!) Collins-class submarines in service that are aging out.

Collins-class submarines conducting exercises northwest of Rottnest Island 2019

Driven by political pressure against nuclear-powered subs– both Australia and New Zealand have had issues with American “N” prefixes visiting in past years– Canberra signed a contract for a dozen planned Attack-class SSKs from France in a competition that saw both German and Japanese designs come up in a close tie for second place.

However, with the French boats not being able to get operational into some time in the mid-2030s, the Australians are scrapping the stalled French contract and going with a program with the U.S. and Royal Navy to field SSNs.

The AUKUS program is ambitious to say the least. 

RAN’s official statement, with a lot more detail than you get elsewhere: 

The submarines will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, where French company Naval Group was to construct the soon-to-be canceled submarines, which is a heavy lift for sure, but not insurmountable. 

As SUBSCOL in New London is very good at what they do at training Nuclear Program submariners, and the production line for the Virginia-class boats is white-hot, it is likely something that could be done inside the decade with some sort of technology sharing program similar to how Australian acquired their FFG-7 frigates in the 1980s, provided the RAN can cough up enough submariners (they have a problem staffing their boats now as it is) as well as the cash and political will.

If a Virginia-class variant is chosen, perhaps one could be hot-loaned from COMSUBPAC, with a cadre of specialists aboard, to the Australians for a couple years as a training boat while theirs are being constructed. 

Can Canberra buy and man 12 boats? Doubtful, but a 4+1 hull program with one boat in a maintenance period and the four active subs, perhaps with rotating blue/red crews, could provide a lot of snorkel.

Plus, it could see American SSNs based in Western Australia on a running basis, which is something that has never happened. Of course, the precedent is there, as 122 American, 31 British, and 11 Dutch subs conducted patrols from Fremantle and Brisbane between 1942 and 1945 while the Royal Navy’s 4th Submarine Flotilla was based in Sydney from 1949 until 1969.

Of course, the French, who have been chasing this hole in the ocean for five years, are going to raise hell over this. 

The “breakup statement” of French Naval Group with Australia Attack class submarine deal…no mention of them being overpriced, overdue and under delivery.

Meanwhile, off Korea

In related Pacific submarine news, the South Koreans successfully fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday, just hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.

The ROKN boat, likely the new ROKS Dosan Ahn Changho (SS-083), which just commissioned in August, fired the indigenous Hyunmoo conventional warhead SLBM, of which not much is known. The 3,700-ton Changho-class, of which nine are planned, have six VLS silos for such missiles in addition to their torpedo tubes.

Talisman Sabre Photoex

Talk about a great shot. The ships of the forward-deployed USS America (LHA 6) Expeditionary Strike Group steam in formation during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21 in conjunction with warships from Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. In all, you have three ‘Phibs, six escorts, and two auxiliaries with a battalion of Marines and a half-squadron of F-35s along for the ride. 

The place? The Coral Sea. What a difference 80 years makes, right?

CORAL SEA (July 22, 2021) (From left) USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), ROKS Wand Geon (DD 978), HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), USS America (LHA 6), USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), USS JS Makinami (DD 112), USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), (center) HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), (back) USS New Orleans (LPD 18), HMAS Brisbane (D 41), and USS Germantown (LSD 42) steam in formation during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21. This is the ninth iteration of Talisman Sabre, a large-scale, bilateral military exercise between Australia and the U.S. involving more than 17,000 participants from seven nations. The month-long multi-domain exercise consists of a series of training events that reinforce the strong U.S./Australian alliance and demonstrate the U.S. military’s unwavering commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Serianni)

And the breakaway.

CORAL SEA (July 22, 2021) (From left) USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), ROKS Wand Geon (DD 978), HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), USS America (LHA 6), USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), USS JS Makinami (DD 112), USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), (center) HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), (back) USS New Orleans (LPD 18), HMAS Brisbane (D 41), and USS Germantown (LSD 42) break from formation steaming during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Serianni

For the record, the America ESG has the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. The 31st MEU currently comprises the F-35B-augmented Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) as the ACE, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines as the GCE, and Combat Logistics Battalion 31 as the LCE. 

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