- A.N. Other
- Biographies and personal histories, Post WWII
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney II, HMAS Junee
- December 2020 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By Hector Donohue
Commander Guy Alexander Beange DSC RAN served with the Royal New Zealand Navy Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War and trained as a Fleet Air Arm pilot in the UK and the USA. He served on loan to the Royal Navy in HMS Glory before demobilising late 1945. He joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1948 as a pilot and served in HMAS Sydney during the Korean War. As a result of his service in Sydney he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1952. Thereafter Beange served in the RAN with his career closely paralleled to that of the RAN carrier program. Following a range of appointments, he retired in 1979 and died in 2004. The material for this summary of his career came from naval records and Guy Beange’s Private Collection held in the Australian War Memorial.
Guy Alexander Beange was born on 5 November 1922 at Hamilton, in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island.In October 1940, aged 18, he joined the Waikato Mounted Rifles, a Territorial Force (Army Reserve), which had its headquarters in Hamilton.
Rather than mobilising its Territorial Force at the outbreak of war, the New Zealand Government decided to raise a separate force to send overseas to fight – the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2 NZEF). The Territorial Force was kept intact within New Zealand and prepared for home defence.
Following initial training at Waiouru Training Camp, in April 1941 Beange was posted to Hopuhopu Military Camp at Ngaruawahia, some 12 miles north of Hamilton. The Camp had been established for Territorial Force training but had developed into a mobilisation camp for volunteers of the 2 NZEF.
In November 1941 it was decided that the mounted rifles regiments were to be reconstituted as armoured units. Waikato Mounted Rifles thus became the 4th Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle regiment, based at Hopuhopu Camp. With the entry of the Japanese into the war in December 1941, home-defence measures were intensified, and the Territorials were mobilised for war.
Beange left the Army in January 1942, intending to join the New Zealand Air Force, but responded to a recruiting drive by the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNZNVR) which was seeking men to train as carrier pilots for loan to the Royal Navy. While waiting for his request to be processed, he served as a seaman aboard SS Empire Grace, a fast refrigerated cargo ship operated by the British Ministry of War Transport.
Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve
The rapid increase in the number of aircraft carriers in the Royal Navy during the Second World War created a requirement for more aircrew. A series of secondment schemes greatly expanded the New Zealand presence in the Royal Navy and in 1942 New Zealand was invited to recruit personnel to serve in the Fleet Air Arm, under what was called ‘Scheme F’. Under this scheme, selected candidates would be entered as Naval Airman, 2nd class, and go to the UK for initial training. They would then be promoted to acting Leading Airman and undergo training as a pilot or observer and, on qualifying, would be granted a commission.
Some 1,066 recruits left New Zealand under this scheme, and a total of about 600 served as frontline pilots or observers. They formed a significant proportion of the Fleet Air Arm and saw action in many operations.
Beange joined the RNZNVR at HMNZS Philomel on 13 January 1943 as a Naval Airman and was sent to the UK in June. He initially joined the Royal Naval Air Station Lee-on-Solent, HMS Daedalus, one of the primary shore airfields of the Fleet Air Arm, four miles west of Portsmouth, Hampshire. He was promoted Acting Leading Airman in September and posted to HMS Saker at Lewiston, Maine USA, the Royal Navy’s administrative base for its personnel undertaking courses in the USA.
In October 1943 he was sent to Pensacola, Florida, in the United States, to begin training as a carrier pilot. Beange graduated on 20 June 1944 and was promoted to Provisional Temporary Sub Lieutenant (Acting) RNZNVR. He remained in the US for further training on the Vought F4U Corsair aircraft at Jacksonville before returning to England for advanced instrument training in March 1945. He was now a Temporary Sub Lieutenant (Acting) with seniority of 26 October 1944.
Following instrument training, he was posted to No 1831 Naval Air Squadron which joined the Colossus class Light Fleet Carrier HMS Glory in April, shortly after she commissioned. She embarked two Naval Air Squadrons: No. 837 (flying Barracuda aircraft) and No. 1831 (flying Corsair aircraft).
The Admiralty had decided that due to the threat of U-boat attack in the traditional training areas in the Irish Sea the new Colossus class Light Fleet Carriers would work-up in the Mediterranean. Glory sailed from UK waters in late May, completed work-up by late June and sailed for Sydney to join the British Pacific Fleet (BPF). The ship was off the coast of Australia when the news of the Japanese surrender was announced on 15 August 1945. Beange had arrived too late to see active service but the ship did conduct an extensive flying program on passage to Australia.
On 25 August the Australian Government requested Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, Commander in Chief BPF, to provide a major warship to accept the surrender of the Japanese forces in New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville and adjacent Islands. Glory was chosen for this operation and she sailed on 1 September. On 6 September, General Hitoshi Imamura, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Imperial South Eastern Army and Vice Admiral Jinichi Kusaka, Commander South East Area Fleet, surrendered all Japanese army and naval forces under their command to Lieutenant General Vernon Sturdee, General Officer Commanding 1st Australian Army, on the flight deck of Glory anchored off Rabaul. Beange was in the flight of Corsairs which circled overhead to provide air cover. All aboard were subsequently given a photograph of the surrender ceremony.
On her return to Australia on 11 September Glory disembarked her air squadrons to Royal Navy Air Station, Jervis Bay in New South Wales. The ship was then employed on repatriation duties, sailing from Sydney on 26 September for Manila to collect former Canadian POWs for passage home to Vancouver. In November she sailed for Manila and other ports on the return leg to Sydney, arriving back mid-December carrying former Australian POWs.
Ashore in Australia flying training continued at Jervis Bay but Beange, now a Sub Lieutenant (Acting) RNZNVR left the squadron on 13 October. His Squadron Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Robert W.M. Walsh RN gave his assessment of Beange in his flying log as ‘Above average.’ Beange returned to New Zealand on 16 October to join HMNZS Cook, a naval depot in Wellington, and was demobilised on 25 October 1945. Later he moved to Australia, living at Mount Compass, a small town in the Mount Lofty Ranges, south of Adelaide, South Australia.
Royal Australian Navy
On 3 February 1948 Beange joined the RAN in Adelaide as a Lieutenant (Pilot) (Acting on Probation) in the Permanent Naval Force with seniority of 5 May 1945. He was posted to the Training Establishment HMAS Cerberus at Flinders Naval Depot for introductory courses and joined HMAS Warramunga in July for seaman officer training when he ceased being ‘on probation’. He was awarded his Watchkeeping Certificate in February 1949 and confirmed in the rank of Lieutenant. His Commanding Officer, Captain W.H. Harrington DSO RAN, wrote in his officer’s report ‘…a reliable young officer who can be trusted to take charge.’
In May 1949 he went to the UK for flying courses, initially joining Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, HMS Heron, in Somerset, which included carrier experience in HMS Illustrious. He was trained to fly Sea Fury aircraft at Royal Naval Air Station Anthorn, HMS Nuthatch, in Cumbria, North West England before undertaking a Naval Air Warfare course at Royal Naval Air Station St Merryn, HMS Vulture, in Cornwall. In mid-April 1950 he joined the RAN’s 808 Squadron on its formation at Vulture.
The second Australian carrier air group (21st Carrier Air Group) comprising 808 (Hawker Sea Fury) and 817 (Fairey Firefly) Squadrons commissioned at Vulture on 25 April 1950. The Sea Fury was a single seater, high performance piston engine fighter aircraft. It had a top speed of around 390 knots and a radius of action of about 350 nautical miles at 250 knots. The Firefly was a slow, two-seater reconnaissance, strike and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. It had a top speed of around 300 knots and a radius of action of about 300 nautical miles at 200 knots.
This Air Group had been intended for Australia’s second carrier, to be named HMAS Melbourne, but her delivery to the RAN had been delayed. Consequently, HMAS Sydney (Australia’s first carrier) returned to the UK and embarked the 21st Carrier Air Group in October, arriving back in Australia in November 1950.
In May 1951 the Australian Government announced that Sydney would relieve the Royal Navy’s Glory in the Korean Warfor a period of about three months from October 1951. By then the war on the ground had reached a stalemate, with both sides gridlocked roughly around the 38th Parallel. Sydney was given about three months to work up the Air Group and arrive in theatre. Sydney’s Air Group of two Sea Fury Squadrons (805 and 808) comprising 24 aircraft and one FireflySquadron (817) comprising 14 aircraft, were embarked and she commenced work up.
In addition to Sydney, the RAN deployed a further eight ships as part of the British Commonwealth naval contribution to the Korean War. These comprised the destroyers HMA Ships Bataan, Warramunga, Anzac and Tobruk, and the River class frigates HMA Ships Murchison, Shoalhaven, Condamine and Culgoa.
Sydney commenced operations in Korea on 5 October 1951 under the command of Captain D.H. Harries RAN. On 11 October, during operations against troop concentrations and suspected store dumps on the east coast, she flew a record 89 sorties, an effort bringing praise from American and British authorities. On 25 and 26 October three aircraft were lost, the last involving a dangerous pickup of shot-down aircrew by the ship’s helicopter. Enemy infantry attempting to capture the aircrew were suppressed by fire from other Sydney-based aircraft.
Normal daily operations aimed at 54 sorties, this however was often difficult to achieve on an axial deck carrier requiring a constant movement of aircraft around the deck, often in foul weather and especially as a freezing winter set in. The principal role of the Air Group was to disrupt the enemy’s supply chain by attacking all means of transport, but other tasks such as close army support, naval gunfire spotting, targeting guerrillas, anti-shipping strikes and armed reconnaissance were not infrequent. Aerial photography was mainly undertaken by Sea Furies, using fixed vertical and oblique cameras. This helped in both the selection of targets and for subsequent damage assessment. There was also a daily reconnaissance flight known as the ‘Milk Run’ which consisted of a flight of aircraft flying low along the coast scouring the beaches, inlets and islands for signs of enemy junks which were the main form of enemy transportation.
On 14 October, Typhoon Ruth caused damage to the carrier and the loss of aircraft. Sydney sailed from Sasebo Harbour in order to minimise possible damage from the typhoon. One of the eighteen aircraft stored on deck was lost overboard, with major damage occurring to several others, including Guy Beange’s aircraft. Two full days were required to repair all the damage which was repairable within the capacity of the ship, with three days elapsing before she was returned to full operational readiness.
While no match for Chinese jets, Sydney‘s piston engine aircraft were invaluable for ground attack duties. Normally the Fireflies carried bombs and the Sea Furies rockets. Both aircraft mounted four 20 mm cannon. Targets attacked included troops, gun positions and transport infrastructure. Sydney‘s aircraft were credited with causing 3,000 communist casualties as well as the destruction of 66 bridges, seven tunnels, 38 railway sections, seven sidings, five water towers, three locomotives, 59 wagons, 2,060 houses, 495 junks and sampans and 15 guns. They also carried out target spotting and reconnaissance, for which the two-seat Firefly was particularly well suited, as well as combat air and anti-submarine patrols around the carrier and her escorts. Enemy anti-aircraft fire was the main danger. Sydney had 99 aircraft hit and nine were shot down. Casualties were: three aircrew killed and six wounded.
After seven intense nine-day operational periods, Sydney departed for Australia on 29 January 1952. For his ‘distinguished and devoted service aboard HMAS Sydney in Korean waters’ Beange was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 28 October 1952, one of only three RAN pilots to receive the award in this war. His Squadron Commander, Lieutenant Commander J L Appleby, RN, described him as ‘…an excellent operational pilot.’
Beange remained in 808 Squadron after Sydney returned from Korea, rotating between the carrier and HMAS Albatross, the RAN Naval Air Station Nowra, around 100 miles south of Sydney. In December 1952 he was appointed as senior pilot to 805 Squadron, stationed in Albatross.
In May 1953 he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and was appointed in command of 808 Squadron which in September embarked in HMAS Vengeance, a Colossus class carrier on loan from the Royal Navy and commissioned into the RAN in the UK in November 1952, arriving in Sydney in March 1953. Between February and April 1954, Vengeancewas one of several Australian warships tasked with royal escort duty during the first visit to Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. She escorted SS Gothic, with the Royal party embarked, to the Cocos Islands in company with Anzac and Bataan, handing over escort duties to HM Ships Colombo and Newfoundland in April 1954. On leaving Vengeance, his Commanding Officer, Captain O.H. Becher DSO DSC* RAN, wrote in his officer’s report ‘…an officer of promise whose leadership is worthy of praise. I am sorry to lose him.’
Beange was posted to Navy Office in July on the staff of the Director of Naval Air Warfare Organisation and Training. He spent two years in the Fleet Air Arm’s policy Directorate before joining HMAS Junee in command in October 1956. He was reported by the Director, Captain V.A.T. Smith (later Admiral) as ‘…an officer who provides a great practical knowledge of all aspects of naval aviation. Shows good initiative and produces excellent results.’
Command of Junee
Named after the town of Junee in the Riverina region of New South Wales, Junee was one of sixty Australian minesweepers (commonly known as corvettes) built during World War II. She was decommissioned in 1946 but recommissioned as a training ship in Melbourne on February 1953.
She operated in eastern Australian waters until August 1953, when she sailed from Melbourne for Fremantle. She was subsequently engaged mainly on training duties in western and north western Australian waters until 1957. The main function of these ships was to give sea training to national servicemen and to officers and men of the RAN Reserve. The ships were manned with sufficient permanent personnel in all departments to maintain the ships and to provide the necessary instruction and supervision as required of the national servicemen and the reserves. Beange remained in command until August 1957, when Junee was decommissioned and sold.
Return to Flying
Beange returned to flying duties, undertaking a number of courses including jet refresher and night fighter courses at Albatross, before taking command of 805 Squadron on 17 March 1958. 805 (Sea Fury) Squadron was decommissioned at Albatross on 26 March 1958 and recommissioned just one week later on 31 March, now equipped with de Havilland Sea Venom all weather jet fighters. The squadron embarked in Melbourne in October. The carrier had commissioned in the UK in October 1955 and arrived in Sydney in May 1956. Melbourne maintained a regular program of exercises, training and maintenance over the next few years, including annual deployments to the Asia-Pacific region.
At the end of January 1959 Melbourne returned to her namesake city for the unique experience of filming scenes for the movie On the Beach. She once again departed for her South East Asian deployment from Fremantle, with a fleet of warships. On return to Australia at the end of June, 805 Squadron disembarked to Albatross. On leaving the Naval Air Station in July, his Commanding Officer, Captain V.A.T. Smith wrote ‘…a thoroughly dependable and loyal officer with marked initiative and drive.’
In August Beange was posted to the UK for the Royal Navy Staff Course at Greenwich, London. He was promoted to Commander on 31 December 1959 and on completion of the staff course in March 1960 was posted to Melbourne as Commander (Air) and Fleet Aviation Officer. Melbourne continued a busy program, taking part in the convoy defence exercise PASAD in the Tasman Sea in March 1960 before departing for the annual South East Asian deployment from Darwin in April. She participated in Exercise SEALION which was the largest SEATO exercise to date involving more than 60 ships from Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, France, India, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan.
Melbourne’s South East Asian deployment began slightly earlier in 1961, as the ship departed from Fremantle on 20 February in order to participate in Exercise JET 61 in the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka. This was the eleventh JET exercise, the third to include Australia, and involved some 41 naval units from six countries. Melbourne then took part in the year’s SEATO exercise PONY EXPRESS before returning home in June.
After a busy two years in Melbourne, Beange was selected for diplomatic duty as Australian Service Attaché, Manila, joining in November 1961 and serving in that post until April 1964. On return to Australia he was posted to HMAS Leeuwin at Fremantle, WA, as Executive Officer. Leeuwin was the Junior Recruit Training Establishment where young men of 15 to 16 years would undergo a year of secondary education together with basic naval training before being sent to other establishments for specialist naval training.
In July 1965 he was appointed as Commanding Officer HMAS Waterhen in Sydney and as Commander Mine Countermeasures on the staff of the Fleet Commander. Waterhen was the parent establishment for Australia’s Mine Countermeasures Force, Clearance Diving Team One and a variety of Support Craft and is located in Waverton on Sydney’s lower north shore.
In June 1966 he was appointed to the Flag Officer-in-Charge East Australia Area (FOICEA) staff as the Command Aviation officer, responsible for policy matters relating to the squadrons at the RAN Naval Air Station Nowra. In August 1968 he was moved to HMAS Lonsdale, in Melbourne, Victoria, as Commanding Officer of the depot and as Deputy Naval Officer in Charge, Victoria. In March 1971 he returned as Command Aviation Officer to the retitled Flag Officer Commanding East Australia. He moved to the Retired List in 1973 but returned as a Reserve List Officer in 1977 and spent two years within the Defence Headquarters before finally retiring from the navy in 1979.
Guy Beange had a distinguished and eventful career encompassing all appointments a Fleet Air Arm pilot could aspire to. He was in the vanguard of naval aviation in Australia, embarking in Sydney in 1950 just one year after she became operational in the RAN. He remained aboard Sydney during the Korean War 1951-52, becoming one of three RAN pilots to be awarded the DSC. He served as a Squadron Commander aboard Vengeance in 1953 shortly after she joined the RAN and again was Squadron Commander for the first jet fighters aboard Melbourne in 1958, some two years after she arrived in Australia. He served as Commander (Air) and Fleet Aviation Officer in Melbourne as well as Command Aviation Officer with the Flag Officer-in-Charge East Australia Area. He was held in high regard in aviation circles and contributed to the excellent naval air skills honed in the RAN’s three aircraft carriers. All New Zealanders living in Australia who are successful are regarded as true Australians – Guy was one of those!