- Wrigley, Ian (Peter)
- Battles and operations, Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Australia II
- September 2012 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Amongst those mortally wounded were the Commanding Officer, Captain Emile Dechaineux, RAN and the Navigating Officer, Acting Commander John Rayment, DSC, RAN. The Commanding Officer of the Australian Squadron, Commodore John Collins, CB, RAN, who was flying his broad pennant in Australia, was also wounded and later hospitalised ashore. Command of the Squadron then passed to the next senior officer Captain Godfrey Nichols, MVO, RN the Commanding Officer of HMAS Shropshire. Following this action Australia and Honolulu under the escort of Warramunga were ordered to proceed to Manus Island. With emergency repairs completed Australia returned to the fray and once more continued her part in the successful Philippines campaign. Damage to Honolulu was of such an extent that she continued to the US mainland for extensive repairs but her war was over.
Was it a Kamikaze?
There has been some controversy whether Australia was the first Allied warship hit by a kamikaze aircraft. At the time she was thought to have been deliberately struck by a ‘Val’ Japanese Navy dive bomber. However later research indicates the most likely attacking aircraft were from a squadron of six Japanese Army light bombers known as ‘Sonia’. These aircraft are of similar size and superficially similar in appearance to the ‘Val’. The attacking squadron took off from Mindoro Island about 275 miles northwest of the invasion site. After carrying out their attack two aircraft were known to have been hit by anti-aircraft fire and three planes failed to return. While records provide conflicting evidence it appears that the type of attack conducted on Australia was characteristic of a glide bombing attack known to the Japanese Army rather than Navy style high angle dive bombing.
Kamikaze aircraft were purpose built or converted for planned one time/one way operation without the ability to deliver bombs or torpedos. This does not appear the case with the aircraft that struck Australia which was possibly an individual suicide decision taken on the pilot’s own initiative to inflict maximum damage on an enemy. Again Japanese records make no mention of kamikaze attacks ordered at this time. The official record may possibly be in error when claiming Australia was the first Allied ship hit by a kamikaze.
On demobilisation in 1946 Ian Wrigley reverted to the RANR but this was not to be the end of his service. Ian was a notable sportsman especially at rugby, rifle shooting and sailing. His discharge was held back while he competed in the 1946 tri-service rugby competition which was the first ever Australian Rugby Premiership won by the RAN. As a champion shot he twice won the inter-service rifle competition with a trophy presented by Lieutenant General Sir Eric Woodward, KCMG, KCVO, CB, CBE, DSO the Governor designate of New South Wales. A short while later Ian was invited to become the Governor’s honorary naval ADC a position he held during the Governor’s six years of office. In 1956 Ian represented Australia at the Men’s Free Rifle Shooting competition in the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games. Two years later in 1958 he was again representing his country at the World Championship rifle shooting competition held at Moscow. In 1967 Ian crewed in ‘Dame Pattie’ the Australian challenge at Rhode Island for the America’s Cup. After retirement from the RANR Ian studied accountancy and later became a managing director and a director of a number of well known companies and organisations. As a volunteer Ian continues to help the Naval Historical Society as a valuable research assistant.