- Richardson, G
- WWII operations, Ship histories and stories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Bendigo I, HMAS Vendetta I, HMAS Whyalla I, HMAS Yarra II, HMAS Burnie, HMAS Perth I, HMAS Hobart I, HMAS Cessnock I, HMAS Wollongong I, HMAS Toowoomba I, HMAS Ballarat I, HMAS Taroona, HMAS Bingera, HMAS Adelaide I, HMAS Colac, HMAS Goulburn, HMAS Maryborough
- March 1975 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
12.1.42. Anchored in Naval Base. Air raid lasted five hours, 125 planes (Navy 96s) took part, and 10 were shot down. Heavy tropic rain saved the incoming convoy.
14.1.42. Weighed and proceeded to sea. At about 1230 intercepted two Chinese junks, said to have been sketching gun emplacements. Put a boarding party on board, but found no evidence. One junk got away and was chased by the Scorpion (gunboat). Singapore is lousy with fifth column. Some of these Chinks and Malays would sell their grandmother for sixpence!
16.1.42. Closed up at the gun during a raid, and saw a Dutch ship drift on to a minefield in Rio Straits. Sank in two minutes as we watched. 72 were lost, but Maryborough stood by and picked up 37 survivors.
17.1.42. Returned to Base 1630, twentyseven Navy 96s had been playing games.
18.1.42. Alert at 10.30. Same old time, same number of planes. They hit our oil tanks today and made a splendid blaze. Thank the Lord we get rum issued. The drome is only a mile away, and the explosions can be felt as well as heard and seen.
1.2.42. Still in Keppel. Several alerts today but no planes sighted. Bombs dropped in the middle of the island and large fires burning in the direction of the former Naval Base. (We got some grand loot from that joint.) Hobart arrived with convoy. We start camouflaging after much discussion.
2.2.42. Maryborough left early today leaving Bendigo, Ballarat, Wollongong and Toowoomba. Heard that Burnie and Goulburn are in Batavia, lucky dogs. Vendetta was towed away with British destroyer Stronghold as escort. Eighteen bombers came over and straddled us nicely, blowing painting party out of the whaler and scoring the ship with shrapnel. Nobody hurt, only our feelings and two ounces of good tobacco in my hip pocket ruined by seawater. Tenedos thought we had gone and sent away a boat for survivors, but we saw ’em off. The day of miracles is not yet past, and if they get any closer than that I won’t play. Fires started on the wharves and a raft was sunk. Hobart put up a good barrage. The whole sky is covered with an immense pall of black smoke and the ex- Naval Base is copping hell. Hobart and Tenedos left at 1600. One raid during the night. Sleep is a thing of the past now.
3.2.42. Ballarat and Toowoomba pulled out today leaving only two of us to ‘hold the baby’. Docks heavily bombed and the raid lasted for two hours. Smell from the wharves is terrible owing to decomposition of the bodies under debris. First aircraft sighted were seven fighters, probably ME109s and shortly after three ME110s. No bombs dropped. Soon eight big bombers appeared from Johore and dropped eggs on the docks starting fires. One was hit and smoke poured from his tail as he lost height. Attention was abruptly shifted from him by the appearance of a large formation coming in three waves from the south. We all sneaked into corners and held our breath. They blasted the docks again and merely spread the fires. Then along came a further 21 bombers and had a go at the shipping. What a day! They tell us the dromes on the island are useless and our planes are using dromes from Sumatra and surrounding islands. This is going to be another Crete.
4.2.42. Usual 27 aircraft came over and Malay gun crew on the ship near us were badly hurt. That stuff cuts you to pieces. Another 18 came over and played merry hell over the city. There’s a tanker blazing over near Johore, looks as though divebombers have been at work. Naval Base is no more. The oiler Rulhinia has been sunk under the big crane to prevent Nippon using it in the event of the island falling. Rulhinia is a ship captured from the Germans in the last war and the crane is the largest south of Suez. The big floating dock was sunk as we left the Base. An attack is expected on Banka Island, this is our last avenue of escape and if it falls our number is up.
5.2.42. First raid was 0515, nice and early. Heard our planes roaring over on their way to bomb Kuala Lumpur. Same old time, 10.40 along comes 26 Japs and blasted Kalang drome. Saw enemy divebombers attacking a convoy on the western side. We pulled out with Wollongong at full speed to give aid to blazing Empress of Asia. Passed eight transports all over 15,000 tons and all had flags at half mast showing that deaths had occurred from the attack. Empress of Asia was well ablaze when we got there and sloops Yarra and Jumna (Indian) were standing by for survivors. We picked up about seventy survivors, mostly badly burned and torn. These men are best equipped ever to leave England, tommy-guns and Brens, but I reckon they’ve arrived a little too late. Most of the lads have been through Greece, Crete and Dunkirk, and the convoy has Hurricanes, which ought to give Nippon a headache if we can get ’em off the ground.
Two of the lads died on our mess tables on the way back, and no amount of scrubbing will remove the bloodstains, but we ain’t flash!
6.2.42. Usual raids in the forenoon and shipping bombed again. Japs have a good foothold on the island now and I think we can wipe our sword. 1800 went to sea to act as convoy light ship.
7.2.42. Proceeded to an uninhabited island to pick up survivors of freighter British Airmen, but couldn’t find ’em. Fell in with two small minesweepers which we have to escort to Sumatra. The end is near for Singapore, boat loads of evacuees are leaving today. Mostly natives.
8.2.42. Playing hide and seek with Nippon, anchored close inshore to avoid 18 bombers which flew over without annoying us. Proceeding during night.
9.2.42. At sea, no planes sighted.
10.2.42. Sailed about 60 miles up river to Palembang, which is one of the richest oil bearing places in the world. Ballarat and Toowoomba were anchored in the harbour and had been here for six or seven days missing all the fun.
11.2.42. Weighed and went alongside to oil, slipped at 1030 and proceeded to sea with Wollongong and Ballarat and Toowoomba, escorting several ships to Banka (Bomb Alley) Straits.
12.2.42. At sea and bound for Batavia. Our convoy has increased to 24 ships, we’re picking ’em up on the way. The route is covered with semi-sunken ships, all victims of bombing attacks. Sneaked through Banka Straits at night, nothing sighted.
13.2.42. Still going strong, got quite a few tankers in the convoy. Eight large bombers circled round and then dropped eggs round the leading ship. Couldn’t hit the side of a barn! Enemy subs reported in the vicinity. 2000 went to action stations owing to presence of two unidentified destroyers, stopped Bendigo and darned near rammed by a large merchant packet astern. Panics on the bridge.
14.2.42. Convoy arrived in Batavia Roads. I’ve never seen so many ships in my life, there’s hundreds of ’em.
15.2.42. At anchor in the Roads.
16.2.42. Four enemy planes flew over at 0700 as we were being paid, no bombs dropped. We hear that Singapore has fallen; well, I could see it coming from the start of the campaign. Banka Island and Palembang were invaded a few short hours after we left. The latter was attacked by paratroops. Only hope we can keep one jump ahead of Nippon. These little ships are veritable deathtraps, haven’t a hope against any surface craft.
17.2.42. At Batavia. Palembang has definitely fallen. Banka Straits were in enemy hands 6 hours after we cleared southern entrance. One of our boys, Danny Ingram, has gone down on HMS Scorpion between here and Singapore. She was only a river gunboat and had no chance against enemy cruisers. Our luck is holding well.
18.2.42. At Batavia. Alert during forenoon, but no aircraft spotted, probably raided New Batavia. Shifted berth to outside minefields to act as A/S screen for convoy. Toowoomba sailed, leaving Bendigo, Ballarat, Maryborough and Wollongong.
19.2.42. Still here. Two alerts in forenoon. Dorniers and Catalinas are on the move day and night keeping us informed on enemy movements. Burnie arrived, but Goulburn is believed in south of Java. Convoy sailed with Danae and Dragon as escorts.
20.2.42. Still at anchor. Two alerts, and large force of bombers passed overhead hidden by clouds. Maryborough sailed. Another convoy left with Exeter as escort. They’re clearing all the ships out of here, and methinks this place will fall easily. Everybody is more concerned in saving their filthy skins than fighting.