- William F. Cook, MVO, Captain, RAN (Rtd)
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Nizam
- December 1994 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
HMS CALLIOPE, the third ship of that name in the Royal Navy, was a third class cruiser of 2,770 tons, launched in 1884 at Portsmouth. She became famous as the only survivor of seven men-of-war (six of them belonging to other nations), lying in the harbour of APIA BAY, SAMOA, when a terrific hurricane (sic) struck on 15 March 1889. Her Captain, Henry Coey Kane, fought his way out into the open ocean and saved his ship. The other six men-of-war were blown ashore and wrecked. (The remains of their boilers were still visible when HMAS AUSTRALIA visited Apia in March 1935 – WEC). Captain Kane ascribed his escape to the admirable order in which “Calliope’s” engines had been maintained. A special medal was struck by the Admiralty to commemorate the fine seamanship which made possible the survival of the ship in such tempestuous conditions, and one was issued to every officer and member of the ships company. The expected wrangle over which nation was to annex Western Samoa was averted in favour of Great Britain, there being no other foreign warships left to dispute her claims! After a mixed and interesting career, “Calliope” was finally sold for breaking up in 1951.
On 12 September, 1945, HMAS NIZAM, a fleet destroyer of the 7th Destroyer Flotilla, sailed from TOKYO BAY, where she had been since 30 August, in company with HMNZS GAMBIA, for detached duty with units of the US 5th Fleet at WAKAYAMA, some 300 miles to the south. It was expected that allied Prisoners of War from inland Japan – including Australian and New Zealand servicemen – were to be transported by rail to WAKAYAMA and the two Dominion ships were chosen to provide welcoming parties for their countrymen.
It was our first night at sea in peacetime since 2 September, 1939, and the pipe “Place oil bow and steaming lights” puzzled all but the oldest hands onboard.
The two ships were met off the entrance to WAKANOURA WAN by an American Destroyer Escort (DE) who led us into harbour via a safe channel with had only recently been swept.
The huge USN hospital ship CONSOLATION appeared to be taking up NIZAM’s anchorage as well as her own, and when we anchored we seemed in very close proximity to her. Our officers invited several USN doctors and nurses to the Wardroom after dinner and we had a very pleasant evening.
The weather deteriorated on 14 September – windy and raining – but NIZAM sent a group of officers and chief petty officers ashore to meet the returning POWs. To the delight of both parties, survivors from HMAS PERTH were amongst the Australians. When it was realised that there were many more Australians than had been expected, NIZAM’s reception party was greatly increased.
I went ashore to greet my old shipmates from PERTH with whom I had commissioned that ship in Portsmouth in July, 1939. Next day, they came off to NIZAM to attend their first shipboard Sunday Divisions and Prayers for more than three-and-a-half years. A very moving occasion. The USN organisation for the reception of the Released Allied Military Personnel (RAMP) was excellent.
Warnings of an approaching typhoon were received on Sunday, 16 September. The Captain of GAMBIA and his meteorological officer kindly came over to NIZAM and briefed me with all the information they had. They predicted that there was a chance of the typhoon recurving and passing over WAKAYAMA. Observing that we were in a reasonably safe anchorage and that access to the open sea was restricted, the Captain of GAMBIA advised that NIZAM stay at anchor in harbour. Even at that stage, with the centre of the typhoon some 800 miles away, a light swell was evident.
The weather became threatening next day, 17 September. The wind increased markedly at about 1600, and I ordered immediate notice for steam on both boilers (capable of developing 40,000 horsepower), and set an anchor watch, i.e. parties closed up on the forecastle and in the wheelhouse, with the Officer of the Watch on the bridge (and the Captain in his sea cabin!). The ship was yawing at her anchor but I decided not to drop the other anchor underfoot because of the difficulties of recovering both anchors in an emergency with only the one capstan available. She lay with six shackles out in eleven fathoms. By 2200 the wind had increased above gale force. Recordings taken in USS FLOYDS BAY recorded an average force of wind between 2100 and 2200 as 50 knots with gusts to 65 knots. During the height of the typhoon she recorded an average of 65 knots with gusts of up to 85 knots. (About 140 mph).