- 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)
At 2230 NIZAM began to drag. The wind and rain had reduced visibility to less than 200 yards and when one showed one’s head over the front of the open bridge, the rain and spray, driven almost horizontally, made it impossible to keep one’s eyes open for more than a second or two. It was obvious we were dragging because CONSOLATION, with all her upper deck lights on, appeared through the murk as though she was steaming away from us up to windward! Dragging was confirmed by leadsmen closed up on the forecastle and quarterdeck, although it was hard to pass orders and receive reports from them because of the screaming of the wind. On the forecastle, the Gunner’s plastic raincoat was literally torn from his back, leaving only the neck and the reinforced front with its buttons – which gave little protection!
Protected as the harbour was, the wind whipped up a short steep sea which on more than one occasion swept the forecastle. The largest roll recorded in the engine room during the night was thirty degrees! (Report of Proceedings, HMAS NIZAM for month of September, 1945). Several small USN vessels – mostly minesweepers – of which there must have been 30 or 40 in the harbour, had weighed anchor after dragging and were steaming at slow speed round USS CONSOLATION. With her bright lights, she was a guiding beacon and certainly lived up to her name. Rather like moths circling round a candle, I thought.
Even at very close range, the big ship’s outline was not visible at times and when she did come into view, through the stinging rain, it was an awesome sight to see her yawing through about sixty degrees, heeled over by the force of the typhoon. With “some hundred fathom of chain out” as the Americans reported later, she dragged a couple of cables during the night.
As for NIZAM, when her dragging was obvious to me, we weighed anchor and after turning the ship, I endeavoured to find an anchorage further up to windward where I hoped for some shelter under the lee of the southern shore of the bay. But as soon as we stopped and dropped anchor, we were swung broadside to the wind and there was no chance of the anchor holding. There was also less than swinging room between us and the many small craft seeking the same shelter. We blew down wind seeming to miss numerous small craft by inches and I tried a further time to anchor. Again it was impossible to hold the ship in such a wind. By this time I was on a lee shore and reports from leadsmen were not encouraging. I decided to weigh anchor and get out to sea – or at least out of the small harbour and away from the dozens of small craft milling round me.
I gave the order to weigh but nothing seemed to be happening on the forecastle except the occasional shudder and groan from the capstan: Finally I got the message that the capstan had jammed. No inkling of how much cable was out or whether the anchor was aweigh or not. And one could not blame the forecastle party – how they could see anything at that stage was a miracle. I decided that desperate measures were called for if we were not to end up on the beach. I passed the order to “clear the forecastle”, determined to go ahead and part the cable if necessary. To turn the ship into the wind on this occasion, I had to order “Slow Ahead” on the weather engine and “Half Ahead – 180 revolutions (20 knots)” on the lee. She responded splendidly – perhaps the engine room crew had sensed the urgency – and with less water under her keel than I chose to know about, we dodged the swarming small craft and steamed out of WAKANOURA WAN into the more open waters of the KII SUIDO. (The northern entrance to the Inland Sea).
GAMBIA and some larger units of the US Fifth Fleet, still at anchor (I hoped!), came into view and I spent the rest of the night steaming up and down the line of the big ships, emulating the small craft circling CONSOLATION. GAMBIA told me later that she, too, had dragged, but not dangerously.