- Mesley, Rear Admiral J.S., CBE, MVO, DSC
- Biographies and personal histories, Ship histories and stories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Swan II
- September 1987 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The majority of the Swan’s Wardroom officers developed a liking for New Zealand Stilton cheese but the First Lieutenant and president of the mess did not share this liking. The problem was solved by hoisting the cheese to the main masthead and lowering it only after the First Lieutenant had finished his lunch and left the Wardroom.
The Squadron departed Auckland on 21st April and carried out exercises with ships of the New Zealand Division. Unfavourable weather reports caused the Squadron, less the flagship, to anchor in Haukaki Gulf on 22nd April for some twelve hours before proceeding in company. HMA Ships Canberra, Australia and Sydney proceeded to Jervis Bay and the destroyer flotilla and Swan to Sydney. Swan arrived in Sydney on 27th April and having fuelled and taken in stores, sailed the following day with a battle practice target in tow for Jervis Bay and an intensive exercise programme during which Swan towed the BPT for all ship’s firings. On completion of the exercise programme, the ships returned to Sydney, Swan with BPT in tow, arriving on 7th May. Long leave was then taken by all ships.
Leaving Sydney independently on 15th July 1937, Swan proceeded to Rossel Island, the easternmost island of the Louisiade Archipelago arriving on 21st and departing on 23rd July. It was noted that navigation inside the vast Rossel lagoon would not be possible except under excellent conditions of visibility with the sun high and abaft the beam, when the numerous reefs are visible. During the passage out of the lagoon, Swan was forced to anchor for an hour until visibility improved. Woodlark Island was the next stop and the ship anchored in Suloga Harbour on 24th and left the following day for Gawa Island, arriving the same afternoon. It was reported by Swan that the charted positions of the islands in the area was incorrect by between two and three miles and the true positions were to the northwest of those charted.
The ship left Gawa Island on 28th and arrived in Rabaul on 30th to find the harbour almost completely covered with pieces of pumice stone from the recent volcanic eruptions, which had resulted in some four hundred natives being killed and the formation of a new volcano ‘Vulcan’ in the south western portion of the harbour. The pumice was so thick in parts that boat work was very difficult. The Captain called officially on the Administrator of the Territory of New Guinea, His Honour Brigadier General W.R. McNicoll, CB, CMG, DSO who returned the call in person and a salute of fifteen guns was fired when he left the ship. On 2nd August, HMAS Australia arrived flying the flag of the Governor- General, Lord Gowrie, and a nineteen gun salute was fired by SWAN. At noon on 4th August, Australia and Swan fired a Royal Salute to mark the Queen’s birthday. Later the same day the Governor-General and his party joined Swan and the ship, flying the G.G.’s flag, departed Rabaul for a six-day island cruise. The passengers were His Excellency and Lady Gowrie, The Earl of Ranfurly (ADC), His Honour the Administrator, Mr. James Brack of the Prime Minister’s Department, two press representatives (one being David McNicoll) a valet and a maid. Cabin and wardroom accommodation was strained to the limit and several officers had to sleep on the wardroom deck.
The ship moored in Kavieng Harbour on 5th August and Their Excellencies and party landed. His Excellency was received by a guard of honour of native police and a gathering of some 180 paramount chiefs, sulveis (chiefs) and tuhl-tuhls (under chiefs). His Excellency delivered a message from His Majesty The King and the translation into pidgin English caused great interest. Leaving Kavieng on 6th, the ship arrived in Peterhaven (Vitu Island) early on 7th, and the Vice-Regal party was received on landing by the five white inhabitants, who had no knowledge of the intended visit. At the suggestion of the locals and His Excellency’s request, the ship proceeded to Johan Albrecht Haven, close by (where the German ship Komet hid and provisioned in 1914) and steamed around the spectacular cliff-bound submerged crater before returning to Peterhaven to land the local inhabitants and then proceeded to Alexis Haven.