- Steele, Jock
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Westralia I
- March 1989 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Requisitioning and Commissioning
- HMAS Westralia was requisitioned and commissioned by the Commonwealth on 17th January, 1940 as an Armed Merchant Cruiser.
- Armament: 7 6-inch guns.
- Speed: 16 knots.
- Service: Eastern Australian waters during February-March.
April – May 1940
- Relieved HMAS Manoora, Darwin, 7th April 1940 serving with ‘Malaya Force’.
- Intercepted Norwegian steamer Fernlane (4,310 tons), 12th April and sent to Singapore under armed guard.
- Proceeded Fremantle — arrived 28th May to become part of Western Force.
Crisis in Britain
- 8-inch gun Cruisers Australia and Canberra were offered to the Admiralty.
- This left Cruisers Perth and Adelaide, Armed Merchant Cruisers Westralia and Manoora, and Sloops Swan, Yarra, and Parramatta for service in Australian waters.
- Italy joined Axis 10th June 1940.
- Westralia departed Fremantle for Colombo for service under Commander-in-Chief, East Indies.
December 1940 – January 1941
- German surface raiders sank a number of ships off Nauru Island. Naval Board proposed that Westralia should return to Australia.
- Westralia reached Fremantle on 3rd January 1941.
- Canberra and Westralia included in hunting group for German Raider ‘Atlantis’ — unsuccessful.
Early months 1941
- Westralia and other ships of R.A.N. and N.Z. units maintained continuous patrols in the Nauru-Ocean Island area.
- Westralia with merchant vessels Skagerak, Vito and Kenilworth evacuated women and children from Nauru and Ocean Island reaching Australia without incident.
7 December 1941
- ‘Sparrow Force’ embarked Zealandia arrived Koepang on the 12th, escorted by Westralia (70 Officers — 1,330 men).
During next twelve months Westralia served Australian waters escorting Troop Transports rendezvousing with American Destroyers protecting U.S. Troops en-route Australia.
9 March 1942
- Departed Melbourne escorting U.S. Transport John Ericson to Noumea, arrived 15th.
- Sailed with two companies 182nd U.S. Regiment and Platoon Engineers of American Division to Efate Island in New Hebrides, arriving Vila on 18th March, departed same day for Suva.
- Returned Townsville carrying Service Personnel and equipment.
8 April 1942
- Left Brisbane escorting two U.S. Transports in company with U.S. Destroyer Whipple for Townsville.
- Returned to Sydney on 14th.
31 May / 1 June 1942
- In Sydney Harbour during Japanese midget submarine raid night 31st May-June 1st.
4 July 1942
- Sailed for Fremantle with Manoora, Transport Duntroon and Dutch Cruiser Tromp. Arrived 14th.
30 July 1942
- Left Fremantle with U.S.S. Phoenix and Manoora escorting Sydney-bound portion of 6th Australian Division ex-Ceylon. Arrived 6th August.
- Departed Sydney 1st September 1942, reached Newcastle on 3rd. Remained at Port Stephens until 13th and returned to Sydney.
January – June 1943
During the first half of 1943 Westralia remained at Garden Island undergoing conversion to a Landing Ship — Infantry (L.S.I.). Remained at Port Stephens during latter half of year, hundreds of Officers and Seamen underwent instruction at Amphibious Training School, HMAS Assault. Westralia used as base accommodation for Assault personnel.
On completion of conversion Westralia in company with Manoora exercised in combined Ops. with 127th U.S. Infantry Regiment and, with arrival of 2nd Australian Landing Ship Detachment, Royal Australian Engineers. July, complement of vessel complete. Crew became extremely proficient in operation required.
26 July 1943
- Effected a rendezvous with Manoora and U.S. Destroyer Drayton, off Port Stephens and proceeded to Cairns arriving 30th.
1 August 1943
- Ship’s company = 48 Officers and 999 O.R’s.
- 2/24th Australian Infantry Battalion — 9th Australian Division embarked for Milne Bay.
- Landed with ship’s landing craft during heavy rain.
- Similar Operations took place during next few months.
- Westralia had distinction of being the first Australian ship actively engaged in amphibious operations, when at dawn, 15th December, surrounded by large screen of destroyers she landed approx. 500 American troops at Arawe, New Britain, during operation ‘Dexterity’.
- Next four months transported troops to forward areas. Disembarked 1,150 U.S. Marines at Cape Gloucester, north-west tip of New Britain.
28 February 1944
- Attacked by Japanese dive bomber. Bomb fell 25 feet from port side.
- Member of Oerlikon gun crew wounded in the right shoulder, superficial damage ships plates.
- 1,200 men comprising combat teams U.S. 162nd and 186th U.S. Regiments embarked at Cape Cretin for Humboldt Bay to take part in ‘Hollandia’ Operations.
0600 — 22 April 1944
- After spectacular and effective naval bombardment, bombing and rocket strafing of landing beaches by carrier aircraft, initial waves assault troops left Westralia in landing craft.
- Ship departed area 1400 for Milne Bay.
- Two weeks later, in Sydney for refit. Twenty-one days leave for Ship’s Company.
- Departed Sydney early July for Milne Bay via Townsville. Next three months spent training U.S. Troops amphibious warfare.
- Visited Bougainville.
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