- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Australia II
- September 1981 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In October 1945, the buzz got round that we would be sailing for home before Christmas.
Captain D.H. Harries, RAN, became commanding officer of Australia in November 1945, being the RAN’s junior captain with only four months seniority at the time. In November 1945, the Captain’s Seniority List consisted of:
|Name||Seniority as a Captain||Remarks|
|Acting Rear Admiral G.D. Moore, CBE||31.12.35||Flag Officer-in-charge Sydney|
|Comm. 1st Class H.B. Farncomb,CB, DSO, MVO||31.6.37||Comm. Supt. of Training, FND|
|Comm. 1st Class J.A. Collins, CB||31.12.37||Commanding HMA Squadron|
|Captain H.L. Howden, CBE||30.6.38||Captain HMAS Penguin|
|Comm. 2nd Class H.A. Showers, CBE||31.12.39||Second Naval Member|
|Captain C.A. Nichols DSO, MVO||31.12.41||RN officer commanding Shropshire|
|Captain J.M. Armstrong DSO||31.12.42||Serving with RN in the Pacific|
|Captain R.R. Dowling, ADC||30.6.44||Commanding Hobart|
|Captain H.J. Buchanan, DSO||31.12.44||Navy Office|
|Captain D.H. Harries||30.6.45||Commanding Australia|
There were also a number of commanders who were acting captains.
By December 17 1945, the wartime blue paint had been replaced by a royal blue hull and light grey superstructure. We had loaded all our stores and carried a deck cargo of captured German V1 and V2 rockets in crates destined for the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
The following passengers joined the ship at Devonport on 17th December:
- 6 RAAF officers
- 2 AIF majors
- 6 RN ratings
- 1 South African rating
- 31 New Zealand ratings
- 2 Royal Marine Officers, with a contingent of 101 Royal Marines.
There were also a number of RANVR officers, and RAN ratings who had been serving with the Royal Navy during the war.
I remember talking to one RAN leading seaman who had been a frogman during the D Day landings on 6th June 1944. Of his group of about 20 frogmen, only a handful survived the first week of the Normandy landings.
Aussie sailed from Devonport and remained for three days in Plymouth Sound in a full gale. The Sound is exposed to the weather and the ship rolled so much that there were quite a few seasick sailors while the ship was at anchor. During this stopover the American 37,000 ton fleet carrier Wasp sailed into Plymouth Sound damaged by the rough seas, and proceeded to Devonport for repairs. Soon afterwards, on 20th December 1945, Australia sailed.
During the night of the 20th and the morning of the 21st, the following items were carried away and lost: the jack staff, a kedge anchor, paravanes, four Carley rafts and other loose gear on the upper deck. The motor boat boom smashed in two pieces and carried away. Huge seas went straight over ‘A’ turret and spray from the 50 foot waves went over the bridge. Australia’s bridge was completely open to the weather and it was very unpleasant for the captain, navigator and bridge watch keepers. However, it was fortunate both lookouts and those on the bridge that the crow’s-nest had been removed at Devonport, as the crow’s-nest was a very unpopular place in rough weather, and many a lookout between 1928 and 1945 had spewed over the bridge and flag-deck staff. At one stage speed had to be reduced to 5 knots to secure the foc’sle. Below decks up forrard there was some flooding, including the clothing store, where the canteen used to be situated below the foc’sle. The seas would come above the level of the main deck scuttles, and the view would be blanked out by the dark green Atlantic. Many of the old hands were as sick as the Royal Marines, the majority of whom had never been to sea before.
Only half the ship’s company turned up for meals.
One Royal Marine was seasick from the time we left the dockyard, and even when the sea became flat off the West African Coast he was still sick. He was so sick he was turned into the sick bay. I saw him just before we arrived in Durban, and he reminded me of someone from a Japanese POW camp, his arms and legs were just like sticks.
By 23rd December the storm had died down and on Christmas Eve we saw the snow covered peak of Teneriffe, which rises 12,000 feet. On Christmas Day we were allowed to sleep in an extra fifteen minutes. Jesus joined in the spirit of Christmas and gave away free goffers all day.