- Nesdale, Iris
- RAN operations, Ship histories and stories, Post WWII
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Anzac II, HMAS Culgoa, HMAS Shoalhaven, HMAS Bataan, HMAS Warramunga I, HMAS Tobruk I, HMAS Sydney III, HMAS Murchison, HMAS Condamine
- June 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
HMS Concord joined the two ships, and at Sasebo they had again experienced the American rocket-firing 4SM 401 5-inch rockets that fired automatically every three seconds – 400 rockets per minute, which had to be a sobering thought.
Warramunga’s task was to screen the carrier while the aircraft were attacking the enemy, and her very effective support brought signals of commendation from the Commander of USS Iowa, stating in part,
‘Glad to have you in company … While in command of destroyers in the Solomon Islands campaign, I shared with my contemporaries the greatest admiration for Warramunga’s outstanding record in World War II. Captain Smedberg, USN.
Another signal was sent from Vice-Admiral Clark, recently appointed Commodore of the US Seventh Fleet.
‘Well done to you and your crew in the effective and concentrated gun strikes on the military supply centre of Chongjin … a valuable contribution to the overall efforts against the Communists of North Korea.’
From 9 June Warramunga screened the carrier USS Bataan while her aircraft made strikes against enemy shore positions. Ten days later the destroyer tied up in Kure for rest and recreation. This lasted five days, then Warramunga moved to berth alongside HMAS Bataan. Typhoon warnings interrupted the ship’s maintenance programme briefly, but the trouble dispersed when the storm took a different direction.
At about this time two pleasant surprises lightened the everyday routine somewhat – the arrival on the 25th of gift food parcels for everyone from home, gifts from the RSL, Daily Telegraph (Sydney), the Melbourne Sun and Hoyts Ozone Theatres (Adelaide).
As to the other? Lieut-Commander Frank Norton RANVR, arrived and left with the ship later on 27 June. Frank Norton added many fine wartime drawings of ships to the Australian collections.
On 16 August 1951, Warramunga left Sasebo after spending almost a year (eleven months) in Korean waters, and the ship left with words of unstinted praise for her service from Rear-Admiral Scott Moncrief, Second-In-Command of the Far East Station.
He spoke to the assembled ship’s company, and ended his speech with the words: ‘I cannot speak too highly of Captain O. H. Becher and his men.’
Captain Becher was awarded the DSO and the US Legion of Merit for his courage, high example and outstanding performance as Commanding Officer during his tour of duty.
At the same time there were other awards:
- Leading Seaman A. T. Adams, the DSM ‘for bravery under hazardous conditions while in charge of a small boat’s crew.’
- Chief ERA J. Boyd, the BEM.
- Lieutenant K. M. Burnett – Mentioned in Despatches
- CPA John Bracken – Mentioned in Despatches
- CPA C. E. Dix – Mentioned in Despatches.
Warramunga now sailed for Sydney, refit and long leave.
After serving almost a year in Korean waters, Bataan was relieved by HMAS Murchison, and sailed south for refit, reaching Sydney on 14 June 1951. It had been intended that following her refit she would return to Korea, at the same time escorting HMAS Sydney, about to begin her initial tour of duty in Korean waters.
All was not to be plain sailing, however.
Whilst undergoing her trials before leaving, Bataan developed some mechanical trouble that meant she must have further attention and more delay. Another ship had to be hastily substituted and prepared. HMAS Tobruk, one of the Battle Class destroyers, was selected, and began taking on ammunition and stores. Bataan‘s crew was transferred, and HMAS Sydney went on her way escorted by Tobruk.
In World War II, Cdr W. S. Bracegirdle DSC, RAN had served for two years as Gunnery Officer in HMAS Shropshire, and during that period W. A. Perren was his right hand man as an Instructional Gunner. They were good friends, and Perren is able to comment with a smile upon Cdr Bracegirdle’s reputation for a certain flamboyancy or showmanship.
‘During the Korean War, Cdr Bracegirdle was Bataan‘s Commanding Officer when a small splinter of enemy shell penetrated the bulkhead and left a hole in his cabin wall. Instead of ordering the expected routine repair job, Cdr Bracegirdle had the hole preserved with a small surround of polished wood, together with a brass plate inscribed with the history of the hole’s raison d’etre.’