- Letter Writer
- WWII operations, History - WW2, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Arunta I, HMAS Patricia Cam
- March 2018 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The December 2017 edition of the NHR contains an article on the evacuation of Lancer Force from Timor by HMAS Arunta in January 1943. As my father was CO of Lancer Force I have a little further information which may be relevant.
Dili airport received an abnormal amount of rain in the days leading up to the evacuation. Japanese planes parked adjacent to the strip could not be moved because of the muddy conditions. If they had been airborne I doubt if the evacuation would have been the great success it undoubtedly was. This is further backed up by remarks made by SBLT John Leggoe, RANVR who was First Lieutenant of HMAS Patricia Cam then working out of Darwin. Before Arunta departed for Timor the CO of Patricia Cam, Lieutenant Sandy Meldrum, RANR(S), because of his local knowledge of these waters was temporarily seconded to assist in the navigation of Arunta for the beach landing.
Iris Nesdale in her book “Action Stations – Tribal Destroyers of the RAN” on page 18 contains a summary of a conversation with John Leggoe made some years after the incident in which he says: The Commandos knew that the Japanese had torpedo bombers lined up at Dilli, the monsoonal rains had been exceptionally heavy and Arunta did get away before dawn. The bombers were hopelessly bogged, which was just as well. The rescue operation could have ended disastrously.
Regards, Jim Walker