- Parker, R.G., OBE, Captain, RAN (Rtd)
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1978 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
We were fortunate that no fires had started, although there was one minor alarm with some electrical cables in the turret area shorting, which was soon put out. The whole of the Engine-room Department acted splendidly. The Damage Control Officer, Lieutenant Ellis, had been killed, but the Double Bottom party under Chief Stoker Puckeridge, together with the After Fire and Repair party, soon had everything well in hand, with electric and diesel portable pumps running. The shipwrights in that team did a fine job, and I cited Shipwright C. Bryant (later Lieutenant Commander) for his skill in shoring up many of the after bulkheads that were liable to collapse. A very courageous and skilful job was also done by ERA Goonan, who as welder-burner worked continuously in cutting away torn plating and welding heel fittings for shores, etc. Both he and Bryant worked up to their shoulders in water in some of the compartments and thoroughly deserved the award of the British Empire Medal for ‘Courage, endurance and devotion to duty’. I should mention the devotion to duty and fortitude of Engineer Lieutenant Jenkins. On visiting the forward Engine-room immediately after the torpedoing and enquiring of Lieutenant Jenkins, who was there, ‘Where were you when we were hit?’, he replied that he was in the Wardroom. I said ‘How are you?’ and he said ‘A little bit cut about’. He had been lacerated on the chest by a deck plate and obviously badly shocked by the blast. I said ‘What are you doing here then?’ and he answered, ‘Sir, it is my Action station’. I said, ‘You go straight to the Sick Bay and get attention’. In no time I found that he was back in the Engine-room again as Engineer Officer of the Watch.
With all steering gear destroyed or inoperable, the ship was steered from the Bridge by main engines with steady revs on the starboard forward intact screw, and varying the revs on the damaged port forward screw as necessary to maintain a steady course. With the stern of the ship almost under water, it was necessary to transfer several hundred tons of fuel from the after tanks to forward tanks to restore trim. The stern of the ship was just hanging literally by the starboard side hull plating, as the keel had been blown through and the port side plating and Quarterdeck severed. A steel wire rope was rove round the gunwale to secure the stem. We were able to maintain about 7-8 knots and the weather, fortunately, for the next 24 hours was completely calm. Two American destroyers, which had formed part of the screen when we were torpedoed, stood by us for the trip back to Espiritu Santo, which we successfully made towards midnight on the following day. Altogether it was a splendid performance by the Engine-room Department and particularly as some of the key officers had been lost. Perhaps it would be only right to mention that the success of the Damage Control was due to the intensive practices and exercises that had been carried out every week for the previous year under the Executive Officer, Commander J.K. Walton and the Commander (E).
‘Torpedo in the Wardroom’ had been practiced at least on two occasions, and the damage was forecast to a very accurate degree. The only difference was that the casualties were less than had been predicted. Commander Walton, who was in the Wardroom at the time of the torpedoing, had been very badly wounded, but happily later fully recovered. In hospital he was very cheered to learn of the successful outcome of our Damage Control, and to know that the lessons from our drills had been put into effect so well.
Temporary repairs were carried out in Espiritu Santo harbour by the USN Repair Ship Vestal so as to enable Hobart to steam back to Sydney. The skill and speed of the American repair staff from Vestal was quite amazing. They united the portside plating above the waterline, as well as the Quarterdeck, and put in several additional bulkheads as stiffeners, in addition reconnecting the steering gear. The repairs took about 24 days.
It should be mentioned that a diving team of 10 men was employed for over a week in cutting away torn plating under the ship with underwater cutting torches, so as to lessen the weight and drag of the damaged stern section. Because of the extent of the damage, it was thought that possibly Hobart had sustained two torpedo hits aft, but the USN Constructor officer (a Lieutenant Commander) in charge of the job on enquiry said; ‘No – A Nip torpedo makes a hole 60 feet by 30 feet and you are truly to pattern’.
Hobart remained in Espiritu Santo undergoing repairs until 21st August and left that day in company with Warramunga and Arunta at 12 knots for Sydney, arriving on the 26th. For over twelve months the damaged cruiser was under repair at Cockatoo Dockyard. The most extensive work was the manufacture of two new propeller shafts, as well as repairs to the port after turbine which had overspeeded when the propeller had been shot off. During the time in Dockyard hands, the opportunity was taken to fit Hobart with several new radar sets and generally carrying out alterations and additions as well as a full general refit. The ship later was able to take part with distinction in the final stages of the war in the Pacific.
During the repairs at Cockatoo there was an interesting but somewhat startling revelation, when the port after LP turbine was opened for examination. It was found that the astern turbine wheel, which was incorporated in the LP casing, was found to be slack on the rotor spindle to the large amount of one quarter of an inch enlargement of the boss diameter. Of course it had originally been a very tight and ‘shrunk’ fit. This indicated that due to very excessive overspeeding with the propeller shot off, the turbine wheel had been subjected to tremendously excessive centrifugal forces and the metal (forged alloy steel) had been stretched beyond the elastic limit.
There is little doubt that if the turbine had not been stopped when it was, it would have disintegrated and portions would have been driven through the hull of the ship, and Hobart could have been lost due to the additional flooding of major compartments, certainly the after Engine-room and probably B Boiler Room as well.
No spare pumping capacity would have been available, as all portable diesel and electric pumps were being used to control the flooding of the after compartments caused by the torpedo explosion. It is a sobering thought as to whether Hobart could have survived.