ON THIS day in 1916 the battle cruisers HMAS Australia and HMS New Zealand collided in a fog off the Horns Reef in the North Sea. They were both following synchronised anti submarine zig zag courses. Responsibility can be equally apportioned but the damage was not. HMAS Australia had to be sent to Plymouth for repairs. She returned to the 5th Battle cruiser squadron the day after the Battle of Jutland, 31 May much to her chagrin. HMS New Zealand was in the Battle and was hit on a gun turret but without result.
Three RN Battle Cruisers, Indefatigable, Invincible, and Queen Mary succumbed to the combination of lack of armour and accurate German gunnery and erupted in flame within two hours, taking the lives of over three thousand sailors. Had HMAS Australia been at Jutland in May that might have been her fate. Churchill post war admitted that the RN’s battle cruisers were: ‘eggshells armed with hammers’.
It is not impossible that the collision between Australia and New Zealand on 22 April in 1916 spared the RAN from a disaster which would still be seared into the national memory a century later.