On this day . . .

27-28 Mar 1941.  RAN at the Battle of Cape Matapan

27-28 Mar 1941. RAN at the Battle of Cape Matapan

On this day Perth, Stuart and Vendetta were all engaged in the Royal Navy’s night battle when they engaged the Italian Battle fleet. In one action the RN and RAN exploded Mussolinni’s boast that the Mediterranean was the Italian Navy’s Mare Nostrum meaning “our sea”. Three Italian heavy cruisers and two destroyers were sunk and a battleship seriously damaged. We now know that Admiral Cunningham’s location of the Italian battlefleet south of Greece was an early product of ‘Ultra’ the breaking of the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park. Strategically RN and RAN victory at Matapan meant that the still powerful Italian fleet did not attempt to intervene in the evacuation of troops from Greece and later from Crete. Had the Italian destroyer flotillas engaged the RN cruisers and destroyers carrying troops south to Alexandria these costly evacuations might have been impossible. Captain Hec Waller’s handling of Stuart at Matapan…

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23 March 1969 HMAS Hobart under fire off Vietnam

23 March 1969 HMAS Hobart under fire off Vietnam

On this day HMAS Hobart, CAPT K W Shands, on her second deployment to Vietnam, came under accurate enemy fire from shore batteries at Mui Ron. Hobart was in company with US ships Collett and St Paul providing naval gunfire support to US army operations. Fifty shells straddled Hobart, one landing within ten feet of her bow. Hobart replied with 66 rounds of counter battery fire and silenced three batteries. She continued to draw fire from batteries so that she could identify them and destroy them and their ammunition dumps. During this deployment Hobart continued to harass enemy positions with pinpoint accurate fire. On one occasion she silenced seven weapons positions. A US Army cavalry officer who asked for urgent naval gunfire support later wrote: “It was the best artillery support I ever received. Close enough to rattle my teeth and send shrapnel over our heads but extremely accurate. The…

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16 March 1889 HMS Calliope the Apia Hurricane and Westport Coal

16 March 1889 HMS Calliope the Apia Hurricane and Westport Coal

On this day in 1889 the Australian Station Royal Navy screw corvette HMS Calliope was the only one of 20 ships to survive the hurricane which struck Apia. She did so by raising steam in red hot boilers while holding ground facing the hurricane on her kedge anchors. As the USS Trenton bore down on her Calliope’s captain slipped his anchors and put full power on his engines and surged through a gap in the coral reef and gained the open sea. Captain Kane RN saved 250 lives of his Australian and British crew. Nineteen other ships were wrecked and driven ashore with the loss of 100 victims. The town of Apia and most of Samoa was devastated. When the weather moderated Calliope returned to Apia and brought relief to the stricken town. Emergency stores and medical supplies were landed and essential services restored. On 4th April Calliope arrived at…

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1 Mar 1942 – Fighting Hec Waller

1 Mar 1942 – Fighting Hec Waller

Captain Hector Macdonald Laws Waller, DSO (and Bar) (1900–1942) A captain who went down with his ship. The death of Waller, an outstanding naval officer, in the battle of Sunda Strait was a heavy loss for the Royal Australian Navy. Waller graduated from the RAN Naval College with the King’s Medal in 1917. He went to Britain in time to see war service with the Grand Fleet and returned to Australia in 1919; he specialised in communications and undertook further postings and training in Britain. In 1937 he commanded the destroyer HMS Brazen. After the outbreak of war, Waller was given command of HMAS Stuart and sent to the Mediterranean, becoming part of what the Germans derisively called “the scrap-iron flotilla”. In 1940 he was appointed to command the 10th Destroyer Flotilla and promoted captain. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and then another for the work done by…

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27 Feb 1942 – Battle of the Java Sea HMAS Perth & HMS Exeter

27 Feb 1942 – Battle of the Java Sea HMAS Perth & HMS Exeter

27 February 1942 – Battle of the Java Sea HMAS Perth & HMS Exeter On this day in 1942 occurred the Battle of the Java Sea between the America, Britain, Dutch, Australia (ABDA) cruisers and destroyers and the Japanese heavy cruisers. The Japanese used spotter aircraft to improve the accuracy of their 8 inch gunfire and torpedo attacks by destroyers.

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