Allied Warships

HMAS Canberra (D 33)

Heavy cruiser of the Kent class

NavyThe Royal Australian Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
ClassKent 
PennantD 33 
Built byJohn Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Ltd. (Clydebank, Scotland) 
Ordered9 Apr 1925 
Laid down9 Sep 1925 
Launched31 May 1927 
Commissioned10 Jul 1928 
Lost9 Aug 1942 
History

On 25 January 1929 HMAS Canberra arrived at Fremantle. She remained in Australian waters, visiting New Zealand, Fiji and China.

In September 1939 Canberra spent the first nine months of the war patrolling home waters and the Tasman Sea. During January-February 1940 she escorted convoy US-1, the first New Zealand and Australian contingent comprising 13500 soldiers bound for Suez. Canberra was responsible for the escorting of this convoy from Wellington to Fremantle, where she was relieved of her duties by the British cruiser HMS Kent and the French cruiser Suffren. During May-June 1940, the third New Zealand and Australian troop convoy US-3 set out from Wellington, Lyttelton, Sydney and Melbourne escorted by Canberra. After stopping at Fremantle on 10 May the convoy was diverted to the Cape route while on the way to Colombo, because it was feared that Italy might enter the war. On May 20th Canberra was relieved of her duties by the British cruiser HMS Shropshire. On 30 June 1940, HMAS Canbarra was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa for an underwater inspection of her shafts. On August 4th, she was undocked, and then sailed from Simonstown for Australia, for repairs to a defective propeller tail shaft, and then for a refit at Sydney.

During February-March 1941, Canberra and the New Zealand cruiser HMNZS Leander were operating off the coast of Colombo in search of the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer and her supply ships. On March 4th, the supply ship Coburg was sighted south east of the Seychelles in company with the prize Norwegian tanker Ketty Brovig by the cruiser`s spotter aircraft, both ships were scuttled by the Germans before the cruiser could apprehend them. In December 1941, the cruiser was involved in the escorting of a convoy of 3 transport vessels containing 4,250 Australian troops with 10,000 tons of supplies from Sydney bound for Port Moresby.

During January-March 1942 Canberra was in the South West Pacific, she joined up with the newly arrived Task Force 17 near the New Hebrides, whilst still a member of this force she underwent a refit at Sydney, and was there at the time of the Japanese midget submarine attack, her refit being completed in May. In June, she was now a member of the US Navy Pacific Fleet operating with Task Force 17 controlled by Rear Admiral Mitscher. During July-August, the cruiser was involved in the preparation of the landings on Guadalcanal in the area off the Fiji Islands. During the end of August she was deployed as the Southern Covering Force during the US landings on Guadalcanal in company with the cruiser USS Chicago and two destroyers off Savo Island. The force was taken by surprise by the Japanese and Canberra (Capt. Frank Edmond Getting, RAN) was set on fire and reduced to a wreck. She received over 20 8" and 4,7" shell hits at Savo Island in a space of 3 minutes she was completely disabled. Five hours later on the morning of August 9th, with a list of 30 degrees and fires completely out of control. Whilst she was able to be towed for repairs, the US insisted that her smoking hulk was a beacon to Japanese air attack. She was finally abandoned and was scuttled (torpedoed) by USS Ellet. 84 crewmembers lost their lives.

The ships badge can still be seen painted on the side of the Selborne dry dock wall at Simonstown, South Africa.

The US heavy cruiser USS Canberra was named in honour of HMAS Canberra.

 

Commands listed for HMAS Canberra (D 33)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Wilfrid Rupert Patterson, RN12 Apr 19385 Jun 1940
2Capt. Harold Bruce Farncomb, RAN6 Jun 194024 Dec 1941
3Capt. George Dunbar Moore, RAN24 Dec 1941May 1942

4Capt. Frank Edmund Getting, RAN17 Jun 19429 Aug 1942 (+)

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Notable events involving Canberra include:


6 Jan 1940

Convoy US 1.

Troop convoy from New Zealand and Australia to Suez.

The convoy departed Wellington, New Zealand on 6 January 1940 and on departure was made up out of the following troopships: Empress of Canada (British, 21517 GRT, built 1922), Orion (British, 23371 GRT, built 1935), Rangitata (British, 16737 GRT, built 1929) and Strathaird (British, 22281 GRT, built 1932).

On departure from Wellington the convoy was escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies (Capt. H.T. Baillie-Grohman, OBE, DSO, RN), heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (Capt. W.R. Patterson, RN) and the light cruiser HMNZS Leander (Capt. H.E. Horan, RN).

Two more troopships joined the convoy in New Zealand waters, these were: Dunera (British, 11162 GRT, built 1937) and Sobieski (Polish, 11030 GRT, built 1939).

The convoy then set course for Australia.

On 9 January the troopships: Orcades (British, 23456 GRT, built 1937), Orford (British, 19941 GRT, built 1928), Otranto (British, 20026 GRT, built 1925) and Strathnaver (British, 22283 GRT, built 1931) departed Sydney to join the convoy which they did the next day. They were being escorted by the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia (Capt. R.R. Stewart, RN).

HMNZS Leander was then detached while HMAS Sydney (Capt. J.A. Collins, RAN) joined the convoy on the 11th but already left again the day after.

On the 12th the troopship Empress of Japan (British, 26032 GRT, built 1930) joined the convoy coming from Melbourne.

On 18 January the light cruiser HMAS Adelaide (Cdr. H.A. Showers, RAN) briefly joined the convoy escort but she parted company again later the same day.

On 20 January, near Fremantle the heavy cruisers HMS Kent (Capt. D. Young-Jamieson, RN) and Suffren (Capt. R.J.M. Dillard) joined the convoy after which the Australian cruisers parted company and proceeded to Fremantle.

The convoy arrived at Colombo on 30 January and entered the harbour as did HMS Ramillies. HMS Kent and Suffren kept patrolling off the harbour until the convoy set sail again on 1 February but now escorted by the battleship HMS Ramillies the aircaft carrier HMS Eagle (Capt. A.R.M. Bridge, RN), heavy cruiser HMS Sussex (Capt. A.R. Hammick, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.J.L. Murray, DSO, OBE, RN) and the light cruiser HMAS Hobart (Capt. H.L. Howden, RAN). HMS Ramillies and HMS Sussex had sailed with the convoy from Colombo, the other two escorts came from Trincomalee. HMS Kent and Suffren then entered Colombo. At Colombo the convoy had been joined by the French troopship Athos II (French, 15276 GRT, built 1927).

On 6 February 1940 the destroyer HMS Westcott (Lt.Cdr. W.F.R. Segrave, RN) joined the convoy coming from Colombo. On joinig the convoy she was oiled by HMS Sussex.

Early on the 7th, HMAS Hobart proceeded ahead to Aden with three of the troopships.

At dawn of the 8th the convoy arrived off Aden and three more of the troop transports entered the harbour. The remainder proceeded towards the Red Sea now escorted by HMS Sussex and HMAS Hobart. Aircraft from HMS Eagle patrolled in the area while HMS Ramillies fuelled in the outer anchorage.

The transports that had entered Aden left there on 9 February escorted by HMS Sussex as this cruiser had turned back when off the Perim Strait. HMS Sussex and HMS Westcott now escorted these ships until they met HMAS Hobart which had now dispersed the first group of transports in 22°30'N.

HMS Sussex then turned back to proceed to Aden leaving the transports of the second group to HMAS Hobart which then escorted the transports to 22°30'N when they were dispersed. HMS Westcott went on to Suez with the Rangitata. HMAS Hobart then also set sourse to return to Aden. (1)

30 Sep 1940

Convoy US 5A.

This convoy departed Sydney on 30 September 1940 for Suez where it arrived on 2 November 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships; Johan de Witt (Dutch, 10474 GRT, built 1920), Nieuw Zeeland (Dutch, 11069 GRT, built 1928).

These two ships first proceeded to Fremantle from where they left on 7 October escorted by the light cruiser HMAS Perth (Capt. P.W. Bowyer-Smith, RN) to position 27°00'N, 109°50'E from where the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN) took over taking the convoy to Colombo where it arrived on 17 October.

On 21 October the convoy left Colombo for Aden escorted by the light cruiser HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clarke, RN). The convoy arrived off Aden on 28 October where the merchant vessels City of Capetown (British, 8046 GRT, built 1937), Clan Campbell (British, 7255 GRT, built 1937), Ulster Prince (British, 3791 GRT, built 1930) and Varsova (British, 4701 GRT, built 1914) joined the convoy as did the following escort vessels; heavy cruiser HMS Shropshire. (Capt. J.H. Edelsten, RN), AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN), destroyer HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN) and the sloop HMS Flamingo (Cdr. J.H. Huntley, RN).

On 30 October the Ulster Prince was detached to Port Sudan. She left there the next day to proceed independently to Suez.

The convoy arrived at Suez on 2 November escorted by HMS Kandahar. The other escorts had parted company on 30 October. (2)

28 Nov 1940

Convoy US 7.

This convoy departed Fremantle on 28 November 1940 for Suez where it arrived on 15 December 1940.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships; Batory (Polish, 14287 GRT, built 1936), Orion (British, 23371 GRT, built 1935), Stratheden (British, 23722 GRT, built 1937) and Strathmore (British, 23428 GRT, built 1935).

On departure from Fremantle the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMAS Perth (Capt. P.W. Bowyer-Smith, RN). Later on the day of departure the convoy was joined by the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN).

On 3 December 1940, HMAS Canberra was relieved by HMS Capetown (Capt. P.H.G. James, RN).

On 5 December 1940 the convoy arrived at Colombo.

The convoy and escort (still HMAS Perth and HMS Capetown) departed Colombo to continue it's passage to Suez.

On 11 December 1940, HMAS Perth was relieved by HMS Caledon (Capt. C.P. Clarke, RN). HMAS Perth then proceeded to Aden to fuel arriving and leaving there on 12 December 1940 to rejoin the convoy. Also from Aden on the 12th additional escorts joined the convoy, these were the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN) and HMS Kingston (Lt.Cdr. P. Somerville, DSO, RN). Both C-class cruisers then parted company with the convoy.

HMS Kingston parted company with the convoy oround midnight during the night of 13/14 December.

The following morning HMAS Perth, HMS Carlisle parted company with the convoy to join southbound convoy BS 10A. US 7 then continued on to Suez escorted by HMS Kandahar. US 7 arrived at Suez on 15 December 1940.

16 Jan 1941

Convoy US 8A.

This convoy departed Colombo on 16 January 1941 for Suez where it arrived on 28 January 1941.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships / merchant vessels; Christiaan Huygens (Dutch, 16287 GRT, built 1927), Devonshire (British, 11275 GRT, built 1939), Dilwara (British, 11080 GRT, built 1936), Dominion Monarch (British, 27155 GRT, built 1939), Indrapoera (Dutch, 10825 GRT, built 1925), Johan de Witt (Dutch, 10474 GRT, built 1920), Lancashire (British, 9557 GRT, built 1917), Nevassa (British, 9213 GRT, built 1913), Nieuw Zeeland (Dutch, 11069 GRT, built 1928), Rajula (British, 8478 GRT, built 1926), Rohna (British, 8602 GRT, built 1926) and Slamat (Dutch, 11636 GRT, built 1924).

On departure from Colombo the convoy was escorted by the light cruiser HMS Capetown (Capt. P.H.G. James, RN) and the armed merchant cruiser HMS Antenor (Capt.(Retd.) D.I. McGillewie, RN). The heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN) provided cover to the south of the convoy until the 18th after which she returned to Colombo on 19 January 1941. While berthing there she hit a pier and sustained some damage.

On 22 January the convoy escort was taken over by the AA cruiser HMS Carlisle (Capt. G.M.B. Langley, OBE, RN) and the destroyers HMS Kandahar (Cdr. W.G.A. Robson, RN) and HMS Kimberley (Lt.Cdr. J.S.M. Richardson, RN).

On 23 January two more merchant vessels joined the convoy coming from Aden, these were the City of Lincoln (British, 8039 GRT, built 1938) and the Thurland Castle (British, 6372 GRT, built 1929). They were escorted by the sloop HMAS Yarra (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Harrington, RAN).

On the 24th HMS Capetown rejoined the convoy.

Early in the evening of 26 January HMS Carlisle and HMAS Yarra parted company with the convoy to proceed to Port Sudan where they arrived the following day. HMS Capetown and HMS Kimberley also parted company with the convoy to proceed to Aden where they arrived on the 28th.

On the 27th the sole remaining escort, HMS Kandahar was relieved by HMS Grimsby (Cdr. K.J. D'Arcy, RN). HMS Kandahar then proceeded to Port Sudanwhere she arrived on the 28th.

The convoy arrived at Suez also on 28 January 1941. (3)

9 Sep 1941

Convoy US 12A.

This convoy departed Fremantle on 9 September 1941 for Suez where it arrived on 23 September 1941.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships; Queen Elizabeth (British, 83673 GRT, built 1939) and Queen Mary (British, 81235 GRT, built 1936).

The convoy was escorted until Trincomalee by the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN).

The convoy arrived at Trincomalee on 15 September 1941 and departed from there on 16 September 1941.

From Trincomalee to Perim the convoy was escorted by the British heavy cruiser HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN).

The convoy arrived off Perim on 21 September 1941 and from there on the ships proceeded independently to Suez while HMS Cornwall proceeded to Aden where she arrived later that day. (3)

8 Nov 1941

Convoy US 13.

This convoy departed Fremantle on 8 November 1941 for Suez.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships; Queen Elizabeth (British, 83673 GRT, built 1939) and Queen Mary (British, 81235 GRT, built 1936).

The convoy was escorted until late morning of November 11th by the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN) when the British heavy cruiser HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN) took over in approximate position 11°30'S, 99°30'E.

The convoy arrived at Trincomalee on 14 November 1941 and departed from there to continue it's passage the following day.

The convoy arrived off Perim on 20 November 1941 and from there on the troopships proceeded independently to Suez while HMS Cornwall proceeded to Aden where she arrived later that day. (4)

11 Nov 1941
In late morning HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN) made rendez-vous with convoy US 13 in approximate position 11°30'S, 99°30'E. She then took over the escort duties from HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN).

[For more info on this convoy see the event ' Convoy US 13 ' for 8 September 1941.] (5)

Media links


The Shame of Savo

Loxton, Bruce with Coulthard-Clark, Chris

Sources

  1. ADM 199/382
  2. ADM 199/383
  3. ADM 199/408
  4. ADM 53/113987 + ADM 199/408
  5. ADM 53/113987

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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