- Ross, Trevor Wilson, OBE, Captain, RAN
- History - WW1
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Australia I
- December 1975 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By some remarkable coincidences no Australian warships took part in the Battle of Jutland. Due to a collision HMAS Australia and HMS New Zealand missed the action.
ON 21ST APRIL 1916 – Good Friday but a very bad Friday for us – the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron (Australia, New Zealand and Indefatigable ) left Rosyth at 0400 with the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron and destroyers to support the sweeping of Skager Raek. The 2nd Battle Squadron (8 King George V Class) was to support us. Apparently the Germans got wind of this so that night we abandoned the operation and rendezvoused with the 1st and 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadrons next morning.
We were trying to cut off the Germans who had come out to cut off the 2nd BCS. It was very hazy and dead calm; (1530) we ran into a bank of fog. Lion on the starboard flank had hoisted the signal at 1535 to zigzag and this had been repeated down the line (we were steaming abreast) to Australia on the port flank. What to do at 1540? Our Admiral Pakenham said zig-zag as we had a light cruiser under our port bow so we turned to starboard – a keen watch was kept for New Zealand and apparently they kept a keen watch for us, and the line of foam was seen so each ship turned away but at 1542 the heavily armoured side under New Zealand’s ‘P’ turret crushed in Australia’s side from 59 to 78 frames above the armour belt, so that the mess decks were open to the sea but just above it!
As each ship was under full helm, each listed away so that New Zealand’s port outer propeller chopped into our double bottom under ‘Q’ turret leaving masses of metal there, we used a lot of this making castings of kangaroos etc. We had been prepared to oil destroyers so had a heavy steel hawser on our quarter deck. New Zealand’s brailing davits hooked this and they recovered it and returned it later. While it was running out, a midshipman was caught in the coils but Rev. Frank Birch, who was taking some fresh air, made a flying Rugger tackle and swept the snotty out of danger.
Apparently New Zealand were unaware that they had lost the propulsion of their port outer propeller, as she then turned to port right across our bows, so that we rammed her, crushing in our stem. We had been steaming at 20 knots, but 1540 went full astern then stop. At 1544 we went half ahead, but at 1545 full astern – but at 1546 the second collision happened. The patch of fog cleared and we were alone, a few miles from Heligoland – the whole fleet had carried on and New Zealand was well on her way to Rosyth. Eng. Lieut. D.P. Herbert had been employed for some time fitting connections to compartments and eliminating any leaks so now we shored up the forward undamaged bulkhead with air pressure and started off at 1628 at 10 knots – as the air pressure was built up in succeeding compartments we increased to 15 knots.
At 1600 next day, 23rd April, we arrived at Rosyth to find the only two drydocks occupied by New Zealand and Dreadnought so at 2100 we left for Newcastle-on-Tyne and at 0700 on 24th we were in drydock. But the tugs could not hold us straight against a gale, so we fouled a corner and broke both port propellers and bent the port rudder! Then we found Newcastle could not handle our repairs so the Admiralty ordered us to Devonport. Temporary repairs were made to our hull. As New Zealand had used our spare propellers which were in store at Rosyth, Indefatigable’s spare port inner propeller was fitted on our port outer shaft, which was bent 0.022- while Invincible’s port inner spare propeller was fitted on our port inner shaft.