- Andrews, Grahame, (Honorary Life Member)
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Adelaide I, HMAS Australia I, HMAS Sydney I, HMAS Melbourne I
- June 2005 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
After several more challenges which were answered by confusing or doubtful information, Adelaide, having left the convoy safely behind, opened fire at about 10,000 metres. ((Kevin F. O’Neil, Sub. Lieutenant, relieved D. Marshall as gunnery officer. Involved in Ramses action.)) At about this time the suspect ship, which turned out to be the German blockade runner Ramses en route from Japan to Germany, fired scuttling charges and her crew began to abandon ship. They were no doubt encouraged in this by the hits sustained from Adelaide’s second salvo, fired at about 9000 metres. Old her gunnery system may have been but it worked well. Ramses’ crew of 78 with 10 Norwegian POWs plus one dog and a pig, was rescued but that Axis ship could well have been a German raider of capability similar to the Kormoran. Adelaide’s commanding officer could clarify that position only after questioning survivors.
It seems likely that Captain Esdaile had Sydney in mind when he opened fire, suspecting perhaps that ‘panic parties’ had more than once abandoned ships, leaving guns’ crews hiding behind. Ramses took a vital cargo of rubber and whale oil to the bottom.
The Germans and the freed Norwegians were taken ashore in Fremantle, where the dog was killed by quarantine officers and the pig ‘went missing.’ ((M.L. Howley, Leading Cook, 1942.))
In March 1944 three Japanese Navy heavy cruisers attempted to disrupt Allied shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. On 6 March they sank SS Behar about half way between Colombo and Fremantle. Of the 104 survivors, 89 were murdered on the deck of the cruiser IJS Tone. Rumours of a Japanese attack on the Fremantle area were current and Adelaide and HMS Sussex were positioned to provide anti-aircraft defence for merchant ships in Gage Roads. Adelaide’s luck had once more held. If she had been at the outer end of a convoy run and met the Japanese cruisers she would have had no hope.
In May 1944 a combined multi-nation task Force (TF66) attacked Japanese Java, leaving Adelaide on patrol around Western Australia’s Exmouth Gulf to protect the supply ships.
This was the old cruiser’s last serious work and on 19 May 1944, Adelaide was released from this duty and headed south to Fremantle with the destroyer HMAS Quiberon.
Late in 1944 HMAS Adelaide was given a pre-retirement refit at the dockyard in Williamstown, Melbourne. Following that, she steamed for Sydney under Commander G.L. Cant, making good 25 knots on full power trials along the way. ((Ross Lyndsay, Engineer Sub. Lt. in Adelaide during her final refit and passage to Sydney to pay off.)) In Sydney she paid off, pending further use, but was used only as an accommodation ship for RN ‘V’ class submarines and for midget submarine X2 (6). On 26 February 1945 the lucky old cruiser finally paid off. She had steamed 210,516 nautical miles during hostilities – not bad for a ship that was considered not adequate for a modern war.
One constant comment is made by those of her war company that I have questioned. When asked what she was like at sea, they all comment ‘Over one, under two (or three!)’. Adelaide was notorious for being a ‘wet’ ship, and working her broadside guns and manhandling shells of more than 100lb weight in a seaway would have been hard and wet work. Without exception all the wartime crew of the ship that I have interviewed were fond of the ship, having nothing bad to say about her or those who commanded her. ((Ken Sprogg, ex Stoker Third Class, in ship September 1942 to 1946.))
Adelaide was towed to Port Kembla in April 1949 and was there broken up by Australian Iron and Steel. As a sister ship to the legendary Sydney (1) she might have made a magnificent naval war memorial to two wars but those were different times. Adelaide was the oldest British cruiser design in operational use during World War II, although she was actually completed a little later than some slightly more modern British cruisers (C and D Classes)
The ‘unknown’ Australian cruiser, called this because she was left out of the major work on British Commonwealth cruisers ((British Cruisers of World War Two, Alan Raven and John Roberts 1981. This major work claims to have described all British Commonwealth cruisers but excluded Adelaide.)), was indeed the luckiest RAN cruiser but she certainly was not kept away from potential trouble – she was indeed a lucky ship.