- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- Ship histories and stories, History - post WWII
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Arunta I, HMAS Hobart I, HMAS Bataan, HMAS Warramunga I, HMAS Vengeance, HMAS Tobruk I, HMAS Murchison
- December 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The Last of the Australian Built Tribal Class
THE LAST OF THE THREE Tribal class destroyers built at Cockatoo Island was to have been named Kurnai after an Aboriginal Tribe but her name was changed to Bataan in honour of the gallant stand made by the Americans on the Bataan Peninsular in 1942. Bataan was launched by Mrs. MacArthur, wife of General Douglas MacArthur, on 15th January 1944 and was commissioned for service on 25th May 1945. She was much slower in construction than her two sisters, being laid down on 30th November 1940. Many reasons have been given for her long building period, but it would appear that the workload at Cockatoo Island in repairing war damaged ships was in all probability the main cause. There is one story that Bataan’s turbine rotors were lost during their delivery to Australia. Whatever the reason, Bataan only just made it into WW2.
Commissioned by Commander H.M. Burrell, RAN, in May 1945, the ship was considered sufficiently worked up to proceed to the Philippines in July of that year, but was too late to see any real action in the war. She did, however, proceed to Japan and reached Tokyo Bay on 31st August to take part in the formal surrender ceremonies, which took place on 2nd September aboard USS Missouri.
With the surrender over, Bataan began a very useful period of operations evacuating Allied prisoners-of-war and was to remain in Japanese waters until 18th November 1945, when she sailed for Sydney. Her first six months of service had been a complete contrast to her two sisters. The ship herself was a contrast as far as her appearance went. Bataan was completed with many refinements not fitted in the other two Tribals. She had been fitted with a lattice foremast while building, her sisters received theirs during the post war refit. She had also been completed with six single 40mm Bofors as close range armament. Her pennant number was 1.91 but during her first period of service she carried the standard British Pacific Fleet pennants, Bataan being numbered D9. But as the nation was now at peace the new Tribal settled down to her duties, gaining a very distinctive coat of Chicago Blue on her hull. It was this colour that was a recognition feature for quite some time.
Bataan stayed in Australian waters for most of 1946, and in September that year sailed for Japan for another spell with the occupation forces. She accompanied Hobart for the trip to Japan, but parted ways on arrival. The cruisers were based on Yokahama, whilst the destroyers saw more of Kure and Sasebo. The ship was now the flotilla leader of the Australian destroyers and as the 10th Destroyer Flotilla had been reconstituted as an Australian unit, Bataan wore the broad black funnel band of the leader and the number 10 on her funnel. She was always a happy ship and her former crew members always remember with pride the days that the old ship spent in Japan. When in the Tokyo area, a regular visitor to the ship was Mrs. MacArthur, a person very well liked by the crew. She felt, quite naturally, that she had a very soft spot in her heart for the Australian destroyer.
For the next four years Bataan was destined to spend much time on the Occupation Force, not all being uneventful. It seems that Bataan suffered from a very dreaded naval disease – condenseritis. This, in non technical terms, means that sea water found its way into the wrong side of the condenser tubes and eventually found its way into the boilers, with very damaging results. I don’t think Bataan ever completely cleared up this trouble. On one return trip from Japan the ship had to stop outside the Brisbane River and send her boats inshore to bring back coconut husks to try and filter the seawater inlet to the condenser so that she could get back to Sydney.
When she left Sydney on her fifth post war run to Japan her crew had no reason to think that this was not going to be another quiet flag showing tour, but events were to prove them wrong.
Bataan arrived in Hong Kong on 21st June 1950 and on the 25th of that month the Korean War broke out. At once the ship was detailed off for full war duties and proceeded to Okinawa, arriving there on 1st July. She reported to FO 2 Far East, who was flying his flag in Belfast. FO 2 Far East now carried the title of CTG 96.8. As this type of designation will be used from now on it is explained that this was a very shortened version of Commander Task Group 96 element 6. This was the normal US Navy system, and as the UN Navy bore the brunt of the naval war in Korea, it was easier to use their system than to try to retain all individual systems used by other navies with national representation.
The 6th July saw Bataan attached to TG 96.1, an escort group. She carried on with this group escorting convoys in the Korean Straits area until 13th July. On that day she joined Task Force 90, under the command of Rear-Admiral Doyle USN, for the amphibious landings at Pohang Dong. The patrol ended on 21st July. The normal situation in Korean operations was that each ship normally did a fourteen day patrol followed by two days in harbour. This system was varied at different times and it was not unusual for a ship to do a twenty eight day patrol. This meant constant replenishment at sea, British designed destroyers were never given large oil fuel capacities so their crews became very expert at fuelling under way.
The composition of the various task groups could be quite international, but it was always attempted to keep British ships in the same group where possible. In the case of the patrol that commenced on 28th July 1950 Bataan was teamed with HM Ships Belfast and Charity. This patrol was fairly routine, except for a gun action against an enemy coast artillery battery at Haiju on 1st August. At the end of this patrol the ship had an almost record period of three weeks in port, mainly making good urgent defects. Her ‘kidneys’ were playing up again. But it was soon back to work and after a ten day patrol on the Korean West coast, Bataan entered Pusan Harbour on 29th August. She resumed west coast patrolling on 1st September. The first few days were spent in the normal routine of daytime patrolling in company and with night disposal blockading a given area. From 4th September through to the 6th Bataan was on the screen of HMS Triumph, a light fleet carrier, which was carrying out air spotting for the cruiser Jamaica, which ship was bombarding in the Inchon and Kunsan areas. The 7th September saw Bataan still screening Triumph during the air strikes on Wonsan. The ship arrived back in Sasebo on 11th September. Her rest was only the standard two days and on 12th September she began her fourth war patrol, which lasted until 21st of that month. This was not a particularly interesting patrol.
On 27th September Bataan teamed up with HMCS Sioux blockading Kunsan. During the day the two ships carried out a heavy bombardment on Youjiko To Island. Further bombardments and mine demolition provided first class training for the crew but the ship was detached on 2nd October and ordered back to Sasebo. The ship had been patrolling for seven weeks, so was given a break. On 14th October she proceeded back to the usual routine, a period always regarded as boring by the crew. By the end of the month the ship had been out of port 17 days and was now the Senior Officer, Destroyers, screening the British light fleet carrier Theseus. The crew were quite happy when this patrol ended on 7th November.
The 14th November saw Bataan back on the west coast under the control of CTE 95.12 in HMS Ceylon. This patrol ended on 22nd November, and had been marked by some extremely rough weather and some boring periods spent as station ship off Chinnampo and Techong Island. And then it was back to Sasebo for a break.
Leaving Sasebo on the 1st December, Bataan set course for the Yalu River approaches on the west coast, joining up with her sister ship Warramunga and the Canadian destroyers Cayuga, Athabaskan and Sioux. HMCS Cayuga was the Senior Officer for this group. Trouble was expected in the form of amphibious landings by the enemy, as the Chinese Communists had halted the United Nations offensive. The destroyer force were to maintain an effective blockade as far north as possible. Bataan began operations about 12 miles north of the Yalu entrance, and temperatures of 15°F were recorded. Korea in winter is a cold place. The force assembled off Choda Island on the 4th, and were joined by USS Forest Royal for the evacuation of Chinnampo. Late at night the six boats headed down the narrow swept channel en route to the port, two destroyers ran aground but managed to get off again. By the evening of the 5th December the evacuation had been successfully completed and at 1720 Bataan, Cayuga and Forest Royal began an effective demolition bombardment before sailing for Inchon.
From 7th December to 17th December Bataan was employed in screening Theseus and the west coast inshore patrol. She then took over in the Fire Support Element at Inchon, for another 12 days. This element comprised the cruiser Ceylon and three destroyers, and were directly engaged supporting the 8th Army’s frontal line from Inchon in the east to Seoul. There were daily gun bombardments with aircraft spotting, but the period was regarded as being quiet. On 29th December Concord relieved Bataan and the Australian destroyer headed back to port. This had been a rather long patrol but the ship had taken it in its stride.
Bataan was now enjoying a quiet spell and made visits to such places as Kure, Yokasuka, Hong Kong and intermediate ports. This part of the tour was well received by the crew but all good things must end sometime. On 22nd February 1951 Bataan left port in company with Belfast to take up the west coast patrol once more.
This patrol lasted until 6th March and was quite uncomfortable for the crew. Temperatures were classed as Arctic, being normally around 13°F. It was a very busy period indeed, with gun bombardments, convoy escorts, minesweeping operations, pre-landing engagements and support by air strikes from the US aircraft carrier Bataan. The crew were very glad when this patrol ended on 13th February. The rest was well enjoyed and on 13th March it was back to work, beginning with screening duties with USS Bataan. The two Bataans got on very well together and it was with some regret that the Australian Bataan handed over to USS Borie. The remainder of the patrol was spent primarily in the Inchon Area and ended with two days in Inchon Harbour itself. Then back to Sasebo for a couple of days. On 1st April Bataan was back on the west coast with the blockade patrol, a very uneventful period.
On 8th April Bataan was in company with her US namesake, the British carrier Theseus, the US destroyers English and Sperry, the Canadian destroyers Athabaskan and Huron and the British destroyer Consort. The patrol included carrier operations on both coasts and included a great amount of high speed runs in rough weather. This type of operation used up considerable quantities of oil fuel and in the first six days of this patrol Bataan refuelled on four occasions. The patrol ended on 20th April, the ship returning to Sasebo for her rest period. She left that port again on 28th April to rejoin USS Bataan on the west coast. The American carrier was operating with HMS Glory, which ship had relieved Theseus. The screen for this operation comprised 2 US ships, 2 Canadian, 2 British and Bataan, the Australian ship being Senior Officer. The patrol was quite routine and ended on 6th May. On 10th May Bataan and Huron left Sasebo in company with Glory, on what was to be her last war patrol of this tour of duty. On station she was joined by the US destroyers Perkins and Agerholm, Bataan again being Senior Officer. This patrol ended on 18th May when the ship was detached to Kure.
It was now time for Bataan to return to Australia. She had steamed 55,000 miles, had been under way for 4,000 hours and she had been on active operations for eleven months.
Bataan arrived in her home port of Sydney on 6th June and went straight into dockyard hands at Cockatoo Island. A very rushed refit was carried out which included modernising living spaces, removal of her main armament and replacing the guns with the set from Arunta, and re-tubal of her boilers. The whole operation was to be carried out in two months. Her crew was broken up and replacements obtained by taking the bulk of the crew from the new destroyer Tobruk. During the acceptance trials No. 1 boiler failed, forcing the ship back to the dockyard.
Tobruk was readied to take Bataan’s place for the next run to Korea. This was a trying time for Bataan, and it is recorded that she had four different commanding officers in as many months.
On 17th January 1952 Bataan left Sydney heading north and on 4th February she relieved the Australian frigate Murchison at Kure. The 2nd tour of duty was practically a carbon copy of the first. It was the usually boring carrier screening, detached night observation patrols, shore bombardments and so forth. The ship always put in good gunnery returns and was quite proud of the patrol that ended on 24th February. During this period she had expended 543 rounds of 4.7” and 75 rounds of 4” ammunition. It was during this patrol that the captain’s cabin took a hit from a 75mm shore gun but no other damage was occasioned.
The patrol work continued with Bataan always ready on time, always willing and her crew happy. She remained on station in Korean waters until 31st August 1952 when she finally turned her bows towards home, arriving back in Sydney on 25th September.
For the remainder of her sea-going career Bataan was to remain in home waters, although she did make a brief visit to Singapore in November 1953. She blotted her copybook on a few occasions. Her worst effort was when alongside the carrier Vengeance in the Western Australian area, she got too close and bumped the carrier twice in quick succession. The net result was that Bataan lost her bull ring and top of the stem and had her port wing and its 40mm Bofors gun crushed. The damaged stem was repaired by the ship’s staff by the simple expedient of taking the plates out of one boiler room and welding them into position on the damaged stem. It was an unusual looking bow, but it was watertight.
Not long after, she suffered a failure in No. 2 boiler and this fact was to help seal the fate of the ship. It is odd to recall that although Bataan formed part of the Royal Escort during the visit of Her Majesty the Queen in 1954, it was not thought that Bataan was worth replacing to her old shape. As a result she carried out the escort with the funniest looking stem ever to grace a Tribal.
A modernisation plan had been scheduled for the Australian Tribal class destroyers, but Bataan was not to be included. The ship was not considered worth repairing and so while her sisters were given a facelift, Bataan remained ‘as built’. She finally paid off on 18th October 1954 and placed in reserve. The ship lay idle for some time but on 2nd May 1958 she was sold to Japanese buyers of the Mitsubishi Group.
Affectionately known as ‘The Bats’, this ship was one of the best loved ships in the RAN (by her crews at least). Bad luck had dogged her during her building and original commissioning. It has been said that she was rushed into commission to get her into service before the war ended. This could well be true. Although Bataan did virtually nothing during WW2, her contribution in the Korean War certainly made up for it. Let us take a very quick review of her effort in Korea. She steamed a total of 98,000 miles on war service, she fired 3,462 rounds of 4.7”, 549 rounds of 4”, 8,891 rounds of 40mm and 3,240 rounds of 2 pounder pom-pom ammunition. This was only bettered by her sister ship Warramunga in the Korean War.
It must be said that Bataan was not quite up to the standard of her two sisters. The last to be completed, she was the first to go. In her life of only nine years, which is very short by destroyer standards, she steamed a total of 279,394 miles. This was much less than the 357,273 miles steamed by Arunta and a great deal less than the half million miles steamed by Warramunga. In that respect the ship was a disappointment, but whatever her faults, and she had quite a few, she was always a clean and happy ship. Those who served in her were very proud of her, she was always regarded as a good ship. Perhaps there is something in the old adage that it is wrong to change a ship’s name. Perhaps it would have been better to have called her Kurnai, but then we would not be able to talk about ‘The Bats’.
HMAS Bataan (ex Kurnai). Details:
Laid down: 30 11 40.
Launched: 15 1 44.
Commissioned: 25 5 45.
Built by: Cockatoo Island as Ship No. 148.
Paid off: 18 10 54.
Length (oa): 377’0”.
Draught (max): 15’5”
Displacement: 2,108 tons Standard (by inclining 17-6-54)
Displacement: 2800 tons at full load.
Launching weight: 767.75 tons.
Armament: Six 4.7” QF Mark XII guns in three twin Mark XIX mounts. Two 4” Mark XVI QF in one twin Mark XIX mount. Four 2 pounder Mark VIII pom-poms in one quadruple Mark VII* mountings. Four 21” torpedo tubes in one revolving deck mounting.
Machinery: Twin screws. Turbines with superheated steam supplied by three Admiralty 3-drum boilers.
Working pressure 300 psi.
Speed: Designed for a sea speed of 32 knots at full load, could make up to 36 knots light.
Oil Fuel: 516 tons
Asdic: Type 128 C.V.
Pennant Numbers: D9, 1.91, D 191.