- Richardson, G
- Ship histories and stories, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Australia II, HMAS Warrnambool I, HMAS Bendigo I, HMAS Cessnock I, HMAS Swan II, HMAS Colac, HMAS Townsville I, HMAS Broome, HMAS Warrego II, HMAS Arunta I, HMAS Katoomba, HMAS Hobart I, HMAS Lithgow, HMAS Bungaree, RAFA Kurumba, HMAS Stuart I, HMAS Ballarat I
- June 1975 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
18.6.42. Our orders were to take Macdhui to Townsville via the Great N.E. Passage, but Fate steps in! At 1030 some 20 Airocobras took off and headed north, a bad sign; then the yellow warning was run up. We weighed and proceeded out of Bomb Alley towards the reef and Macdhui slipped and steamed slowly to the spot we had just vacated, while the Ballarat remained where she was, which was a safe place. At 1100 on the dot, 18 heavy bombers appeared, heading straight towards our stern, but I saw (with relief) the bombs leave the planes before they got to us. The Macdhui nearly jumped out of the water as three direct hits were scored, the ship nearby was unharmed, but the spectacle of all those bombs is a horrifying one – the noise was terrific. We tore up at full speed to give aid, but most of the crew had been speedily taken off by RAAF launches standing by. She was well ablaze and her ammunition was exploding, forcing us to take cover. Later the Carola went alongside and we weighed at dusk and proceeded on our lonesome for Townsville. The Macdhui has drifted into shallow water and is lying on her side still burning fiercely.
19.6.42. At blinkin’ sea.
20.6.42. Through Grafton Passage at noon.
21.6.42. Arrived at Townsville at 0730. Shifted berth after oiling to Ross Creek.
23.6.42. Oerlikon gun mounted aft. Nice little guns. Went to sea at 1730 with John J. and Tasman, and have a rendezvous with the Swan at Grafton Passed the Cessnock with three ships during the first watch.
24.6.42. At sea.
25.6.42. Weather not so good, as usual.
26.6.42. Anchored in Moresby, the Tasman moved to the wharf when the other packet finished unloading. Nippon raided yesterday and today, but he’s a bum shot. He lost 8 to 10 planes today to our four.
27.6.42. Raid expected, so we weighed and got out of Bomb Alley. Swan took Tasman south and John J. went alongside, followed by our old comrade, the Ballarat.
28.6.42. Ballarat sailed for Milne Bay at 0600. We landed a swimming party on Mamibada Island, but were recalled when the fighters took off at 0900. The alert lasted 2½ hours, but I believe the bombers were intercepted before they reached their objective. When the ‘all clear’ sounded we anchored near the wharf, but received orders tonight to shift to a safer anchorage as a flying boat raid is expected. No raid came.
29.6.42. Ballarat arrived during the night. We left with the John J. at 1100 and are bound for Cairns, the city beautiful.
30.6.42. At flamin’ sea.
1.7.42. Through Grafton Passage, John J. carried on down to Townsville while we secured at Cairns at 1400.
2.7.42. Cairns. Warrego arrived in the forenoon.
4.7.42. Squad of men from us and Warrego formed a very smart guard for the march for the Yankees’ Independence Day. Nearly melted with the heat and the feet are sore. It is twelve months today since we left Sydney on our travels.
5.7.42. Catalinas returned from a successful raid on Lae, and did the victory roll over Cairns.
7.7.42. Proceeded at 0400 to rendezvous with Mongola at Grafton. Bound for Port Moresby. The Mongola used to be on the Singapore run.
8.7.42. At sea, passed the Swan and a freighter coming in. They call us the New Guinea Ferry Service, and we run like the Manly ferries.
9.7.42. Passed the Katoomba to a freighter. Cleared Balisk Light at 1600 and went alongside to oil. The Colac is here again. It’s got me beat why they don’t camouflage her. Alert at 1930. Slipped and anchored at 2015. Mosquitoes are vicious and quinine pills were issued.
10.7.42. At Port Moresby. Colac sailed at 0800 with her ship. Fighters took off at 0815. My, my, very early this morning. Nippon is expected at 1000. Shortly before this time, our fighters galloped seaward so we expected the attack from that direction. The first indication of bombers was a concentrated M fire from inland, and we could pick out 21 bombers flying at great height over the reef and up harbour, well clear of us, we thought and hoped. The gunners were having fun, and put a burst right into ’em, making one break formation with smoke pouring from him. They altered course towards us (and my hair stood on end) and dropped a stick of bombs along the waterfront apparently at random and went mighty close to copping us, but the old luck held. The closest was about 300 feet away. No damage or casualties from shrapnel. We saw one plane crash into the sea with a large explosion. Recreation leave was granted in the afternoon. Blast those gunners, they’re too accurate. One alert during the night.
11.7.42. At Port Moresby. Fighters took off about 1040 shortly after the yellow warning. Signal received that 20 bombers are due in ten minute’s time. By gee, but they’re determined to hit something. Red warning at 1110 and the bombers could be seen coming in over the beacon. (They never come the same way twice.) The AA gunners put up a beautiful barrage, but no hits observed, but one plane wobbled badly. Their course would take them over the Mongola who had slipped and proceeded to the N end of the harbour. A heavy mist was over, and as the planes were pretty high (22,000 feet) it seemed as if they wouldn’t see her. However, a naughty Zero had dived over some time before and probably tittle-tattled. Anyhow, to cut a long story short, they dropped all they had around the poor ship and blotted her out in sheets of flame and smoke. We were astounded to see her still afloat and not hit, but 52 shrapnel scars on her. We had orders to steam to her assistance, but weren’t needed. During the dogs we anchored close to the wharf. Official news was two bombers and one Zero down to the loss of our two fighters.