- Chatto, A.K.
- Biographies and personal histories, Ship histories and stories, WWII operations, History - WW2
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Manoora I, HMAS Kanimbla I, HMAS Vampire I, HMAS Parramatta II, HMAS Sydney II
- June 1984 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Extracts from the War Diary of former member, the late A.K. Chatto
HMAS MANOORA sailed from Sydney at 1800 Saturday, November 22 1941. After clearing the swept channel we took a northern course. It looks like the old beaten track to Darwin again. On Sunday the usual church service, of course everyone is looking forward to Captains which takes place instead of the reading of the Second Lesson. There were words of welcome to the new members of the Ships Company, we had recently changed about half the seamen, then a surprise, we are on our way to Townsville (not going in) to pick up the First Naval Member and Staff. Our next port is Thursday Island where we will inspect defences, and then Singapore to relieve the Kanimbla. We do not know what length of time we will be away as the Kanimbla has to refit.
On Monday it is the usual routine of breaking in new guns crews – I have a complete new gun crew bar two. We turn to in the afternoon to get the ship clean after being in dockyard hands. The next day we are told the ship will proceed direct to Darwin to embark the Admiral and Staff. A film was shown in the afternoon. By Thursday, and two more alterations in our movements, we are informed we are to proceed direct to Darwin with all despatch. We have been passing through the well known (to us anyhow) Barrier Reef for the last three days. We will pass Thursday Island during the First Watch tonight and cross the Gulf tomorrow.
Saturday, usual routine, had pictures at 1615, we expect to arrive Darwin at 2200. On arrival we went alongside the jetty and took on fuel and water. There are rumours the Sydney has been sunk by a raider, we all try to remember who we knew aboard her.
We have taken 7 days 4 hours approximately from Sydney – not a bad run for this ship though we had perfect weather. At 0900 the Admiral and Staff (2) arrived onboard and at 0915 we slipped away from the jetty and said farewell to Darwin. After passing through the Boom Defence we are on our way to Singapore. Church as usual, the Admiral read the Lesson, the Captain had nothing to say this day. We sighted the mail plane at 1600.
For the past few days the Manoora has been ploughing through the tropical seas to Java via the Lombok Straits, things are much as usual. The Admiral has been inspecting the ship – unofficially of course, my word he has done it properly too. He seems to be alright, he asks all kinds of questions. During the passage there is yet another change of plans, we are to call in at Batavia tomorrow for the Admiral to pay a courtesy call.
On December 4th we arrived at Batavia at 1230.
Usual official calls, we saw some Dutch CMBs at work. Leave is to be given, the Dutch authorities are providing the transport ashore and up to the city as it is 8 miles from the port. Leave was to 2200 – the lads had a good time. We sailed from Batavia at 0145 the following morning.
The Sydney rumour is still strong, there is one of the Parramatta too. Well it is out at last. Sydney lost with all hands through enemy action with a raider in the Indian Ocean. The raider was also sunk, but what a fate for the Sydney. Some 286 Germans were saved but not one from the Sydney. Everyone talks about it.
We are nearly at our destination. The Admiral inspected the mess and sleeping decks this morning. We expect to arrive at 1500 today, 5th December and go into Singapore Harbour. No, things are altered again.
We are now proceeding to the Naval Base (Seletar) right around the back of the island. We finally pass through the Boom Defence after having taken a pilot on board, and enter the dockyard where the Prince of Wales is lying – what a terrific ship she is. Another cruiser was in harbour, we proceeded right up to the Causeway and went alongside the tanker at 1815 to take in oil.
So this is Singapore Naval Base, some 40 square miles in size. I believe it is 16 miles to Singapore City.
All leave is cancelled due to the Japanese situation, so we had pictures instead at 1930. What a change, no Darken Ship.
The next day we had Divisions and shifted into the stream at 1030. The Captain announced we were to sail for Colombo at daybreak tomorrow (8th). No general leave was given, but the C- in-C had made a special concession to us and granted leave to everyone except men under punishment and essential services until midnight. Transport was provided free as Singapore was 16 miles away. I went ashore, we had to have a leave pass to enable us to get out of the Naval Base. Two of us coupled up to view the sights. The drive to the city was great over beautiful roads. We passed several rubber plantations and saw several military camps installed in them (Australians were there too).
On arrival in town we decided to break from the main party which was heading for the Anzac Club and make for Johnson’s Pier on the waterfront of the main harbour. Here we changed a pound 1:0:0; off we went to view the city which to us was full of filth and filthy people. The natives were even sleeping in front of their shop doors. I do not know whether it is to prevent any person from entering them or not. It is funny, people living on the first floor reach their quarters by a ladder from the street through a manhole in the floor – at night the ladder is hoisted up.
There is plenty of military activity, lorries are dashing everywhere with troops. The city is well protected against air raids with all main building foundations strengthened. After a ramble round the town we visited the Anzac Club where we had some refreshments and signed the visitors book and saw plenty of our lads there. Later we went down to the Union Jack Club where we participated in tea and further refreshments (not me). We then went for a rickshaw ride and caught the bus back to the Naval Base.
At 0345 we are suddenly awakened to hear the pipe ‘White Watch darken ship’ – that includes me, what a joke at this hour of the morning. Some say Singapore exercises will curse them – why don’t they pick another time instead of this hour of the morning? The Defences ashore have been standing to all night. At 0415 the aircraft alarm is sounded, all lights go out in the Naval Base, but not in Johore. Suddenly searchlights are switched on aircraft in the sky. AA guns ashore open up on them. We are now in the midst of our first air raid.
I was on the fo’c’sle having a first class view of things when I was ordered to take cover. How the heads like to spoil one’s view. There were two attacks of short duration though the aircraft appeared to me to keep at great height, some say 11,000 feet. Anyhow the AA guns certainly kept them up, thanks to the RDF gear. During the first raid when the lights of Johore were failed to be put out, we heard several rifle shots apparently fired by the sentries and out went the lights very quickly.
We sailed for Colombo at 0615 as expected and as we passed the Naval Base we saw Prince of Wales, Repulse, our own Destroyer Vampire and two of our corvettes. We now hear we are at war with Japan and we expect things will be a bit more serious. The Manoora is put immediately into full cruising routine with both HA guns fully manned from dawn action stations to 2130 as there are hostile aircraft in the area. There was one alarm on the way to sea but nothing came of it.
At 1200 there was Clear Lower Deck, the Captain tells us that we are at war with Japan and that Singapore was raided this morning. There was a change in our destination – we are now to proceed to some point north- west of Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal to pick up a French troopship and escort her to within 300 miles of Singapore and then proceed to Calcutta to refuel and water. We passed 3 drifting mines during the morning so things are getting serious.