- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney III
- June 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
We sailed from Manus on 10th September crossing the equator the same day. Flying training carried on each day, one Sea Fury was lost due to engine failure, forcing it to be ditched. The pilot, Sub- Lieutenant E. Webster, was rescued by Sydney’s seaboat. A few days later the seaboat rescued Naval Air Mechanic Spargo, who fell overboard from a gun sponson. One aircraft could not get its hook down, so it landed at Guam for repairs, rejoining Sydney as it passed the island. As we steamed from Manus to Japan, war routine was exercised, including darken ship and dawn action stations. We were issued with British identification cards in case we were taken prisoner of war, the RAN did not have identification cards in those days.
There was a typhoon in the vicinity of the Philippine Islands which could have menaced us, as typhoons in this region often worked their way north until they approached the Japanese coast. Captain Harries therefore arrived at Yokasuka two days early to top up with fuel in case we had to do some high speed steaming to dodge the typhoon. On our way to Japan, before the main movie film each night, we were shown army VD films, which should have turned the sailors off Japanese girls. However, all the medical officers days of lecturing, and showing films were lost, when on anchoring an LCP came alongside with a US Navy band and a troupe of Japanese dancing girls. This was our welcome to Japan and Korea by the US Navy.
Our six days stay at Yokasuka was very popular with the ship’s company. We were amazed at the way Yokasuka, Yokohama and Tokyo had changed since 1947 from a deflated nation to a prosperous economy. Shops were full of goods, even selling cigarettes, tobacco, soap and chocolates. Fruit shops displayed bananas, apples, pears and figs. Some Japanese were driving around in 1951 model US cars. Tokyo was full of US servicemen on leave from Korea, spending their money as if it were going out of fashion.
After a two-day trip we arrived at Kure on 27th September 1951, and secured alongside the pontoon, with HMS Glory, which ship we were to relieve, lying on the other side.
Glory was very dirty, both inside and out. A number of her 1948 ship’s company were still on-board. Glory took our damaged aircraft to be returned to Australia, and sent over some of her aircraft and equipment. HMS Unicorn, wearing the flag of Rear Admiral Scott Moncrieff, DSO, arrived at Kure on 28th September and HMS Alert, with the C-in-C Far East Station, Vice- Admiral the Hon. Sir Guy Russell, KCB, CBE, DSO, was also in Kure for two days. The Admiral inspected Sydney, followed by an inspection of Glory. Sydney was so clean that the condition of Glory must have made the Admiral wonder.
Vice-Admiral Sir Guy Russell sent the following signal to Sydney: ‘Congratulate you on a very smart turnout and the excellent appearance of the ship I wish you every possible success in your operations. From Cin- C Afloat.’ Glory sailed for Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney via Fremantle, escorted by HMAS ANZAC. The troopship Empire Orwell arrived at Kure on 2nd October, we supplied her with stores, and received some from her. Kure, like the rest of Japan, had improved a great deal. The huge Kure naval dockyard – a wreck in 1947 – was now repairing RN and Japanese ships. Kure House, a former Japanese Naval Officers’ club, had been converted into a very popular servicemen’s club, and the shops were full of goods, including oysters and seafood.
Sydney sailed from Kure on her first patrol on 3rd October. Once in the operational area, war routine was carried out with the ship’s company exercising dawn action stations and the ship darkened at night. At 0645 on 5th October Sydney’s aircraft started operations against the enemy forces on the west coast of Korea, 47 sorties being flown. One aircraft returned with bullet holes in its wing. Daylight operations against the enemy continued until 1500 on Sunday, 7th October, when we made a rendezvous with the 16,000 ton fleet tanker Wave Premier, from which we received fuel and mail. The next day Captain Harries announced that we were heading for the east coast of Korea for special operations, and no ‘gash’ was to be thrown over the ship’s side, as the ‘gash’ (rubbish) could identify our whereabouts to the enemy; also the ship would not break radio silence while steaming from the east to the west coast.