- Zammitt, Alan
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Sydney III
- June 1982 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
At about 1930, the starboard 32 foot cutter, stowed inboard on the weather deck, was stove in and smashed by a huge wave. A Firefly was washed overboard at 2220, and six other aircraft were badly damaged, including Sea Fury 135 and Firefly 207 whose undercarriages had collapsed, and they slid to the side of the ship, partly over into the sponson. A 40mm Bofors was damaged by one of the aircraft. Below decks, the Chief and Petty Officers galley had been put out of action. The only meal served from the ship’s company gallery was a sausage between two pieces of bread, and that had to be eaten standing up, as the forrard cafeteria had seawater in it, which turned into a wave as the ship rolled, smashing everything from one side of the cafeteria to the other. Down below in the machinery spaces the stokers were working in up to one foot of seawater.
During Sunday night a number of fires broke out caused by seawater getting into electrical equipment, and we heard the pipe ‘FIRE-FIRE-FIRE’ time and time again. There was an added danger as AVGAS from the smashed aircraft fuel tanks had leaked into the ship’s ventilation system, and a spark from an electric motor could have caused an explosion, just as the escort carrier HMS Dasher had blown up in Scotland in 1943. Some sailors were walking through the ship with life jackets on. Anyone not on duty turned in to their hammocks.
By Monday morning the centre of the typhoon had passed us, and as we steamed back to Sasebo we were able to see the damage caused by the typhoon, and to start cleaning up. Rear Admiral Murray, in the Naval Historical Review of June 1976, gives an excellent account of this typhoon.
At midday on 15th October we secured to No. 18 buoy, once again near HMS Unicorn and sent over by lighter the aircraft written off in the typhoon, and received replacement aircraft in exchange. Sydney’s hull was fairly rusty, with a lot of paint gone, and the plates near the bow were pushed in more than they were before. Rear Admiral Murray estimated that the damage caused by the typhoon was about $500,000. Sydney got off lightly compared with some of the ships. The buzz was that our opposite number, USS Rendova, an escort carrier, was badly knocked about. A couple of merchant ships were either sunk or driven onto the rocks. Ashore in southern Japan about 200 people were killed, and thousands of millions worth of damage – in Japanese yen – was done.
On Monday afternoon, as each ship entered harbour, we would race up on to the flight deck to see how much damage had occurred. After two days of hard work cleaning up the ship, we sailed from Sasebo for the Yellow Sea and the west coast of Korea, on 18th October.
While in the operational area, ships usually steamed a zig-zag course. Sydney would have a screen of destroyers, which would leave the carrier to carry out shore bombardments. Amongst the destroyers with us during October were HMAS Tobruk, HMS Concord, USS Hanna, USS Phillip, USS Nicholas, USS Naifeth, HMCS Athabascan and the Dutch HsMs Van Galen. There were others that I have long since forgotten. A Firefly would carry out anti-submarine patrols, and two Sea Furies would carry out combat air patrols over the group.
During the second patrol, Sydney’s aircraft flew 389 sorties, including patrols each morning up the coast of Korea to the Manchuria border, attacking junks and sampans, and shore targets such as buildings, bridges, tunnels, etc. Undercover agents working for US Intelligence, code named Leopard, reported enemy junk activity in the Yalu River, believed to be a threat to the friendly island of Taehwa-Do, off the coast of North Korea. A couple of weeks earlier, 600 North Koreans landed on the large Yalu Gulf island of Sinmi-Do, and although the garrison held out for three days with support from HMS Ceylon, the island fell to the enemy on 12th October.
(To Be Continued)