- Shinkfield, Des
- Naval Aviation, WWII operations, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Arunta I, HMAS Warramunga I, HMAS Shropshire, HMAS Australia II
- December 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Bound for Sydney
That night we bade farewell to Lingayen, bound for Sydney for extensive repairs. A smokescreen had been put around us, but the fore director was sticking out above it. I just hoped that no aircraft would decide to home in on us.
I couldn’t say I was sorry to leave Lingayen. The ship looked a battered wreck. Was the ship singled out because she was flagship? I doubt it. The ship needed more anti-aircraft guns. Shropshire had managed to get 13 more Bofors at Manus after Leyte and even had one mounted on ‘B’ turret. We only managed to get three at Espiritu Santo and six more Oerlikons. The American Lieutenant in command of the firing range said they had no use for the twin Bofors guns and we could have them, but Captain Armstrong wouldn’t be in it. How would USN administrators be pacified let alone the Australia Naval Board? Shropshire, on the other hand, got away with it. She survived many misses, but was not hit. Later, after Lingayen, Captain Armstrong said he wished he had taken up the offer at Espiritu Santo. But it was too late.
Australia received a number of signals from several ships. One from Shropshire read: ‘Imperturbable (that is, not easily upset) and Indefatigable (tireless and persistent) but definitely not air minded!’ Reply: ‘Thank you. A few scratches, nothing serious.’
From the West Virginia: ‘Commodore Famcomb. You and your fine ship can certainly take it. All hands are deserving of commendation. We are proud to be associated with you.’ Reply: ‘Thank you very much for your kind message. We hope you will pick the next one off for us.’ Another ship ventured to suggest we had been mistaken for an aircraft carrier!
The ship had now suffered six hits by kamikazes, the first at Leyte, five at Lingayen. It has been estimated that 2,550 suicide sorties in all were flown. They had either hit or near-missed close enough to damage ships on 363 occasions. Seventy one of these ships were either sunk outright or damaged beyond repair. One hundred and fifty attacks resulted in ships requiring dockyard attention. Over 6,600 Allied officers, men and women died. The kamikaze pilots were brave young men, willing to sacrifice their lives for the Emperor.
The suicide bombers of today are also brave, but seemingly devoid of feeling for ordinary people who have nothing to do with the politics that have given rise to the present situation.
But did we have any consideration for ordinary people when the atomic bombs were dropped in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Be that as it may, kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers have one thing in common. They are committed to their cause, whether we agree with it or not.
And us? To what are we committed? Hopefully, not to engage in any war unless absolutely necessary.
Honesty in our dealings with others.
Fairness and justice for all.
Respect for others, irrespective of colour, race, language, religion.
Consideration for the wellbeing of others less well off than ourselves.
Truth and sincerity at all times.
I can think of no better way of honouring our men who lost their lives, to give us the freedom which we still enjoy in this great country which we call our own.