- Barton, Alan
- WWII operations, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Perth I, HMAS Yarra II, HMAS Perth II
- September 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I have read with interest the comments in the Naval Historical Review on HMAS YARRA and Leading Seaman Taylor’s heroic action. I also believe this last action of YARRA’S has not received its due recognition.
It’s the same story again with HMAS PERTH and her Captain, “Hand Over Hec” Waller. At the Battle of Sunda Strait on the night of 28th February-1st March 1942, PERTH and USS HOUSTON engaged an overwhelming Japanese fleet. For about an hour PERTH attacked this force and manoeuvred so aggressively that the enemy could not do serious damage to her. Ray Parkin, a PERTH survivor, in his book “Out of the Smoke” claims that PERTH’s main armament – eight 6″ guns – was averaging better than two shells per minute per gun. It was only when PERTH was reduced to firing dummy or practice shells and altered course to break off the action that the Japanese disabled and finally sank her. Again there has been insufficient recognition of a ship’s brave action.
These events are part of our heritage; insufficiently acknowledged but still a manifestation of the Anzac spirit. A comparison with Leading Seaman Taylor’s act can be made with a similar occurrence at the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916. In the light cruiser HMS CHESTER, heavily shell damaged, the sight-setter of the forecastle gun, Boy First Class John Travers Cornwell, was awarded the V.C. Mortally wounded with the gun’s crew dead or wounded round him, he remained at his post awaiting orders. Buck Taylor’s refusal to abandon ship on the order to do so is perhaps the more meritorious. Like Nelson, with his telescope to his blind eye!
Incidentally, it is heartening to see modern Australian youth’s increasing interest in, and reverence for, Anzac Day. Is it because of their loss of confidence in some of our country’s recent leaders, they are realising that amongst Australian servicemen there are and have been some fine role models for them to follow?
Alan Barton (Member)