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- December 1976 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Commander Alliston is well fitted to speak of Australian ships and Australian seamen. On 15th June 1941 while commanding HMS Javelin he went to the aid of HMAS Nestor, fatally hit by dive bombers in the Mediterranean. His appointment as Captain of HMAS Warramunga was a happy one. In this article the commander looks back over 30 odd years.
IT IS 32 YEARS since I joined the good ship Warramunga. I joined twice, the first time at Manus when Commander McKinnon was sick and then again a week or two later when he was invalided south. This time we were at sea and I swayed across in a bosun’s chair.
Warramunga was a remarkable ship, looking back on my 25 years service in both the RAN and RN, mostly in destroyers, I can just say . . . She was the best. She was weatherly, handled like a racehorse and had that unmeasurable quality we call luck.
During my time in her we had no casualties, which seems amazing when you remember all the dirt that was flying around on occasions.
After we mounted the extra four 40 MM Bofors, a job we did ourselves at Manus with the great help of some of the artificers from Shropshire, and had the proximity fuse for the 4.7’s we really had an effective armament. But that’s only half the story.
The Warramunga‘s crew, youngsters nearly all of them, were natural marksmen and the eye shooting was first class. (The chief and I were two of the oldies aboard and aged 34 years). When the heat was on the lines of tracer were right on target and the Kamikaze either got the knocker or decided to try elsewhere.
On some of those frantic days at Lingayen and Leyte we were maneuvering continuously all day and some of the night. The revolution telegraph was going up and down like a yo-yo but on the bridge we always got what was needed and quickly. This had as much to do with dodging the wily Jap as the guns had in fending him off. The engine room department was invincible. To this day I can still hear the whine of the turbines as they wound up and the ship leapt ahead at 30 knots or more.
I remember the nerve-wracking business of transferring USS Brooks‘ crew to Pennsylvania. She was steaming at 10 knots beam on to the swell and carrying out a 16″ bombardment of the shore positions. As we crept alongside, off went a salvo and the battleship rolled back towards us and chopped a large hole in the starboard bow. We had to put the motor boat in the water and fool around for hours transferring wounded, a sitting duck for the opposition. I wish I could remember the name of the PO Shipwright who did a fantastic repair job under the worst of conditions. He was a master man.
Another small incident. We were patrolling off Samar at night in the Leyte Gulf and at dawn action stations an Ordinary Seaman was missing. It was unbelievable but true, he simply was not in the ship. Later we discovered he had gone walkabout during the night and swum ashore. He must have had the luck of the devil, between Japs, sharks and the trigger happy Yanks. However he eventually turned up and was sent aboard a Fleet oiler. We did not see him again so missed out on just what did happen and why.
It is not good to live in the past but the past has a lesson we cannot dodge and that is if you want to keep what you value you must be prepared to fight for it.