- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Nizam
- September 1990 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
We steamed nearly to Crete before turning and heading for Tobruk. The moonlight was brilliant but fortunately there was a mist during daylight. However we had no drama and arrived off a strangely silent Tobruk. No small arms fire nor artillery fire and no aircraft overhead. We started unloading and a short time later, firing was heard. The embarkation staff officer said ‘ah, that means it’s reached them – they were very nearly out of ammunition, so thank God you got here’.
I’ve still to see Tobruk in daylight!
(e) But like all operations we did have some bad luck. On 21st October, 1941, in company with HMS KINGSTON, we were returning to Alexandria when a signal was received from the gunboat HMS GNAT reporting she had been torpedoed and lost her bows. We reversed course and prepared to take her in tow. However C in C, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham ordered us a little later to return to Alexandria as another ship would tow her.
We resumed our original course for Alexandria.
But in the interval between reversing and resuming original courses a following wind had got up and a sea was running. As a consequence many soldiers had left the crowded airless messdecks and squatted or sprawled on the iron deck. Some time after we turned for Alexandria NIZAM broached burying the iron deck and washing many soldiers over the side. It was very sudden but many soldiers were able to hold on to the towing wire flaked along the iron deck and so prevent them being washed over by the sea.
When the speed of the destroyer and that of the waves coincide it becomes hard to steer and broaching is often a problem. It will normally occur when the wheel is put over to correct a yaw and a wave pushes the ship in the same direction as the stern is starting to swing. Destroyers have no dead wood and their sterns just skate over the surface. Several of our sailors went over the side to support the soldiers who were weighed down by the greatcoats, etc. Kingston also rescued many. Our leading signalman dived off the bridge, grabbed a couple of soldiers and held them until picked up by Kingston in which ship he returned to Alexandria. Nizam lost the Wardroom cook. It was a rather subdued ship which arrived in Alexandria.
This Spud Run was extremely costly for the Navies as the following details show:
|Personnel out of Tobruk||34,115|
|Prisoners of War||7,097|
|Personnel into Tobruk||32,667|
|Killed and missing||469|
Merchant Navy Casualties
|Killed and missing||70|
HM Ships sunk
|Anti-submarine vessels and Minesweepers||7|
|HM Store Carriers and Schooners||7|
HM Ships damaged
|Antisubmarine vessels and Minesweepers||11|
Merchant Vessels sunk
Included above RAN lost one Destroyer and one Sloop, and one Destroyer was damaged.
Roughly it works out to one ship per 1,000 tons of stores.