SEQUENCE OF THE PARTICIPATION OF HMAS HOBART IN THE EVENTS
LEADING UP TO AND AFTER FALL OF SINGAPORE AND THE N.E.I.
Compiled & Edited by Dr.Pat.ffyske
Howden, Cone St, Macleay Island Q 4184. Ph/fax 07/34095100.
9 Dec 1941: Hobart
departs the Mediterranean for Australia.
29 Dec: Hobart, returning from the Mediterranean, takes over the
escorting of Convoy BM 9A off Colombo. Joins HM Ships Dragon, Danae
and HMAS Vampire and goes though Sunda Strait to
3 Jan 1942:
Arrive Singapore with convoy and experiences first attack by Japanese
7 Jan: Arrives
Tanjong Priok for fuel and provisions.
11 Jan: Arrives
27 Jan: Hobart
is assigned to ABDA Command.
PM Hobart in company with HMS Tened0s departs Singapore
3 Feb: PM Hobart goes to the assistance of merchant vessel
Moller being bombed by three Japanese planes. Norah Moller is
hit amidships and Hobart takes off her wounded and passengers.
The planes make a fruitless attack on Hobart but are beaten off.
4 Feb: Hobart
reaches Tanjong Priok with 57 passengers including 28 wounded plus six
who died on passage.
departs Tanjong Priok under orders to join HM Ships Exeter, Jupiter,
and Encounter at the northern entrance to Banka Strait and search
for enemy forces north of Banka island. Hobart steams north
through Banka Strait to meet the other three ships.
5 Feb: 07:48 Hobart rendezvous with the three British ships.
12:00 The force is
attacked on three separate occasions by high level bombers. Hobart
is near missed but suffers no damage. Afterwards, the force rounds Banka
Island, closes Klabat Bay and returns via Gaspar strait between Banka
and Billiton Island to Tanjong Priok. Captain Howden notes that the
accuracy of the Japanese bombers is more deadly than that of the Germans
6 Feb: 07:00 Hobart arrives Tanjong
7 Feb: Hobart
and destroyer HMS Electra depart Batavia to relieve Danae
and HMIS Sutlej and to escort a convoy through Sunda
Strait consisting of merchant vessels Devonshire and Felix
Roussel bound for Bombay with women and children.
9 Feb: Hobart,
after passing through Sunda Strait disperses Devonshire and Felix
Roussel to Bombay unescorted and takes over from HMS Cornwall
the escort of convoy JS 1 carrying the first flight of the AIF ex Middle
East to the NEI (Nederland East Indies).
13 Feb: Hobart,
whilst on route as escort of JS I to Oosthaven is signalled by Commodore
Collins, RAN, to join a striking force at Oosthaven consisting of Dutch
cruisers Deruyter, Java, Tromp and Dutch destroyers Van
Ghent, Banckert, Piet Hein and Kortenaer.
14 Feb: 09:00 Hobart arrives Oosthaven to find Dutch ships already there.
09:15 HMS Exeter
arrives Oosthaven and is later joined by U.S. destroyers Bulmer, Barker,
Stewart, Parrott, Edwards and Pillsbury.
09:15 to 16:00 Rear
Admiral Doorman flies to Batavia to discuss the impending
operation with Vice Admiral Helfrich. Via Banka Strait appears to be the
quickest route to get to the enemy. It was, however, decided to take the
longer and more difficult route through the unlighted Gaspar Strait and
to take the Japanese in the rear from north of Banka Island. Then,
subsequently if practicable return through Banka Strait.
departs Oosthaven and forms into two columns. Dutch cruisers led by
Doorman in De Ruyter to starboard and the British led by Hobart
as Senior Officer to port. The six US destroyers screened ahead; and the
15 Feb: 09:23 Force sighted by a Japanese shadowing plane whilst steering in a NW
curve approximately 60 miles east of Banka.
11:50 First bombing
attack by two formations of Japanese aircraft.
12:17, 12:29 Second
and third bombing attacks.
12:30 Doorman, because
of lack of Allied air cover, decides to return to Batavia via Gaspar
12:42 Doorman reverses
course at a point 40 miles east of the N.E. point of Banka Island.
14:41,14:50, 14:54, 14:59, 15:03, 15:17, 17:13, 17:28 Bombing attacks by
formations of Japanese aircraft. Ships skilfully handled and only near
missed. Hobart estimates 109 aircraft took part in the attacks,
the heaviest of which occurred when three formations of 9, 8 and 7
aircraft respectively carried out simultaneous attacks on HOBART.
16 Feb: 09:52 Hobart, Exeter,
and Bulmer anchor in Tanjong Priok.
20 Feb: Massing of enemy ships at Jolo reported. Invasion of Java in
preparation and could be at both ends of the island simultaneously.
21 Feb: Vice Admiral Helfrich (Dutch) decides to divide his
available surface forces into eastern and western striking forces. Hobart,
based on Tanjong Priok and with Exeter, Dragon and Danae
and destroyers Encounter, Jupiter, Electra, Scout, Stronghold and Tenedos: engaged in escorting 'SJ' convoys.
24 Feb: Eastern
and western groups reinforced by the arrival of heavy cruiser USS Houston and destroyers
USS Paul Jones and USS Alden (Eastern) and HMAS Perth (Western).
25 Feb: Large Japanese convoy and escorts reported moving down
orders all available fleet cruisers and destroyers (excluding Dragon, Danae,
Tenedos and Scout - because of their age and
lack of speed, unsuitable for a fleet action) to reinforce Doorman at
Collins despatches Perth, Exeter, Electra, Jupiter
and Encounter from Tanjong Priok to Surabaya. Hobart
unable to Join Doorman because of bomb damage to fleet auxiliary War
Sirdar. This ship unable to fuel Hobart in time for her to sail
with the others. Helfrich considers it too risky to send Hobart
alone to Surabaya.
26 Feb: Enemy
convoy of 30 transports escorted by four cruisers and three destroyers
reported in western Java Sea, moving south in the vicinity of Banka
21:15 Hobart Dragon, Danae,
Scout and Tenedos depart Tanjong Priok to
form Western Striking Force. The Force sails to try to intercept the
Japanese convoy and steam north for 90 miles.
27 Feb: 03:00 Howden's force reverses course.
03:45 Collins signals
Howden (Senior Officer) that those Japanese ships are reported 55 miles
north of him. As it is not possible to establish contact before dawn,
Howden continues south and awaits the result of a dawn reconnaissance.
and consorts turn north for one hour intending to attack if
reconnaissance discloses an enemy force not overwhelming superior, but
will withdraw eastward to Join Doorman if the odds are too great. No
further sightings south of Banka are reported and the force steers
towards Tanjong Priok.
14:20 After being
attacked and bombed by eight Japanese aircraft, Hobart and her
force enters Tanjong Priok with five wounded ratings.
17:51 Collins signals Hobart:
"PROCEED TOWARDS SOUTH ENTRANCE BANKA STRAIT AT 20 KNOTS. UNLESS
ENEMY SIGHTED REDUCE TO 15 KNOTS; AND ALTER COURSE FOR SUNDA STRAIT SO
AS TO REACH TOPPERS ISLAND BY 18:30 ON 28TH. THENCE PROCEED WITH YOUR
FORCE TO TRINCOMALEE SENDING DESTROYERS INTO PADANG TO FUEL AND BRING
OFF EVACUEES. IF FUELLING AT PADANG PROVES IMPRACTICABIE, FUEL
DESTROYERS AT SEA"
Collins' orders to
Howden are a token gesture for it is obvious that the force which
consists (apart from Hobart) of old and obsolete ships and which
is numerically and materially so much inferior to that which the
Japanese could oppose it with, would stand little chance in an
engagement. The instructions to Howden, therefore, are that if he fails
to meet the enemy by 04:30, he is to retire. Collins' carefully worded
signal correctly ensures so far as possible that this weak force would
not meet the Japanese and be uselessly sacrificed.
28 Feb: 00:45 Hobart, Dragon,
Danae, Tenedos, Scout
and Dutch destroyer Evertsen depart Tanjong Priok with ships
unable to fuel and with Howden under the impression that Japanese intend
to land at Bantam during the night of 27-28 Feb and would seal off Sunda
Strait. He decided to proceed north of the Strait and thence sweep
northwards with the object of intercepting.
05:00 No enemy
sighted. Howden reverses course.
06:16 Enters Sunda
Strait and proceeds at minimum speed of 24knots through much wreckage
consisting of abandoned lifeboats and rafts. Shortly after dawn Hobart
and her force pass convoy consisting of depot ship HMS Anking;
three tankers War Sirdar (5542 tons), British Judge (6735
tons) and Francol (26O7 tons) minesweepers Gemas and MMS
51 escorted by HMAS Yarra and HMIS Jumna.
Wind light ENE, sea calm with passing showers. During passage through
the northern part of the strait, the ships are heavily and consistently
Force, (less Evertsen) clears the strait and heads NW for Padang.
Howden notes Evertsen apparently becomes separated from the force
and was not seen after about 0400 on the 28th. (She had, in fact,
returned to Tanjong Priok).
23:40 Hobart at
speed with her force northwest along the west coast of Sumatra, some 120
miles south-east of Padang intercepts enemy report from Perth
just north of Sunda Strait.
1 Mar: AM Having
sent the destroyers on ahead, the cruisers including Hobart
arrive Padang. Hobart embarks 512 refugee - army, navy, airforce
and civilians, including women and children - from Tenedos.
PM Departs Padang with
Tenedos for Colombo leaving other ships of the force to follow.
Thus concludes Hobart's involvement in the debacles of Singapore
It is interesting to
speculate on just how "lucky" the Hobart really was.
Had she been able to fuel from War Sirdar on 25 February she
would have sailed with Perth and company to Surabaya and probably
have met the same fate as her sister ship in the Battle of Sunda Strait
on 1 March. Of the ships involved with Hobart, Evertsen
was engaged by enemy cruisers on the morning of 1 March and beached on
Sebuku Island. HMS Anking, was sunk by Japanese gunfire at
06:30 on 4 March along with HMAS Yarra, MMS 51 and Francol. War Sirdar grounded on Jong Reef at 04:20 on 28 February
after several unsuccessful attempts by HMAS Wollongong to
tow it failed, Wollongong advised War Sirdar to abandon
ship and land on Agentium Island.
understanding from Harry is that he fooled the Japs who he figured were
there waiting in ambush. Non-fuelling was only an excuse to not be
ambushed! - ed).
Address given by
COMMODORE DACRE-SMYTH RAN (ex-HMAS Australia)
at VICTORIAN HMAS
HOBART SHRINE SERVICE on 20 July 1983.
Last known address on
Feb '93: 22 Douglas St, Toorak, Vict 3142 - tel 03-98276821
Edited By Pat.ffyske Howden, son of
Captain Harry L.Howden
At this moment,
exactly forty years ago, the Japanese Submarine I G.0.11 torpedoed HMAS
Hobart near New Hebrides, south of the Solomon Islands.
I saw the explosion
from the bridge of HMAS Australia, where I was Officer of the
Watch. 14 men died in that moment: 8 officers and 6 ratings.
In many ways it was
but one incident in an action-packed war fought by a gallant ship, but
it is a good moment on which to focus our attention as we meet tonight
to honour the memory of the ship and those who served and died in her.
Let us also remember
the remainder of her war: her early months in late 1939 and early 1940
in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea under Captain Howden.
The entry of Italy
into the war in June 1940. Her Walrus aircraft bombing Massawa in June.
Her first attack by Italian bombers in July. Her going aground in a gale
at Berbera in August, and her small landing party's saga at Berbera
shortly afterwards, armed with only a saluting gun.
Her return to the war
zone after a Cockatoo Island refit in June 1941, then entering the
Mediterranean in July.
Her actions at Port
Tewfick in July. Her duties on Malta convoys under Admiral Cunningham in
September. Service at Haifa. Her bombardment near Tobruk in October. The
sinking of Barham and Parramatta in November. Her return to the Pacific
in December 1941 when Japanese entered the war.
Singapore and the East
Indies in January and February 1942 including Black Sunday 15 February
when 52 bombs were aimed at Hobart by 27 aircraft in one attack
alone. She suffered a total of 13 attacks by 109 aircraft.
The Java Sea tattle,
which she just missed.
I saw her arrive in Sydney, with so many shrapnel holes still in her
funnel and upper works that we Christened her the "pepperpot".
4 - 8 May 1942:
The Coral Sea Battle, where Hobart and my ship Australia,
were the only Australian ships, and both escaped damage during heavy
aircraft attacks. Hobart bagged 3 Jap bombers (footage exists
taken from Chicago of Hobart - ed).
Captain Howden handed over to Captain Showers (1950s Sydney Uni,
Physics under Prof.Mesell liaison with Lucas Heights Nuclear facility -
7 Aug 1942:
The disastrous Savo Island battle - once again luckily Hobart was
11 miles from the action, where Canberra, Astoria, Quincy and
Vincennes were lost in what consequently became known as Ironbottom
Nine months monotony
in the Barrier Reef until July 1943 when on this night near Vanuatu 40
years ago, her luck faltered and she was torpedoed.
destroyers O'Bannon, Nicholas and Radford - so proud of
their protective achievements when they joined us that day; so
embarrassed when the torpedo struck - but it had been fired from 10miles
away , and incidentally at Australia. So they could be forgiven
for not detecting the submarine.
did not turn away, but we didn't go on to full speed, as we've been
accused of doing In fact, I reduced speed by mistake, for the drill
called for ringing on 22 knots when a ship in company was torpedoed.
This I did, forgetting that we'd been doing 25 knots! Hobart
limping back to Espirutu Santo, thence Sydney for repairs. A long repair
job and finally in December 1944, recommissioned under Captain Dowling.
WAR DIARY on CORAL SEA
BATTLE of COMMODORE DACRE-SMYTH RAN
Last known address on Feb '93: 22 Douglas St, Toorak, Vic 3142 - Ph
Compiled & Edited by Dr. Pat.
ffyske Howden, son of Captain Harry L. Howden
Cone St, Macleay Island Q 4184. Ph/fax
Sat May 2 1942: Australia was proceeding in company with
Hobart to Hervey
Bay about 120miles north of Brisbane. We rounded Breaksea Spit by
afternoon to anchor in the NE corner of the Bay that is some 40miles
across at its widest. Also in the Bay were USS Whipple, an
American flush-decker. HMS Bingara, Kybra & the RA
Fleet Aux tanker Kurumba which came alongside us on Australia to
fuel soon after we anchored, with Hobart secured on her other
When fuelling was
complete at 21:00 we slipped & weighed for sea in company with Hobart
We proceed NE to the Coral Sea to meet Task Force (TF) 17.
Ships were sighted in the forenoon to establish themselves as USS Lexington
with TF 11 having returned from their refit at Pearl Harbor. With them
we were to join TF 17 the day following. On our joining forces, Whipple
detached from us to the southward.
Perkins met us soon after daw, having come from TF 17. Two hours later
we sighted Yorktown & the Force. She had just returned from a
very successful attack by her aircraft on Tulagi - the Jap held capital
of the Solomons - on Florida Island. Their bombers had sunk 9 ships in
All forces were united in the morning into TF 17 that now consisted of 2
carriers Yorktown & Lexington, the heavy cruisers Minneapolis,
New Orleans, Astoria, Portland, Chester & Chicago (from which
footage of Hobart is known to have been taken - ed), Hobart
& ourselves. Plus modern destroyers Farragut, Aylwin, Monaghan,
Dewey, Walke, Phelps, Morris, Anderson, Hammann, Russell & Perkins.
There was also USS Sims & USS Neosho, a tanker similar
to Platte from whom some of our cruisers fuelled during the day.
Just before 11:00
aircraft were Radar-detected so we went to Repel Aircraft Stations
though no planes sighted.
We had been steering NW during the night & at dawn were quit close
to Luisiade Archipelago. As this was within range of Jap bases, we
remained closed up at Action Stations, 2nd Degree, through the day.
At 6:45 we detached
from the main force as TF 17.3, with Chicago, Hobart & the 3
destroyers Walke, Farragut & Perkins. TF 17
were to proceed to the north of the Archipelago & attempt to
intercept various Jap forces reported to be moving south; whilst we were
to remain south of the Archipelago in the region of Jomard Entrance.
This is just south of Duboyne Island where Jap forces had been reported.
It was our duty to prevent any attempt by them to come through the
Passage towards Moresby.
radar reports were frequent during forenoon with several unidentified
planes sighted. At 14:24 we fired on 11 planes which appeared. They
turned away before hits scored - still unidentified. Shortly later a USN
Devastator appeared that had lost its parent carrier & seeking
directions. As we also didn't know the carrier's exact location, we
directed the plane towards the mainland.
Soon after it
disappeared ahead, a formation of 8 Jap Mitsubishi Type 97 Torpedo
Bombers appeared bunched on our port bow flying very low, & they
attacked immediately. Perkins, who was screening us, shot one
down in flames. The remainder continued their attack. As we turned
towards them, 2 torpedoes narrowly missed us, passing only yards from
the starboard side. As the bombers flew past us, they raked our upper
deck with machine gun fire. Our close-range guns shot down one of them
beside our port beam just as he launched his torpedo at Chicago.
The attack was soon over, but before they withdrew we had shot down 3,
with others badly damaged.
after this episode, 19 high level bombers - probably Fiat BR20 Heavy
Army Bombers, attacked from a height of about 14,000ft, dropping at
least 20x 500lb bombs close to us, besides those aimed at other ships in
the Force. Although some of these were extremely close, we were not hit.
When the aircraft withdrew, no damage was found by any vessel other than
a few machine gun & shrapnel holes. Only 2 fatal casualties were
suffered, both on Chicago, plus a few minor casualties on other
ships. (Hobart is reported to alone have shot down 3 bombers - ed).
During the remainder
of that day we were occasionally shadowed by a large 4-engine flying
boat. No further attacks.
No enemy surface craft
were seen during the day & intelligence sifted from Aircraft
Reconnaissance reports suggested that Yorktown & Lexington
had caused the Jap forces, including 2 carriers, 4 heavy cruisers &
many destroyers, to retire northward. One carrier at least had been very
seriously damaged, probably sunk by Lexington's aircraft.
During the afternoon
we received signals from tanker Neosho, who had turned back for
Noumea the previous evening, indicating that she was being bombed &
later that she was sinking - despite a Catalina plane report 3 days
later that she still floats!
Our Force had moved east some 200miles during the night whilst still at
Action Stations then & next day. Several aircraft again sighted, one
approaching within range without identifying itself. We opened fire
causing it to turn away again. That day, both Perkins & Walke
had short breakdowns for different reasons - the latter only able to use
one engine which limited speed to 17knots. It was decided that Hobart
should fuel Walke in the afternoon & then detach from us to
proceed to Townsville. This plan was carried out, the 2 ships parting
company shortly after dark.
We were still patrolling SW of the Luisiade Archipelago. Farragut
came alongside us to fuel before noon. Fortunately no enemy aircraft
were sighted during this operation or at any other occasion during the
day. We were steering south. By late afternoon we sent our aircraft to
Townsville with private mail from the ship's complement (frequent
shrapnel damage had caused the similar amphibian to be removed much
earlier - ed).
Our intention was to rendezvous a tanker in the Whitsunday Passage south
of Port Cairn. To this end we entered the Barrier Reef by evening
through Grafton Passage near Townsville.
Shortly before noon the squadron arrived in Cid Harbour to anchor in the
Whitsunday Group. Kurumba (Coral Sea Veteran? - ed), was
already there & she immediately commenced fuelling Chicago
plus one of the destroyers; whilst we fuelled the others.
By morning all had fuelled, so weighed anchors & proceeded to
Brisbane. Chicago had departed earlier with Perkins for
We approached Brisbane in the forenoon. After a lengthy difficult
approach through reefs, channels & finally the river, we secured
alongside. (This Coral Sea Battle was Captain Howden's last sea command