Allied Warships

HMAS Canberra (D 33)

Heavy cruiser of the Kent class

NavyThe Royal Australian Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
ClassKent 
PennantD 33 
Built byJohn Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Ltd. (Clydebank, Scotland) 
Ordered9 Apr 1925 
Laid down9 Sep 1925 
Launched31 May 1927 
Commissioned10 Jul 1928 
Lost9 Aug 1942 
History

On 25 January 1929 HMAS Canberra arrived at Fremantle. She remained in Australian waters, visiting New Zealand, Fiji and China.

In September 1939 Canberra spent the first nine months of the war patrolling home waters and the Tasman Sea. During January-February 1940 she escorted convoy US-1, the first New Zealand and Australian contingent comprising 13500 soldiers bound for Suez. Canberra was responsible for the escorting of this convoy from Wellington to Fremantle, where she was relieved of her duties by the British cruiser HMS Kent and the French cruiser Suffren. During May-June 1940, the third New Zealand and Australian troop convoy US-3 set out from Wellington, Lyttelton, Sydney and Melbourne escorted by Canberra. After stopping at Fremantle on 10 May the convoy was diverted to the Cape route while on the way to Colombo, because it was feared that Italy might enter the war. On May 20th Canberra was relieved of her duties by the British cruiser HMS Shropshire. On 30 June 1940, HMAS Canbarra was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa for an underwater inspection of her shafts. On August 4th, she was undocked, and then sailed from Simonstown for Australia, for repairs to a defective propeller tail shaft, and then for a refit at Sydney.

During February-March 1941, Canberra and the New Zealand cruiser HMNZS Leander were operating off the coast of Colombo in search of the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer and her supply ships. On March 4th, the supply ship Coburg was sighted south east of the Seychelles in company with the prize Norwegian tanker Ketty Brovig by the cruiser`s spotter aircraft, both ships were scuttled by the Germans before the cruiser could apprehend them. In December 1941, the cruiser was involved in the escorting of a convoy of 3 transport vessels containing 4,250 Australian troops with 10,000 tons of supplies from Sydney bound for Port Moresby.

During January-March 1942 Canberra was in the South West Pacific, she joined up with the newly arrived Task Force 17 near the New Hebrides, whilst still a member of this force she underwent a refit at Sydney, and was there at the time of the Japanese midget submarine attack, her refit being completed in May. In June, she was now a member of the US Navy Pacific Fleet operating with Task Force 17 controlled by Rear Admiral Mitscher. During July-August, the cruiser was involved in the preparation of the landings on Guadalcanal in the area off the Fiji Islands. During the end of August she was deployed as the Southern Covering Force during the US landings on Guadalcanal in company with the cruiser USS Chicago and two destroyers off Savo Island. The force was taken by surprise by the Japanese and Canberra (Capt. Frank Edmond Getting, RAN) was set on fire and reduced to a wreck. She received over 20 8" and 4,7" shell hits at Savo Island in a space of 3 minutes she was completely disabled. Five hours later on the morning of August 9th, with a list of 30 degrees and fires completely out of control. Whilst she was able to be towed for repairs, the US insisted that her smoking hulk was a beacon to Japanese air attack. She was finally abandoned and was scuttled (torpedoed) by USS Ellet. 84 crewmembers lost their lives.

The ships badge can still be seen painted on the side of the Selborne dry dock wall at Simonstown, South Africa.

The US heavy cruiser USS Canberra was named in honour of HMAS Canberra.

 

Commands listed for HMAS Canberra (D 33)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

CommanderFromTo
1Capt. Wilfrid Rupert Patterson, RN12 Apr 19385 Jun 1940
2Capt. Harold Bruce Farncomb, RAN6 Jun 194024 Dec 1941
3Capt. George Dunbar Moore, RAN24 Dec 1941May 1942

4Capt. Frank Edmund Getting, RAN17 Jun 19429 Aug 1942 (+)

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Notable events involving Canberra include:


9 Sep 1941

Convoy US 12A.

This convoy departed Fremantle on 9 September 1941 for Suez where it arrived on 23 September 1941.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships; Queen Elizabeth (British, 83673 GRT, built 1939) and Queen Mary (British, 81235 GRT, built 1936).

The convoy was escorted until Trincomalee by the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN).

The convoy arrived at Trincomalee on 15 September 1941 and departed from there on 16 September 1941.

From Trincomalee to Perim the convoy was escorted by the British heavy cruiser HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN).

The convoy arrived off Perim on 21 September 1941 and from there on the ships proceeded independently to Suez while HMS Cornwall proceeded to Aden where she arrived later that day. (1)

8 Nov 1941

Convoy US 13.

This convoy departed Fremantle on 8 November 1941 for Suez.

The convoy was made up of the following troopships; Queen Elizabeth (British, 83673 GRT, built 1939) and Queen Mary (British, 81235 GRT, built 1936).

The convoy was escorted until late morning of November 11th by the Australian heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN) when the British heavy cruiser HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN) took over in approximate position 11°30'S, 99°30'E.

The convoy arrived at Trincomalee on 14 November 1941 and departed from there to continue it's passage the following day.

The convoy arrived off Perim on 20 November 1941 and from there on the troopships proceeded independently to Suez while HMS Cornwall proceeded to Aden where she arrived later that day. (2)

11 Nov 1941
In late morning HMS Cornwall (Capt. P.C.W. Manwaring, RN) made rendez-vous with convoy US 13 in approximate position 11°30'S, 99°30'E. She then took over the escort duties from HMAS Canberra (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, RAN).

[For more info on this convoy see the event ' Convoy US 13 ' for 8 September 1941.] (3)

Media links


The Shame of Savo

Loxton, Bruce with Coulthard-Clark, Chris

Sources

  1. ADM 199/408
  2. ADM 53/113987 + ADM 199/408
  3. ADM 53/113987

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.


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