Allied Warships

HMAS Adelaide (D 47)

Light cruiser of the Birmingham class


HMAS Adelaide as seen after her 1942 conversion

NavyThe Royal Australian Navy
TypeLight cruiser
ClassBirmingham 
PennantD 47 
Built byCockatoo Island Naval Dockyard (Sydney, Australia) 
Ordered 
Laid down20 Nov 1915 
Launched27 Jul 1918 
Commissioned5 Aug 1922 
End service13 May 1946 
History

Design: HMAS Adelaide was an improved version of the British Town-class light cruisers. The ship was of the same basic design as the HMA Ships Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. She was originally equipped to burn both coal and oil fuel. Fitting out and completion were very seriously delayed due to the loss by enemy action of important forgings for the turbines and other machinery parts wich could not, at that time, be made in Australia. Replacement, due to the war conditions, took over two years. The decision to corporate extensive modifications as a result of war experiance of other ships resulted in further delays. In fact, Adelaide for a time was known as HMAS Long-Delayed.

Modifications: In 1938 HMAS Adelaide was taken in hand for an extensive refit and modernisation at Cockatoo Island Dockyard. The refit wich was completed in March 1939, included conversion to burn oil fuel only, involving removal of the two forward boilers, the forward funnel and uptakes, and the construction of additional oil fuel tanks. Several alterations were made to the armament, including the removal of one 6-inch gun, the 3-inch anti-aircraft gun and the torpedo tubes. (the 12-pdr gun had been removed in 1937). Three 4-inch anti-aircraft guns were fitted and the gunnery control positions were rearranged. During her May-July 1942 refit the armament was strengthened by the fitting of six 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns. During her June-September 1943 refit there were further alterations to her armament. Two six-inch guns were removed from the waistand replaced by six depth-charge throwers. One of these 6-inch guns was relocated on the centreline, above and forward of the quarterdeck 6-inch gun so as to fire over it. This rearrangement enabled the retention of five 6-inch guns on the broadside. The 4-inch anti-aircraft gun displaced by the relocated 6-inch gun was landed. The heavy armoured shields on the 6-inch guns were replaced by a new type of square and comparatively light bullet-proof shields.

Service: Before her extensive 1938-refit Adelaide was more than ten years in reserve. She recomissioned on 13 March 1939 under the command of Captain H.L. Howden, RAN, and after trials and practises Adelaide proceeded from Sydney to participate in trade defence exercises in company with units of the Australian Squadron, the New Zealand squadron, mercantile marine and aircraft from the RAAF. These exercises were completed in April 1939. Adelaide returned to Sydney and paid off to reserve on 17 May 1939, her crew being transferred to SS Autolycus on 15 May, for passage to England to commission HMAS Perth.

On 1 September 1939 Adelaide commissioned for war service under the command of Captain H.A. Showers, RAN, and operated on the Australian coast for defence of trade. On 3 september 1940 while proceeding to Brisbane from Sydney en route to New Calidonia, Adelaide was in collision with SS Coptic. Both ships avoided major damage. She then served off New Caladonia during September-October 1940 in order to establish a pro Free-French government. Adelaide arrived back in Sydney on 8 October 1940. From then until May 1942 Adelaide carried out patrols, convoy escort and shipping protection duties on the Australian Station. The ship was under refit at Garden Island from May to July 1942. After completion of this refit Adelaide was based at Fremantle for convoy and escort duty in the Indian Ocean.

On 28 November 1942 Adelaide together with the Royal Netherlands Navy Light Cruiser HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck and the minesweepers HMAS Cessnock and HMAS Towoomba was escorting a convoy in position 23.30S, 99.21E (Southern Indian Ocean). Early in the afternoon, Adelaide sighted a strange ship, with Jacob van Heemskerk closed in to investigate. The ship made distress massages claiming to be SS Taiyang, a name that Adelaide could not accept, so Action Stations was ordered at a range of 15.000 yards, peting identification. The navigating officer of Adelaide, quickly identified her as the German blockade runner Ramses. Adelaide opened fire and hits were optained on the third salvo. At 15.52 Ramses suddenly sank. Jacob van Heemskerk who had also been firing was ordered to rejoin the convoy while Adelaide picked up the survivors.

After this incident, Adelaide continued her duties of convoy escort and patrols, operating from Fremantle. This service was interrupted by a refit at Williamstown Dockyard from June to September 1943. After this refit Adelaide served on further convoy escort and patrols, from Fremantle. On 8 October 1944 the ship left Fremantle for Melbourne and on 4 January 1945 she departed Melbourne for Sydney where she arrived on two days later. Here ended het seagoing service. Adelaide was paid off on 26 February 1945 but recommissioned on 19 May 1945 as a tender to the Syney shore establishment HMAS Penguin. On 13 May 1946 Adelaide was finally paid off. The ships hulk was sold on 21 January 1949 to Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd., her gear and equipment having been sold in 1947.

 

Commands listed for HMAS Adelaide (D 47)

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CommanderFromTo
1Cdr. Henry Arthur Showers, RAN1 Sep 19394 Jun 1942
2A/Capt. James Claude Durie Esdaile, OBE, RAN4 Jun 194222 Jul 1944
3A/Capt. Laurence Ernest Tozer, RAN22 Jul 194426 Feb 1945
4A/Cdr. Glen Loftus Cant, RAN14 Dec 194425 Feb 1945

5Lt.Cdr. (retired) Herbert William Goodchild, RAN19 May 1945Oct 1945 ?

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Notable events involving Adelaide include:


9 Aug 1942
At 1200 hours, in position 38°06'N, 115°44'E, HrMs Tromp (Cdr. J.B. de Meester, RNN) made rendes-vous with the Australian light cruiser HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) and turned over the escort of the British passenger (troops) / cargo ship Stirling Castle (25550 GRT, built 1936) to her. Tromp then set course to return to Fremantle. (1)

7 Sep 1942
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) and HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) departed Fremantle as escort for convoy US 17 that left Fremantle for Durban, South-Africa. This convoy was made up of the British liner (troopship) Felix Roussel (16774 GRT, built 1931, former French), Dutch liner (troopship) Westernland (16313 GRT, built 1918), American cargo ship Lillian Luckenbach (8739 GRT, built 1919) and British passenger / cargo ship Ekma (5128 GRT, built 1911).

For the daily positions during the period of 7 September 1942 to 14 September 1942, see the map below.

(1)

11 Sep 1942
At 1140 hours, HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) and HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN), turned over the escort for convoy US 17 to the British heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. R.D. Oliver, CBE, DSC, RN). Tromp then set course to return to Fremantle. (1)

14 Sep 1942
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) and HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) returned to Fremantle. (1)

24 Sep 1942
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) and HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) departed Fremantle for exercises. (1)

26 Sep 1942
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) and HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) returned to Fremantle. (1)

28 Nov 1942
The Australian light cruiser HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) and the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Capt. E.J. van Holthe, RNN) intercept the German blockade runner Ramses (7983 GRT) in the Indian Ocean about 830 nautical miles west-south-west of North West Cape, Australia in position 23°30'S, 99°21'E. However before the German ship can be captured she is scuttled by her own crew.

5 Jan 1943
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) departed Fremantle to briefly escort the British liner (troopship) Ile de France (43548 GRT, built 1927, former French) when she was on passage near Fremantle. Tromp returned to Fremantle the following day.

HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) departed Fremantle with Tromp and Ile de France but she was to remain with the troopship until position 05°00'N, 79°00'E. HMAS Adelaide was back in Fremantle on the 13th. (1)

27 Jan 1943
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) departed Fremantle for exercises about 100 nautical miles west off Rottnest Island together with HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Capt. E.J. van Holthe, RNN) and HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN). (1)

1 Feb 1943

'Pamphlet' convoy, Suez - Sydney, 1 February to 27 February 1943.

This convoy, made up of the British liners (troopships) Queen Mary (81235 GRT, built 1936), Aquitania (45647 GRT, built 1914), Ile de France (43548 GRT, built 1927, former French), the Dutch liner (troopship) Nieuw Amsterdam (36287 GRT, built 1938) and the British auxiliary cruiser Queen of Bermuda (A/Capt. (retired) the Hon. Sir A.D. Cochrane, DSO, RN) (22575 GRT, built 1933) were transporting 30000 men of the Australian 9th Division from Suez to Melbourne and Sydney.

This convoy had departed Suez on 1 February 1943 and were escorted during their passage through the Red Sea by the British destroyers HMS Pakenham (Capt. E.B.K. Stevens, DSO, DSC, RN), HMS Petard (Lt.Cdr. R.C. Egan, RN), HMS Isis (Cdr. B. Jones, DSC, RN), HMS Hero (Lt.Cdr. W. Scott, DSC and Bar, RN), Derwent (Cdr. R.H. Wright, DSC, RN) and the Greek destroyer Vasilissa Olga (Lt.Cdr. G. Blessas, DSO, RHN).

The convoy was joined on the 4th by the British heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire (Capt. D. Young-Jamieson, RN).

Later the British light cruiser HMS Gambia (Capt. M.J. Mansergh, CBE, RN) joined near Addu Atoll.

Around 0840 hours on 16 February 1943 the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) and the Dutch destroyer HrMs Van Galen (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Burghard, RNN) joined the convoy near postion 26°06'S, 101°09'E.

Around 2120 hours on 16 February 1943 the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Capt. E.J. van Holthe, RNN) joined the convoy in approximate position 27°41'S, 104°35'E.

Around 2130 hours on 17 February 1943 the Dutch destroyer HrMs Tjerk Hiddes (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Kruys, RNN) joined the convoy in approximate position 30°30'S, 112°52'E.

In the afternoon of the 18th the convoy arrived off Fremantle.

In the evening of the 20th the convoy departed Fremantle now escorted by the Australian light cruiser HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN), the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Jacob van Heemskerck (Capt. E.J. van Holthe, RNN) and the Dutch destroyers HrMs Van Galen (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Burghard, RNN) and HrMs Tjerk Hiddes (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Kruys, RNN). Tromp and Van Galen only remained with the convoy for a short period.

Around 1615 hours on the 24th the convoy was joined by the Australia (Capt. H.B. Farncomb, MVO, DSO, RAN) heavy cruiser HMAS Australia and the US destroyers USS Henley (Lt.Cdr. E.K. van Swearingen, USN) and USS Bagley (Lt.Cdr. T.E. Chambers, USN). The New Amsterdam escorted by HMAS Adelaide, HrMs Heemskerk and HrMs Tjerk Hiddes then departed the convoy and proceeded to Melbourne where they arrived arrived noon on the 25th. The other ships continued to Sydney.

In the afternoon of the 26th the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Heemskerck rejoined the convoy. Later in the afternoon the Free French destroyer Le Triomphant (Capt. P. Ortoli) also joined.

The convoy arrived at Sydney on the 27th.

10 Feb 1943
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) departed Fremantle escorting the British liner (troopship) Mauretania (35738, built 1939). The escort was further made up of the Dutch destroyer HrMs Van Galen (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Burghard, RNN) and the Australian light cruiser HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN). Both Dutch ships were to escort the Mauretania until dark this day. HMAS Adelaide was to remain with the Mauretania until near longtitude 100°E. (1)

13 Apr 1943
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) conducted exercises off Fremantle together with HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) and HrMs Tjerk Hiddes (Lt.Cdr. W.J. Kruys, RNN). (2)

8 May 1943
HrMs Tromp (Capt. J.B. de Meester, RNN) departed Fremantle to escort the Australian light cruiser HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdaile, OBE, RAN) until dark this day and then to return to Fremantle. (2)

6 May 1944

Operation Transom,
Carrier raid against Surabaya by the Eastern Fleet.

On 6 May 1944 the Eastern Fleet put to sea from Trincomalee, Ceylon in two task forces;
Task Force 65, which was made up of the British battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth (Capt. H.G. Norman, CBE, RN and flagship of Admiral Sommerville, CinC Eastern Fleet), HMS Valiant (Capt. G.E.M. O’Donnell, DSO, RN), the French battleship Richelieu (Capt. Merveilleux du Vignaux), the British light cruisers HMS Newcastle (Capt. P.B.R.W. William-Powlett, DSO, RN), HMS Nigeria (Capt. H.A. King, DSO, RN), the Dutch light cruiser HrMs Tromp (A/Capt. F. Stam, RNN) and the British destroyers HMS Rotherham (Capt. F.S.W. de Winton, RN), HMS Racehorse (Cdr. J.J. Casement, DSC, RN), HMS Penn (Lt. M.J.W. Pawsey, RN), the Australian destroyers HMAS Napier (Lt.Cdr. A.H. Green, DSC, RAN), HMAS Nepal (Lt.Cdr. J. Plunkett-Cole, RAN), HMAS Quiberon (Cdr. G.S. Stewart, RAN), HMAS Quickmatch (Lt.Cdr. O.H. Becher, DSC, RAN) and the Dutch destroyer HrMs Van Galen (Lt.Cdr. F.T. Burghard, RNN).

Task Force 66, which was made up of the British battlecruiser HMS Renown (Capt. B.C.B. Brooke, RN and flagship of Vice Admiral A.J. Power, KCB, CVO, RN, second in command of the Eastern Fleet) (went to Task Force 65 the next day), the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (Capt. R.L.B. Cunliffe, RN), the US aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (Capt. J.H. Cassady, USN), the British light cruiser HMS Ceylon (Capt. G.B. Amery-Parkes, RN), the New Zealand light cruiser HMNZS Gambia (Capt. N.J.W. William-Powlett, DSC, RN) and the British destroyers HMS Quilliam (Capt. R.G. Onslow, DSO and 2 Bars, RN), HMS Quadrant (Lt.Cdr. W.H. Farrington, RN), HMS Queenborough (Cdr. E.P. Hinton, DSO and Bar, MVO, RN) and the US destroyers USS Cummings (Cdr. P.D. Williams, USN), USS Dunlap (Cdr. C. Iverson, USN) and USS Fanning (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Bentley, USN).

On 10 May 1944, the Dutch light cruiser Tromp and the destroyers were fuelled at sea by the capital ships and the cruisers. During fuelling from HMS Valiant the Dutch destroyer HrMs Van Galen sustained some minor damage (fractured hull plate on her port side) but the crew of the Van Galen was able to effect emergency repairs.

On 15 May 1944, task forces 65 and 66 were fuelled at Exmouth Gulf, Australia by Task Force 67 which was made up of of six Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers; Eaglesdale (8032 GRT, built 1942), Echodale (8150 GRT, built 1941), Easedale (8032 GRT, built 1942), Arndale (8296 GRT, built 1937), Pearleaf (5911 GRT, built 1917), Appleleaf (5891 GRT, built 1917) and supplyship (used as distilling ship) Bacchus (3154 GRT, built 1936). This force had already left Trincomalee on 30 April and was escorted by the British heavy cruisers HMS London (Capt. R.V. Symonds-Tayler, DSC, RN), HMS Suffolk (Capt. A.S. Russell, DSO, RN). They had also been escorted near Ceylon by a local escort for A/S purposes, this local escort had been made up of the British destroyer HMS Rotherham, Dutch destroyer HrMs Van Galen and the British frigate HMS Findhorn (Lt.Cdr. J.C. Dawson, RD, RNR). The local escort returned to Ceylon on 5 May 1944. The two cruisers mentioned above now joined Task Force 66. Later this day Task Forces 65 and 66 went to sea again for the actual attack on Surabaya. On leaving Exmouth Gulf the fleet was spotted by the merhant vessel Aroona. This ship was now instructed to put into Exmouth Gulf and was held there by HMAS Adelaide (A/Capt. J.C.D. Esdale, OBE, RAN) for 24 hours and to impress on the master and crew of this vessel the necessity of not disclosing any information concerning the Fleet on the arrival of their ship at Fremantle (their next port of call).

In the early morning hours of the 17th the carriers launched 45 dive bombers and 40 fighters for an attack on the harbour and oil installations (Wonokromo oil refeniry) of Surabaya, Netherlands East Indies. (USS Saratoga: 12 Avengers (1 had to return with engine trouble shortly after being launched), 18 Dauntless, 24 Hellcats; HMS Illustrious: 18 Avengers (2 of which force landed in the sea shortly after being launched), 16 Corsairs). On the ground they destroyed 12 enemy aircraft (20 were claimed). The damage to the harbour and shipping were over estimated (10 ships were thought to have been hit) as in fact only the small transport ship Shinrei Maru (987 GRT, built 1918) was sunk and patrol vessel P 36, auxiliary submarine chasers CHa-107 and CHa-108, tanker Yosei Maru (2594 GRT, built 1928, former Dutch Josefina) and cargo ships Choka Maru (???? GRT, built ????) and Tencho Maru (2716 GRT, built 1919) were damaged.

On the 18th the US ships were released. The other ships then proceeded to Exmouth Gulf where they arrived to fuel the next day before starting on the return trip to Ceylon less destroyer HMAS Quiberon which was to refit in Australia and was sent to Fremantle.

On 23 May 1944, the Dutch light cruiser Tromp and the destroyers were fuelled at sea by the capital ships and the cruisers.

Task Force 65 and 66 arrived back at Trincomalee on the 27th.

During this operation several US Submarine guarded the passages to the Indian Ocean to spot a possible Japanese counter attack. The submarines deployed for this purpose were the following; In the Sunda Strait from 12 to 23 May 1944; USS Angler (Cdr. R. I. Olsen, USN) and USS Gunnel (Cdr. J.S. McCain, Jr., USN).
South of Lombok Strait from 13 to 20 May 1944; USS Cabrilla (Cdr. W.C. Thompson, Jr., USN) and also the USS Bluefish (Cdr. C.M. Henderson, USN) from 13 May until the night of the 16th.
South of Bali Strait from 17 to 20 May; USS Bluefish.
North of Bali Strait; USS Puffer (Cdr. F.G. Selby, USN) during the night of 16/17 May.

The following US Submarines were deployed in the Surabaya area for air/sea rescue duties; USS Puffer in the Madura Strait about 40 miles to the east of Surabaya.
USS Rasher (Cdr. W.R. Laughton, USN) in the Java Sea about 40 miles to the north of Surabaya. (3)

Sources

  1. File 2.12.03.6850 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  2. File 2.12.03.6851 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
  3. Files 2.12.03.6853 and 2.12.27.121 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands) and WO 203 / 4767 (British National Archives, Kew, London)

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