HMAS Bendigo (J 187)
Minesweeper of the Bathurst class
|Navy||The Royal Australian Navy|
|Built by||Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co. Ltd. (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)|
|Ordered||16 Apr 1940|
|Laid down||12 Aug 1940|
|Launched||1 Mar 1941|
|Commissioned||10 May 1941|
|End service||27 Sep 1946|
HMAS Bendigo was commissioned at Sydney on 10 May 1941 under the command of Lieutenant Commander ~James Alexander Ronald Patrick, RANR(S). She departed Sydney on 4 July 1941 and began her active war career in the Darwin area where she remained for a period of two months. On 22 September she sailed for Singapore to become a unit of the China Squadron. The period remaining before the outbreak of the Pacific War was spent on escort, sweeping and patrol duties in the Singapore area. On 24 November 1941 HMAS Bendigo became a unit of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla (HMAS Maryborough (Flotilla Leader), HMAS Goulburn, HMAS Burnie and HMAS Bendigo, all 'Bathurst' class ships). January saw HMAS Bendigo operating out of Singapore on sweeping, escort and patrol duties, dawn to Berhala and Banka Strait.
On 30 January she anchored in Singapore Roads and remained there until 6 February. During this time the ship experienced 25 alerts and Japanese bombers were over two or three times a day. On 2 February two near misses caused extensive scarring from shrapnel. HMAS Bendigo made only one move From her anchorage during this period. On 5 February 78 survivors were taken off the burning Empress of Asia at Sultan Shoal.
On 6 February HMAS Bendigo proceeded to no 24 swept channel north of Durian strait, to act as lightship for an outward bound convoy. At 0100 the following day, her sister-ship HMAS Wollongong approached with instructions to proceed in company, as she had Senior Officer, Minesweepers, on board. At daybreak, HMAS Bendigo landed a party in the vicinity of Abang Besair to search for British airmen. Dense undergrowth forced the abandonment of the search. Subsequent signals informed HMAS Bendigo that the original message should have read 'search for survivors from Britsh Airman'. Rejoining HMAS Wollongong, the two minesweepers proceeded to an anchorage off the west coast of Durei Island. At 2300, the two minesweepers sailed to rendezvous with three auxiliary minesweepers. The three auxiliaries were contacted at daybreak on 8 February and all five ships proceeded to Amphitrite Bay. Seventeen Japanese aircraft in one flight were sighted en route. At 1500 the same day the flotilla sailed for Batavia. During the course of the voyage two of the auxiliary sweepers lost contact in the darkness. HMAS Bendigo commenced a search at 0100 on 9 February. Failing to locate the missing ships, she put into Gambie Bay until 1350, when an attempt was begun to locate HMAS Wollongong. The latter vessel was eventually rejoined at 0800 the following day ( 10 February) at Pulo Benu Inlet. The two ships were still missing and had, unknown to Bendigo proceeded independently for Batavia.
At 0659 on 11 February 1942 HMAS Bendigo and HMAS Wollongong entered Palembang Channel, moved up river and anchored off the oil refineries. After fuelling the following day, the minesweepers sailed at 1340, picked up a convoy at the mouth of the Palembang River and proceeded for Batavia. Banka strait was cleared by daybreak the following day (13 February). At 1117, eight Japanese aircraft circled the ships, and 15 minutes later the planes returned and commenced bombing from approximately 10,000 feet. Ignoring the main convoy, the attacking planes singled out the merchant ship Wuchang which had overtaken the convoy and was then about a mile ahead. Many bombs narrowly missed the Wuchang, but she was not hit or damaged. The planes made no attempt to attack the convoy. Bendigo's Captain noted 'they had in fact found a more interesting target in the shape of 7 large tankers some 40 miles to the east' . At 2300 the convoy anchored 20 miles SE of North Watcher Head, where they remained until the following morning. At 0600 the voyage to Batavia continued minus about half the convoy, the masters having elected to remain at anchor for a further period. The balance proceeded with HMAS Wollongong and HMAS Bendigo until 1000 hours when the ships dispersed off Edam Island.
Bendigo anchored in Batavia Roads at 1245 on 14 February 1942 and remained awaiting instructions until 18 February when she moved to the Outer Roads to give anti-submarine protection to incoming ships. On 21 February WOLLONGONG relieved her of this duty and she returned to harbour. The following day she fuelled, took on board eight members of the AIF who had escaped from Singapore, and at 1400 sailed with HMAS Burnie to join the Sunda Strait patrol off Merak. HMAS Bendigo remained at Merak as part of the Sunda Patrol until the night of 27-28 February, when Sunda Strait was abandoned. The only attack from enemy planes mentioned by Bendigo's Captain took place on 27 February. At 1555 three Japanese Army light bombers commenced dive bombing and machine gunning the anchored ships off Merak. Three separate attacks developed, and in all 27 bombs were dropped. An effective anti-aircraft barrage was put up and though the planes attempted to machine gun swimming parties in the water, no hits were scored and there was no damage or casualties.
At daybreak on 28 February HMAS Bendigo sailed from Merak in company with her sister-ships HMAS Maryborough, HMAS Towoomba, HMAS Ballarat, HMAS Goulburn and HMAS Burnie for Tjilatjap. En route, HMAS Bendigo was detached with HMAS Burnie to pick up survivors of the Dutch ship Boero. The Fourth Engineer and 14 of the crew were rescued from the beach. At 1252 on 1 March HMAS Bendigo entered Tjilatjap Harbour. Shortly afterwards she was ordered to proceed to sea in company with HMAS Burnie to search for the Dutch ship Sloterdijk, which had been reported attacked by a Japanese submarine. Unable to locate the merchant ship the mineweepers returned to harbour.
After fuelling and embarking 10 officers from the staff of Commodore John Collins, RAN, commanding British and Australian naval forces, one RAF officer, one civilian and five officers and 72 men from HMS Jupiter, HMAS Bendigo sailed for Fremantle. One plane of undetermined nationality was sighted the following day, and at 1720 USS Asheville was overtaken in 10° 30' S, 110° 10' E. On 3 March at 0840, the ship was circled by a twin engined plane and at 1700 Bendigo encountered USS Phoenix. Fremantle was reached on 8 March with a margin of 23 tons of fuel and one day's supply of food.
On her return to Australian waters HMAS Bendigo was assigned to Australia- New Guinea and coastal convoy escort duties, continuing in this role almost without a break until 1944 when convoys ceased. On 8 March 1943 Bendigo rescued 153 survivors from the Dutch ship F Jacob sunk by Japanese aircraft off Oro Bay whilst under escort by HMAS bendigo and HMAS Kapunda.
On 11 April 1943 she searched unsuccessfully for a Japanese submarine after the sinking of the Yugoslav ship Recina in convoy off the NSW coast with the loss of 32 lives. HMAS Moresby was her companion escorting vessel. In February 1944 Bendigo began escort and patrol duties in the New Guinea area. Excepting for docking periods in Sydney, the remainder of 1944 was spent in New Guinea waters on routine patrols and escort duties.
In March 1945 she arrived in Philippine waters, becoming part of a Task Unit operating with the British Pacific Fleet, to which she remained attached until the end of hostilities. She participated in the operation for the capture of Okinawa ( March-May 1945). From September to November 1945, following the end of hostilities, HMAS Bendigo operated as a minesweeper in the Hong Kong area. She returned to Williamstown on 20 December 1945.
On 4 February 1946 HMAS Bendigo sailed from Sydney, in company with HMAS Ballarat, to reduce to a 'Care and Maintenance' basis. The ship paid off at Sydney on 27 September 1946. since commissioning she had steamed 151, 242 miles . HMAS Bendigo was sold as a sea-going vessel on 5 May 1947 to Ta Hing Co (Hong Kong) and was renamed Cheung Hing. She was later acquired by the Navy of the People's Republic of China, converted from a merchant ship and re-armed for naval service under the name of Loyang.
Commands listed for HMAS Bendigo (J 187)
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|1||Lt.Cdr. James Alexander Ronald Patrick, RANR(S)||20 Mar 1941||11 Jun 1942|
|2||T/Lt. Sidney John Griffith, RANR(S)||12 Jun 1942||31 Mar 1943|
|3||Lt. John Hastie Dowson, RAN||13 Jun 1943||6 Jul 1944|
|4||T/Lt.Cdr. Harold Arthur Litchfield, RANR(S)||7 Jul 1944||26 Jul 1944|
|5||Lt.Cdr. John Hastie Dowson, RAN||27 Jul 1944||29 Oct 1944|
|6||Lt. William Jackson, RANVR||30 Oct 1944||14 Feb 1946|
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Notable events involving Bendigo include:
27 Dec 1941
The damaged HrMs K XIII (Lt.Cdr. M.A.J. Derksema, RNN) departs Singapore for Surabaya where she will undergo repairs. As K XIII is unable to dive she is escorted until she is south of Banka Strait by the Australian minesweeper HMAS Bendigo (Lt.Cdr. J.A.R. Patrick, RANR(S)). There the Dutch destroyer HrMs Van Nes (Lt.Cdr. C.A. Lagaay, RNN) takes over the escort. Both ships arrive at Surabaya on 30 December 1941.