Chapter 28



Service Details

Alan Zammit joined the cruiser HMAS Australia in March 1945 at the ageof 17 years. In 1948 he sailed to England on HMAS Kanimbla. After spending five months onthe British Aircraft Carrier HMS Glory he was in the crew that commissioned HMAS Sydney inwhich he served for six and a half years including her two deployments off Korea in1951-1952 and 1953-1954. Alan is an active member of the Naval Historical Society andalthough past mandatory retiring age he continues to work full time in his familybusiness. He also takes a keen and active interest in the affairs effecting veterans andparticularly those of former RAN personnel.


HMAS Sydney had been ordered to Korea. On 31 August 1951 (CaptainHarries in command) she sailed for Manus (Papua-New Guinea) accompanied by HMAS Tobruk,carrying out AA sleeve target firings and flying training as the ships moved north. Whilepassing through the St Georges Channel, signals were received indicating that some of thenative inhabitants of Rabaul were causing trouble, and that HMAS Sydney's personalappearance at Rabaul would be a great help. Both ships entered Rabaul for a short periodand on leaving harbour HMAS Sydney flew off all her aircraft in a suitable demonstrationover the town. After leaving Rabaul a fire broke out in one of the Sea Fury aircraft inthe forward deck park, but quick action by the crew stopped the fire spreading to theother closely parked aircraft full of AVGAS.

Three days were spent at Manus, HMAS Tobruk going alongside at LombromPoint, whilst the carrier anchored off the naval base. Both ships took on suppliesincluding fuel and water. Recreational leave was given. With my brother David we went andhad a look at the Japanese war criminals who were imprisoned at Manus. Amongst theprisoners were a General and a Rear Admiral and two doctors, who, we were told, cut outthe livers of Australian Prisoners of War (POW's) while they were still alive. There werenumerous former Japanese guards who had badly mistreated Australians on the Burma railway.The taking of photographs was prohibited, but as many of the prisoners were working aroundthe naval base, it was easy to talk to them. After having a swim we walked through thejungle to a native village, where all the girls were topless, but when the sailors startedtaking photos they ran to their huts and put tops on. We returned to the naval base, HMASTarangau. The Japanese prisoners had finished work and most were playing netball andtennis. They all appeared to be fit and healthy. At Manus most of the expatriateAustralians visited the ship, as well as the recruit seamen of the Papua New GuineaDivision of the Royal Australian Navy, Pacific Islands Regiment, native police and prisoncamp guards. Not much happens on Manus. This was a big event.

We sailed from Manus on 10 September 1951, crossing the equator thesame day. Flying training was carried out continuously, with one Sea Fury aircraft beingditched and lost due to engine failure. The pilot, Sub Lieutenant E. Webster was rescuedby our sea-boat. A few days later the sea-boat was used to rescue Naval Air MechanicSpargo who had fallen overboard from a gun sponson. One aircraft could not get its hookdown so was directed to Guam for repairs, rejoining HMAS Sydney as it steamed past theisland. As we proceeded north towards Japan, war routine was exercised, including darkenedship and dawn action stations. We were issued with British identification cards (ID) incase we were taken prisoner. The RAN did not have ID cards for its sailors in those days.At recreation and before the main film was shown we were lectured by our Medical Officersand shown Army films on venereal diseases which should have turned the sailors offJapanese girls forever. However, when anchoring at Yokasuka an American Landing CraftPersonnel (LCP} came alongside with a US Naval Band and a troupe of scantily clad dancinggirls. This was our welcome to Japan and Korea by the US Navy. All the lectures and filmson social diseases had been forgotten.

Our six days in Yokasuka was very popular with the sailors. We wereamazed at the way Yokasuka, Yokahama and Tokyo had changed since 1945, from a defeatednation to a prosperous economy.

Shops were full of goods, even selling cigarettes, tobacco, chocolatesand soap. Fruit shops displayed bananas, apples, pears and figs. Some Japanese weredriving 1951 models of US cars. Tokyo was full of US servicemen on leave from Korea,spending money as if it was going out of fashion. We left Yokasuka and after a two daytrip arrived at Kure on 27 September 1951 and secured alongside the pontoon with HMSGlory, the ship we were relieving, lying on the other side. HMS Glory was very dirty,inside and out. She took our damaged aircraft for return to Australia, and sent us some ofher aircraft and equipment. HMS Unicorn, wearing the flag of Rear Admiral Scott Moncrieff,DSO., arrived at Kure on 28 September, and HMS Alert, with the C-in-C Far East Station,Vice Admiral, the Honourable Sir Guy Russell, KCB, CBE, DSO, was also in Kure for twodays. The Admiral inspected HMAS Sydney followed by an inspection of HMS Glory. HMASSydney was so clean that the condition of HMS Glory must have made the Admiral wonder.

Vice Admiral Russell then sent the following signal to HMAS Sydney ;

"I congratulate you on a very smart turnout and the excellent appearance of the ship. I wish you every possible success in your operations.

C-in-C Afloat"

HMS Glory sailed for Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney via Fremantleescorted by HMAS Anzac.

The troopship HMS Empire Orwell, arrived at Kure on 2 October 1951. Wesupplied her with stores and received some from her. Kure, like the rest of Japan, hadimproved greatly. The huge Kure Naval Dockyard, a wreck in 1945, was now repairing RoyalNavy, United Nations and Japanese ships. Kure House, a former Japanese Naval Officer'sclub, had been converted into a very popular servicemen's club, the shops were full ofgoods, including oysters and other sea foods. HMAS Sydney sailed for her first patrol inKorean waters on 3 October 1951. Once in the operational area, war routine was carriedout. At 0645 hours (6.45 am) 5 October, HMAS Sydney's aircraft started operations againstthe enemy forces on the west coast of Korea, 47 sorties being flown. One aircraft returnedwith bullet holes in its wing. Daylight operations against the enemy continued until 1500hours Sunday 7 October, when we made a rendezvous with the 16000 ton fleet tanker"Wave Premier", from which we received fuel and mail. The next day CaptainHarries announced that we were heading for the east coast of Korea for special operations.Radio silence was to be maintained and no "gash" (rubbish) was to be thrown overthe side as this could identify the ship's whereabouts to the enemy. At about 0400 hours10 October, about 40 bombers could be heard flying overhead. At dawn "actionstations" we could see the gun flashes from HMS Belfast, HMS Comus and HMS Cossack asthey bombarded the coastal Kojo area of North Korea. HMAS Sydney had a screen of British,Canadian and US destroyers. Our first aircraft were in the air by 0630 hours and attackedany targets that they could find. By 1500 hours the sea became very rough, and after 58sorties flying had to be cancelled.

Thursday 11 October, was our best day. At 0300 hours the battleship,USS New Jersey left HMAS Sydney to commence a 16 inch bombardment, pounding targets suchas bunkers, stores, ammunition dumps and troop concentrations. All day we could hear thethunder from her massive 16 inch guns, relentlessly pounding away at enemy installations.HMAS Sydney provided the USS New Jersey with "spotter aircraft". The "BigJay" as the Americans called the USS New Jersey, on her first patrol which ended 22November fired more than 3000 rounds of 16 inch shells and more than 4000 rounds of 5inch. The USS New Jersey's broadside was nine 16 inch shells, each weighing 2700 pounds(one and a quarter tons) and could reach 30 miles (48 kilometres). HMAS Sydney's crewcould see the destroyers firing at the enemy and during the morning were so close to theNorth Korean coast, that we could see landmarks and buildings. Our Sea Furys, on theirlast patrol, caught more than a 1000 enemy troops engaged in digging in. The enemysuffered more than 200 casualties from the attack. By dusk we had completed a record 89sorties, and then sailed for Sasebo at 20 knots, escorted by HMS Belfast and fourdestroyers. The Admiral sent us the following message on the completion of our firstpatrol ;

"Your air effort in the last two days has been unprecedented in quantity and high in quality. It has been a magnificent achievement on which I warmly congratulate you. Eighty-nine sorties in one day is grand batting by any standard, especially in the opening match"

HMS Glory held the record with 84 sorties until HMAS Sydney did 89.However, HMS Ocean, later beat HMAS Sydney's record and was awarded the Admiral Sir DenisBoyd Trophy for outstanding naval aviation. I believe that a Sea Fury from HMS Ocean shotdown a North Korean MIG-15 jet fighter capable of 650 mph. During patrols, in addition tobombardments, our Fireflys would carry out anti submarine patrols and Sea Furys wouldcarry out combat air patrols over the group. During the second patrol, HMAS Sydney'saircraft flew 389 sorties, including morning patrols up the coast of Korea to theManchurian border, attacking Junks, Sampans and shore targets such as buildings, bridges,railways and tunnels.

Undercover agents working for US Intelligence, reported enemy Junkactivity on the Yalu River, believed to be a threat to the friendly island of Taehwa-Dooff the coast of North Korea. A couple of weeks earlier, 600 North Korean troops landed onthe large Yalu Gulf island of Sinmi-Do. The garrison held out for 3 days with support fromHMS Ceylon but the island fell to the enemy on 12 October 1951. On 21 October, six SeaFurys attacked the suspected invasion Junks, sinking 7 and damaging 15.

Two Sea Furys were detailed to assist HMAS Murchison negotiate shallowwater hazards which threatened her safety on 24 October. The aircraft carried out a minesearch ahead of the frigate. On October 23 our aircraft had taken part in the search for aditched B29 bomber (US) whose crew were in the sea well north of Chinnampo. A speciallyequipped air-sea rescue flying boat (nicknamed "Dumbo") picked up four of thecrew while being covered by aircraft from HMAS Sydney. Later our aircraft sighted afurther survivor flashing his signal mirror from a small dinghy. HMAS Murchison's sea-boatrescued the USAF pilot after he had transferred to a larger dinghy dropped within 90 feetof the downed airman by one of our Fireflys. While searching for the bomber crew, asuspected mine was strafed by one of our aircraft.

In June 1951, the Chinese Communists had over 300 MIG-15s concentratedon airfields north of the Yalu River, a formidable force against which the Americans hadonly 44 F86A Sabre Jets. It was a considerable source of annoyance and frustration to theUnited Nations pilots that they were not permitted to cross the Yalu River to strike atenemy bases. Nevertheless, despite the fact they were outnumbered, the Sabres managed tohold their own. It was touch and go in October 1951 when the MIGs succeeded for the firsttime in seriously interfering with the bombing raids on North Korean targets and thesituation only eased in January 1952 with the arrival of a second Sabre Wing - the 51st.

On 25 October, Lieutenant Colin Wheatly, a Sea Fury pilot from 808Squadron, had his aircraft seriously damaged by flak off Chinnampo and ditched on his wayback to the carrier. He was unhurt and after inflating his dinghy, was rescued by apatrolling Dumbo. Off Korea, the American air-sea rescue service of helicopters,sea-planes and rescue boats was very efficient. Any of the aircrew who ditched into thesea had a good chance of being rescued in the warmer months, provided they had a dinghy.However, in the freezing winter months a ditched flier could meet his end in about 3minutes. The aircraft of the CO of 808 Squadron, Lieutenant Commander J.Appleby, RN, wasdamaged by flak on 25 October but landed at Kimpo (near Seoul). On the 26 October SubLieutenant "Noel" Knappstein's was also damaged by flak and he came down on amud flat on the Han River, the aircraft breaking in two. He was rescued by a boat from theHMS Amethyst. The same day, Sub Lieutenant Neil MacMillan and Observer Philip Hancox, in aFirefly and whilst engaged in bombing a rail tunnel, were hit and crash landed nearSasiwan in North Korea, north of the Han River and 60 miles behind enemy lines. The USNavy helicopter UP28 on HMAS Sydney was flown by Chief Petty Officer "Dick"Babbit and his crewman, Aviation Mechanics Mate, "Callis" Gooding. Bothvolunteered to go to the rescue of the Firefly's crew. UP28 left HMAS Sydney at 1622 hours(4.22 PM) . An American shore based helicopter was closer to the crashed aircraft so UP28was recalled to HMAS Sydney. CPO Babbit ignored the order and passed the shore based"chopper" which was returning to its base as ordered. Babbit reached the sceneof the crash at about 1730 hours. Airman Gooding shot dead a North Korean soldier whilethe Firefly's crew boarded UP28 which then headed for Kimpo Air Base, arriving at about1830 hours where a line of jeeps used their headlights to mark the landing strip.

CPO Dick Babbit was awarded the British Distinguished Service Medal(DSM) and the United States Navy's, Navy Cross. Aviation Mechanics' Mate Callis Goodingwas a real "character" and a daredevil. As soon as the helicopter would leavethe flight deck (weather permitting), he would sit at the opened sliding door, minus hissafety harness, legs dangling outside, clearly noticeable by his multi coloured nonservice and smoking cigarettes.

Anyone caught smoking on the flight deck was in real trouble. but oncein the air, Callis did as he pleased. He received the Commendation Ribbon forDistinguished Service which indicated that it had been awarded in combat but to us itappeared to be a minor recognition. Many of us believed that Callis Gooding should havealso been awarded the DSM. However, medals are not everything and most of us accept thatmany are won and earned in war but few actually receive them. News of the successfulrescue was announced over the ship's public address system and both crewmen were verypopular with the crew that evening.

Sub Lieutenant Neil MacMillan later became a helicopter pilot and afterleaving the navy lost his life in a commercial flying accident. He and Sub Lieutenant NoelKnappstein had taken passage on the HMAS Sydney during her maiden voyage from England toAustralia as rating pilots in 1949. Some time later he appeared on the Quarter Deck asOfficer of the Watch. He had returned in disguise. His ever friendly nature never changedand he was most popular with the sailors.

HMAS Sydney did not originally have any rat infestations but during her1951-1952 tour of Korean waters it did become somewhat of a problem. Lieutenant Commander(LCmdr) Lapage, RN, issued rat trap cages and the first person to catch one was Vic"Jesus" Zammit and the Lieutenant Commander congratulated him. Vic suggestedthat it might be a good idea to take it to the Sick Bay to ascertain if it had anydiseases which was agreed to. About fifteen minutes later the Commander (Lapage) laterasked me "where is Zam?" and when told that he taken the rat to the Sick Bay hesaid " Oh no, its a mistake, it was a joke. Go and get him to bring the rat back tome". On entering the Sick Bay I was told that Doctor Muldoon (who in real life was aSick Berth Attendant) and Doctor Zammit were busy conducting an autopsy on the rat andcould not be disturbed. Fortunately or otherwise, depending on your outlook, the SurgeonCommander was in the Wardroom.

HMAS Sydney returned to the west coast for her third patrol on 5November 1951. Lieutenant K.Clarkson, DFM,RAN, was leading a strafing run on trucks in theHan River area when his Sea Fury was hit by flak, rolled over on its back and wentstraight into the ground and the pilot killed. The remaining two aircraft of the flightwere also damaged by flak but returned safely. During the third patrol Rear Admiral ScottMoncrieff, RN., transferred from HMS Belfast to HMAS Sydney thus making HMAS Sydney theflagship for a short period. Vice Admiral E.M. Martin, USN, transferred by helicopter fromthe USS New Jersey to HMAS Sydney for a day during this third patrol. HMAS Sydney sailedfrom Sasebo on 18 November with HMS Belfast and destroyers for the north east coast ofKorea for a combined air-surface strike on Hungnam scheduled for 20 and 21 November. Shipstaking part in the strike were HMAS Sydney, HMAS Tobruk, HMS Belfast, HMS Constance, HMCSSioux, the Dutch destroyer Van Galen, USS Hyman and three Landing Craft Medium, Rockets(LCMR). The gunfire bombardment commenced with aircraft from HMAS Sydney attacking shoreinstallations including buildings, oil storage tanks, railway lines and airfields.Reconnaissance aircraft reported at least 20 destroyed aircraft on one airfield. Afterdark on the first day of the strike, the three LCMR's laid down a barrage of 3600rockets, a truly spectacular sight. The bombardment continued throughout the daylighthours of the second day after which the Force withdrew. On the west coast Force 8 windswere encountered and flying was severely restricted. Off Shoppaiul Island the seniorMidshipmen were transferred to HMS Ceylon to take their seamanship examinations.

While embarking oil fuel and aviation fuel (AVGAS) from the RFA"Wave Chief", in a rising sea an accident occurred. A considerable amount offuel was spilt and the tankers derrick was destroyed. The weather continued to worsen withwind gusts up to Force 12. Due to such adverse weather conditions very little flying wasundertaken during the fourth patrol.

HMAS Sydney's catapult (for launching aircraft) was giving the crewconsiderable problems caused by malfunctions and when there was a breakdown rumours wererife that we were to proceed to the Naval Dockyard at Hong Kong for repairs. However ourexpectations of leave in Hong Kong did not eventuate as the catapult was refitted by ateam of Japanese workers at Kure. We sailed from Kure on our fifth patrol on 5 December.Friday 7 December was a bad day as we had five aircraft hit by flak, two of which werelost. During the morning, Sub Lieutenant Smith was shot down, his aircraft finally comingto rest on a beach on the island of Paengyong-Do off the north Korean coast which was infriendly hands. He was rescued by helicopter. Later, Sub Lieutenant Sinclair's aircraftwas hit by flak, caught fire and he bailed out. Sadly, as he jumped, he was hit by thetail of the plane and killed.

His body was recovered by helicopter, returned on board, taken to theSick Bay and wrapped in canvas. After flying was completed, all crew not on watch, weremustered on the after end of the flight deck. A short service was held, a salute of threeguns and as light snow fell his body was committed to the deep. The ship's company lookedgrey, the ship was grey and the sea and the sky were grey, except on the western horizonwhere the sun was just setting. The next day Lieutenant Oakley was shot down as wereLieutenant Commander Bowles and Lieutenant Cooper. It was 13 December and our fifthpatrol. Of the 383 sorties flown there were 25 cases of flak damage which resulted in fiveaircraft being lost. HMS Constance, one of the destroyers we had been operating with, washit while bombarding shore installations on 16 December.

HMAS Sydney was in Kure for Christmas 1951. All of the ship's companyreceived gift parcels from Australia, two of which were from newspapers and one from theReturned Soldiers League (RSL).

We commenced our sixth patrol on 27 December 1951 and like previouspatrols included giving support to United Nations held islands being attacked by theenemy, air cover for convoys and mine spotting. Lieutenant Coleman, a Sea Fury pilot, wason Carrier Air Patrol (CAP) duty on 2 January 1952, when he disappeared into the YellowSea. Cause of his disappearance is not known but it was believed to be a mechanicalmalfunction. HMAS Sydney once more flew the flag of Rear Admiral Scott-Moncrieff when hetransferred from HMS Belfast. He personally briefed the aircrews on targets on the northbank of the Han River. Lieutenant Peter Goldrick was wounded when his aircraft was hit byflak but he managed to return safely. Whenever a pilot was overdue or in trouble the wholeship's company would wait anxiously for news. Commander VAT Smith knew what it was like ashe had been shot down twice whilst serving in HMS Ark Royal.

During the sixth patrol the weather became freezing as the winds blewdown from Manchuria and the Siberian plains and at times with gale force strength. Theship's sides were caked with ice as sea spray froze. Many of the crew had colds and icedribbling from one's nose would turn to ice. Somehow we retained a sense of humour.Leading Airman, "Reg" Bolton, came down from the flight deck dressed like anEskimo to make himself a cup of tea. "Vic" Zammit sat next to him and droppedhis dentures into Reg's cup. When Reg found them (after he had drunk the tea) he was notamused and felt very seedy. On completion of our sixth patrol we again returned to Kure.

At the Kure shopping centre, Vic Zammit used to feed and make a fuss ofa half starved mongrel dog. A Japanese shopkeeper asked Vic if "you wanna buydog". There was of course a communication problem and the shopkeeper mis-interpretedVic's response. The next morning as we were about to sail from Kure for our seventh andlast patrol, the Japanese trader, with dog on leash walked onto our deck. The Officer ofthe Watch was advised that the dog was being delivered to Vic Zammit. He was promptly toldthat dogs were not permitted on RAN ships which considerably upset the trader. As we castoff, there on the pontoon wharf stood the dog and trader, both looking very disappointedand forlorn.

On our last patrol we carried out anti-aircraft (AA) firings and thenrelieved the USS Badoeng Strait on the west coast of Korea. Rear Admiral JWM Eaton,DSO,DSC, the new Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet, spent several days on boardand flew as an Observer in a Firefly on a strike mission. Off the coast we would comeacross fishing boats which would sometimes come into the immediate area where we wereattempting to land aircraft. Several times during this last patrol we had to fire Boforsguns close to these boats to get them to move out of our way. 293 sorties were flown onthis patrol and on convoy escort duty. For the greater part of 2 days the weather was sobad that we were unable to launch aircraft.

The Korean tour of duty had been costly, with 80 aircraft hit by flakand 10 lost. Sadly, three Sea Fury pilots lost their lives and one was wounded although itappears to be miraculous that, given the circumstances, not more aircrew were killed orwounded. There were no casualties aboard, although there could have been when returningaircraft landed sometimes still carrying 60 pound rocket projectiles that had failed tofire. As the aircraft "hit" the flight deck, at times, the rockets launchedthemselves, speeding along the deck and then disappearing over the bow into the sea. Toprotect the flight deck crew, a mesh was rigged at No 3 Barrier. After being caught in themesh the 60 pound shells were tossed over the side. The 20 mm aircraft cannon rounds couldalso go off unexpectedly or accidentally and on one occasion several 20 mm rounds werefired from an aircraft in the hangar which went through to the flight deck.

Our Type 96 Radar excelled itself by detecting aircraft up to 190 milesaway. Whilst operating off the west coast, we were able to pick up aircraft on our radarwhich were operating off the east coast.

"Reg" Lascelles, a former crew member, recently said of histime in Korea ;

"You will see driving along roads under construction signs stating that radios should be turned off as explosives are being used. This turns my mind back to Korea. Carrier personnel are aware that transmission aerials are positioned on the Port side of the flight deck and are about 20 feet high. While not flying aircraft, the aerials are in a vertical position and when flying is being undertaken, are placed in a horizontal position. After the sorties of the day had been completed the aerials would be raised so that normal transmissions could take place. It became normal practice at that period for returning aircraft to be re-spotted, re-armed and re-fuelled for early morning take-off for what was colloquially referred to as the Milk Run over Korea. During this period the Armament Department got into full swing, usually at dusk, with gun changes, loading cannon shells and 60 pound rocket projectiles with their high explosive (HE) heads into each aircraft. Rockets were loaded onto rails under the wings, 6 rails taking 2 rockets each, making 12 rockets per aircraft. At the rear end of the rails were sockets into which the leads for each rocket were plugged. As a safety precaution, into each socket a small globe was inserted. If, for any reason, the globe lit up, that part of the equipment was deemed to be faulty and would be replaced. The globes would remain in the sockets until the aircraft had been positioned on the catapult for take-off. Prior to this, happening, each aircraft would be rechecked while the engine was being run up to ensure that no fault was recorded. When the Leading Armourer was satisfied that all was well, the globes would be removed and the firing leads plugged into the sockets. The rockets were then ready for firing.

Now, to go back to the flight deck. The ship is blacked out. All aircraft have been checked and reloaded. Those not on duty are asleep. Some are still working in the hangar repairing flak and other damage to aircraft. The ship is steaming along. Across the flight deck came two armourers. They stopped in their tracks as they sighted two small lights flashing on and off. This was caused by the aerials being raised to the vertical position and the ship transmitting signals. Can you imagine what would have happened if they had have been plugged into the firing circuits?. Each of the aircraft, with 12 rockets, all pointing at the Bridge of HMAS Sydney !!!. The rearming procedures were changed post haste with no rearming carried out in darkness. A valuable lesson had been learned on the dangers of radio transmissions and explosives".

Thanks Reg.

On the 6 February 1952 whilst HMAS Sydney and HMAS Tobruk were in HongKong, we received news of the death of His Majesty King George V1. We sailed for Singaporewith a deck cargo of Royal Air Force (RAF) Spitfires and Vampires. Our first Australianport of call was Fremantle. At Fremantle there was a tug strike was in progress. Ondeparture, 12 Sea Furys were used to manoeuvre the ship with their slipstreams in a tacticknown as Operation Pinwheel. The slipstream caused many of the dresses and skirts worn byadmiring ladies on the wharf to rise much higher than they wished. The operation was asuccess and we moved away from the berth with ease. At Fremantle, our long leave personnelhad transferred to HMAS Tobruk, leaving HMAS Sydney free to head straight for Jervis Bayto land aircraft.

HMAS Sydney had returned.

Typhoon Ruth

It was a night of terror. During the Korean War the Aircraft Carrier,HMAS Sydney, was replenishing ammunition, aircraft spares, stores etc at the Japanese portof Sasebo after its record breaking first operational patrol off the coast of Korea whenTyphoon Ruth, a revolving tropical storm was reported to have reached wind speeds of up to200 kilometres per hour and was heading straight for us. Because of the large number ofwarships and transports in Sasebo Harbour, Rear Admiral Scott-Moncrief, DSO,RN, orderedHMAS Sydney and all large British warships to sea on 14 October 1951 to ride out thetyphoon. Once clear of the sheltered harbour, the 19500 ton aircraft carrier began to rolllike a pig in mud, in a brown sea with torrential rain beating down on the crew working onthe flight deck. Because HMAS Sydney was on active service she carried an extra squadronof Sea Fury fighters, making a total of 36 aircraft plus one United States Navy mannedhelicopter for rescue duties. The hangar could accommodate about 20 aircraft. This leftwell over a dozen aircraft lashed to the after part of the 695 foot flight deck.

The concern of Captain David Harries, RAN, (later Rear Admiral Harries,CB, CBE) was first to save the aircraft. By late afternoon the typhoon was getting worse.To prevent damage, speed was reduced to two knots and Captain Harries "heavedto" by heading up to the sea using the engines just sufficiently to hold Sydney inposition where it was hoped that the ship would ride more safely. At this time the windwas circulating in an anti clockwise movement at about 130 kilometres. Visibility was downto the length of the ship. The air was filled with spray and foam and the sea was almosttotally white, vaguely resembling steep hills or houses covered with soap suds. At about1700 hours (5 PM), the "Skimmer", a fast 16 foot motor boat also known as the"Jolly Boat", which was stowed just below flight deck level, 36 feet above thewater line, was washed over the side by a wave close on 45 foot high. This was followed 45minutes later by fork lift truck also going over the side from the flight deck. An hourlater, our starboard 36 foot Cutter, stowed inboard on the weather deck was smashed topieces by a huge wave. The remainder of the ship's boats were all damaged to some extent.

Below decks, the whole ship shook and shuddered each time the angry seahit her. The Chief and Petty Officers galley had been put out of action. The only mealserved from the ship's company galley was a cold sausage between two slices of bread andthat had to be eaten standing up. The forward cafeteria had taken in sea water and eachtime the ship rolled, that water turned into a wave which smashed everything from one sideof the cafeteria to the other. Down below, in the machinery spaces the stokers wereworking in up to one foot of sea water. In the Hangar, a two ton power plant almost brokeloose and the Naval Airmen risked their lives in lashing it to the bulkhead. During Sundaynight a number of fires broke out caused by sea water getting into the electricalequipment and we heard the pipe - FIRE - FIRE - FIRE - time and time again. There was anadded danger as aviation fuel (AVGAS) from the smashed aircraft's' fuel tanks hadleaked into the ship's ventilation system and a spark from an electric motor could havecaused an explosion. Many sailors were on duty with life jackets on. Anyone not on dutyturned into their hammocks but sleep was impossible. The Executive Officer, Commander"Vat" Smith (later Admiral Sir Victor, AC,KBE,CB,DSC) worked for 36 hourswithout a break, directing damage control, fire and working parties.

Up on the flight deck, the aircraft handlers, secured to lifelines,worked constantly on each aircraft, checking and securing the wire lashings. Whenrelieved, they would come below looking like drowned rats, many of them collapsing fromsheer physical exhaustion. I remember Leading Airman "Reg" Holton coming downfrom the flight deck, soaked and bruised and saying ;

"I think we have had it. If it gets any worse, I don't think any of us will see tomorrow"

Reg was a World War 2 destroyer man, a champion boxer and playedfootball for the Navy. He was tough and one of the most popular sailors in the RAN.Everyone respected him and he certainly was not a "panic merchant" or apessimist. Another "old salt" who had spent over 30 years at sea said ;

"These seas are the worst that I have ever been in. It is like being in another world."

At 2100 (9 pm) hours the typhoon was at its worst. The Wind Recorderhad been smashed.

Captain Harries and the Navigator, Commander Shand, both outstandingspecialist navigators, estimated the typhoon was between Force 12 and Force 13 with windsbetween 120 and 150 kilometres. Another specialist navigator, Lieutenant Commander BrianMurray, (later His Excellency Rear Admiral Sir Brian, KCMG,AO, KSJ, Governor of Victoria)estimated that the wave height was 40 to 45 feet with very high precipitation and confusedseas. At about 2000 hours, a Firefly, a 2 seater Fighter/Strike aircraft was washedoverboard and disappeared into the boiling sea in a matter of seconds. As the huge seas ofhundreds of tons of water rained down on the flight deck the carrier constantly pitchedand rolled. The under carriages of a number of aircraft collapsed, falling on to theirbellies. Some ended up in the gun sponsons and six of these were complete write-offs. Notfar from us, a US Navy leased Troop Transport, the 7000 ton Kongo Maru, nicked named the"Red Ball Express" with 500 American troops on board, sailing from Sasebo toPusan in South Korea, ended up grounded on an island 15 miles from Sasebo with its holdsfilled with water and waves pouring over its superstructure. There were 12 other wrecks asa result of Typhoon Ruth.

As the centre of Typhoon Ruth moved north, we steamed back to Saseboarriving at 1200 hours on 15 October. We secured to No 18 Buoy, near HMS Unicorn. We sentover our aircraft by lighter that had been written off during Typhoon Ruth and receivedreplacement aircraft in exchange. The hull of HMAS Sydney was fairly rusty with a lot ofpaint gone, and the plates near the bow were stoved in and corrugated. As each shipentered harbour we would race up on to the flight deck to see how much damage had beendone and to compare it with ours. Ashore in Southern Japan approximately 200 people hadbeen killed with many others missing. One hundred sea going fishing vessels were sunk inharbour. Rail transport came to a stand still with bridges destroyed, overturned railwaycarriages and lines and sleepers washed away. Sasebo Harbour was filled with all kinds ofdebris including complete houses as a result of landslides coming down from the 2000 feethigh volcanic mountains. Kagoshima recorded 30 inches of rain and most of the dams inSouthern Japan were filled, ending a drought and hydro electric power rationing wasrelaxed. After two days of cleaning up HMAS Sydney in Sasebo, we sailed for the Yellow Seaand the West coast of Korea on 18 October 1951 to commence our second tour of the KoreanWar.

HMAS Sydney ended her 1951 - 1952 tours of duty in Korean waters on 25January 1952 after completing seven war patrols. She expended 18 X 1000 pound bombs, 784 X500 pound bombs, 6539 Rocket Projectiles and 269249 X 20 mm cannon rounds. Sadly, threeSea Fury pilots, Lieutenant K.E. Clarkson, DFM, RAN, Sub-Lieutenant R.R. Sinclair, RAN,and Sub-Lieutenant R.J. Coleman, RAN, were killed. In all eleven aircraft were lost inaction or on patrol and aircraft suffered flak damage seventy seven times. Captain Harrieswas awarded the Commander of the Order of the Bath (CB), with six other members of theship's company also being decorated and thirteen, including Lieutenant Commander BrianMurray were Mentioned in Despatches (MID).


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     The Korean War, 1950-1953        
  Map and Battles of the MLR   
        Korean War Time Line        


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