HMAS Australia (D84)

HMAS Australia Oct 1937 SLV straightened.jpg
HMAS Australia in October 1937
History
Australia
Namesake:Commonwealth of Australia
Ordered:1924
Builder:John Brown and Company at Clydebank, Scotland
Cost:1.9 million pounds
Laid down:26 August 1925
Launched:17 March 1927
Commissioned:24 April 1928
Decommissioned:31 August 1954
Honours and
awards:
Fate:Sold for scrapping, 1955
Badge:
General characteristics
Class and type:
Displacement:10,000 tons standard
Length:
Beam:68 ft 3 in (20.80 m)
Draught:21 ft 4 in (6.50 m)
Propulsion:
  • 8 × Yarrow superheated boilers
  • Curtis high-pressure and Parsons low-pressure geared turbines
  • 80,000 shaft horsepower
  • 4 × 3-bladed propellers
Speed:31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph)
Range:
  • 2,270 nautical miles (4,200 km; 2,610 mi) at 31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph)
  • 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Complement:Up to 815
Armament:
Armour:
Aircraft carried:
Aviation facilities:1 × catapult (1935–1944)

HMAS Australia (I84/D84/C01) was a County-class heavy cruiser of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). One of two Kent-subclass ships ordered for the RAN in 1924, Australia was laid down in Scotland in 1925, and entered service in 1928. Apart from an exchange deployment to the Mediterranean from 1934 to 1936, during which she became involved in the planned British response to the Abyssinia Crisis, Australia operated in local and South-West Pacific waters until World War II began.

The cruiser remained near Australia until mid-1940, when she was deployed for duties in the eastern Atlantic, including hunts for German ships and participation in Operation Menace. During 1941, Australia operated in home and Indian Ocean waters, but was reassigned as flagship of the ANZAC Squadron in early 1942. As part of this force (which was later redesignated Task Force 44, then Task Force 74), Australia operated in support of United States naval and amphibious operations throughout South-East Asia until the start of 1945, including involvement in the battles at the Coral Sea and Savo Island, the amphibious landings at Guadalcanal and Leyte Gulf, and numerous actions during the New Guinea campaign. She was forced to withdraw following a series of kamikaze attacks during the invasion of Lingayen Gulf. The prioritisation of shipyard work in Australia for British Pacific Fleet vessels saw the Australian cruiser sail to England for repairs, where she was at the end of the war.

During the late 1940s, Australia served with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and participated in several port visits to other nations, before being retasked as a training ship in 1950. The cruiser was decommissioned in 1954, and sold for scrapping in 1955.

Design

Australia was one of seven warships built to the Kent design of County-class heavy cruiser, which were based on design work by Eustace Tennyson-D'Eyncourt.[1] She was designed with a standard displacement of 10,000 tons, a length between perpendiculars of 590 feet (180 m), a length overall of 630 feet 4 inches (192.13 m), a beam of 68 feet 3 inches (20.80 m), and a maximum draught of 21 feet 4 inches (6.50 m).[2]

The propulsion machinery consisted of eight Yarrow superheated boilers feeding Curtis high-pressure and Parsons low-pressure geared turbines.[1] This delivered up to 80,000 shaft horsepower to the cruiser's four three-bladed propellers.[1] The cruiser's top speed was 31 knots (57 km/h; 36 mph), with a range of 2,270 nautical miles (4,200 km; 2,610 mi), while her economical range and cruising speed was 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph).[3]

The ship's company consisted of 64 officers and 678 sailors in 1930; this dropped to 45 officers and 654 sailors from 1937 to 1941.[1] While operating as flagship, Australia's company was 710.[1] During wartime, the ship's company increased to 815.[3]

Armament and armour

Australia was designed with eight 8-inch guns in four twin turrets ('A' and 'B' forward, 'X' and 'Y' aft) as primary armament, with 150 shells per gun.[4] Secondary armament consisted of four 4-inch guns in four single mounts, with 200 shells per gun, and four 2-pounder pom-poms for anti-aircraft defence, with 1,000 rounds each.[4] A mixture of .303-inch machine guns were carried for close defence work: initially this consisted of four Vickers machine guns and twelve Lewis machine guns, although four Lewis guns were later removed.[2] Two sets of quadruple 21-inch torpedo tubes were fitted.[4] Four 3-pounder quick-firing Hotchkiss guns were used as saluting guns.[2][4] During her 1939 modernisation, the four single 4-inch guns were replaced by four twin Mark XVI guns.[4] The torpedo tubes were removed in 1942, and the 8-inch 'X' turret was taken off in 1945.[2][4]

The close-range anti-aircraft armament of the ship fluctuated during her career.[4] During the mid-1930s, two quadruple .5-inch machine gun mounts were installed to supplement the .303-inch weapons.[3] These were replaced in late 1943 by seven single 20mm Oerlikons.[4] By early 1944, all seven Oerlikons had been upgraded to double mountings.[4] These were in turn replaced by eight single 40 mm Bofors guns in 1945.[4]

A Supermarine Walrus stowed on Australia's catapult while the ship was alongside in Brisbane during 1937

Australia was designed to carry a single amphibious aircraft: a Supermarine Seagull III aircraft, which was replaced in 1936 by a Supermarine Walrus.[3] Both aircraft were operated by the Royal Australian Air Force's Fleet Co-operation Unit; initially by No. 101 Flight RAAF, which was expanded in 1936 to form No. 5 Squadron RAAF, then renumbered in 1939 to No. 9 Squadron RAAF.[5] As the aircraft catapult was not installed until September 1935, the Seagull was initially lowered into the water by the ship's recovery crane to launch under its own power.[3] The catapult and Walrus were removed in October 1944.[4]

Armour aboard Australia was initially limited to an armour deck over the machinery spaces and magazines, ranging from 1.5 to 3 inches (38 to 76 mm) in thickness.[3] Armour plate was also fitted to the turrets (up to 2 inches (51 mm) thick) and the conning tower (3 inches (76 mm) thick).[3] Anti-torpedo bulges were also fitted.[3] During 1938 and 1939, belt armour up to 4.5 inches (110 mm) thick was fitted along the waterline to provide additional protection to the propulsion machinery.[3]