Arrived off Seeadler harbour yesterday morning. 4″ & Close Range shoots at a sleeve target were carried out, the CR [close range] succeeding in shooting it down. The 4″ was not so good. We entered harbour & secured alongside an oiler just before lunch, casting off & anchoring at tea time, not far from the main base & officers club.
Today, after cancelling several signals for stores & equipment, we weighed at midday and set course for Auckland, NZ. Although, this is good news, about the best I’ve heard since I joined the service, I feel that I would rather have stayed up in the war for another 6 months or so before going home. I think the ship’s company are feeling somewhat “choked” about it. They think it is about time we did something useful too. Still, the folks back there would be pleased to see me, anyway. It is unfortunate that we are going there at this time of year as I doubt that the weather will be at all pleasant.
[Additional extract from the memoirs of Lt A C]
At one point we were required to go into dry dock for repairs, but the kamikazes had been so active and so many ships hit, that every dry dock in our area was full. The Navy told us they were sorry, but we’d have to go to New Zealand for repairs.
Hollandia is a pleasant-looking, fairly large natural harbour. There is plenty of water in most places but boat running has been something of a trial owing to a large no. of inaccurately charted reefs & some not charted at all. At one stage, in fact, all the ship’s boats were unusable, & the Midshipmen concerned have had their leave stopped.
Swimming from the ship has not been permitted but a good time was had by all at Pie Beach, a large stretch of shore-line covered with grey sand. The Officers Club ashore has proved popular & it is to be feared that all the Midshipmen did not distinguish themselves by their good behaviour.
Since Hollandia was captured a [few] years ago, it has been a base for the US 7th Fleet & the AIF [Australian Imperial Force]. Now things are fairly quiet again but there are still a large administrative organization and numerous dockyard installations ashore. We had hoped to ammunition ship here but supplies were not available.
About 0900 this morning in bright sunshine, we left the harbour & the Australian Cruiser squadron, bound for Manus. The operations round Wewak have proceeded well & it is not considered that we will be required there again. Soon after leaving harbour we were subjected to dummy air attacks by RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] planes.
Our small force, under the command of Commodore Farncombe, HMAS Hobart, withdrew & proceeded to Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, to await further developments. Arrived off the harbour soon after 0600 & anchored in berth N5 at 0700. Ratings on passage were disembarked and hands prepared for ammunitioning.
During the afternoon, shifted berth to alongside US Oiler Leopard. Refuelling took 2 1/2 hours. At 1800 shipped and 20 mins later secured again in N5. 4 hours notice for steam.
During the night, in company with [HMAS] Hobart, [HMAS] Arunta, & [HMAS] Warramunga, steamed due North & later south again so as to be in position to recommence firing at dawn. Landing craft were sighted at 0700 & we began shooting half an hour later. The first two targets were quickly disposed of. During this time, about a battalion of troops were landed. They met with only slight opposition. At 0900, we ceased fire and proceeded just to hang around till required again. Soon after noon, an asdic [Allied Submarine Devices Investigation Committee (WWI); general term for any type of under-water supersonic echo-ranging equipment] contact was made. [HMAS] Arunta dropped depth charges & we took evasive action.
About 1630, at the request of the Military, we carried out another attack on a gun position near the airstrip. This was satisfactorily dealt with in a quarter of an hour.
At standeasy, the Captain addressed the ship’s company, saying that we would bombard enemy gun positions and installations this afternoon in preparation for a landing by Australian 6th Division Troops tomorrow morning. We would also be supporting the landing. [Operation Deluge]
So we stooged up & down until 1300 when a preliminary run was carried out. It was 1400 before we actually started shooting. Targets were gun positions & suspected gun posns. The spotting aircraft was an RAAF Boomerang which we shared with [HMAS] Hobart. The Destroyers and Sloop [HMAS] Swan also took part, going close inshore and pasting the beaches. There was no opposing fire from the enemy garrison. At 1530 we secured from Action Stations and dropped back into normal routine.
[Additional extracts from the memoirs of Lt A C]
The Newfoundland was practically a brand new cruiser of about 10,000 tons, six-inch guns, a high turn of speed, good antiaircraft defenses, and very well-suited for her job which was to join with the US fleet in the Pacific. The Pacific Fleet consisted of four carrier task groups each with four carriers, several battleships, a lot of cruisers, and many, many, destroyers. One of the four carrier groups was British, with four large fleet carriers with steel decks, which would be very useful when the kamikaze attacks began.
Eventually we joined up with the US fleet. We were a newish ship with a new crew and a new stern, and we needed some gunnery practice. We were sent to bombard one Japanese island [NG?] as a workup exercise. The US Navy had wiped out all the Japanese aircraft so we didn’t have to worry about air attacks, and were able to fire on the island while staying out of range of shore artillery.
Sunday Routine with prayers on the QD [Quarterdeck], then pipe down, shore leave being granted to a watch & a half. “Hands to Bathe” was piped during the forenoon & also later on. No sharks were encountered and all swimmers were returned safely.
[HMS] Illustrious, [HMS] Whelp & [HMS] Wager left about dawn this morning, & soon after a convoy of transports & supply vessels began to enter. [HMAS] Arunta went out about 1400. We proceeded to sea at dusk, and after exercising action stations, when opportunity was taken to load the 6″ hoists, settled down to 4 watch routine, course westerly, in company with [HMAS] Arunta. [see map May 8]
New four watch & two watch routines have been brought into force. These concern only the actual armament crews, as lookouts, Radar, plotting, & bridge personnel are still in 3 watches, and allow for HA/LA [High Angle/Low Angle] Defence in two watches, & a four watch cruising organisation in which about 3/4 of the AA [Anti-Aircraft] Armament is manned.
One of our USN Officers is producing a neat little news-sheet which comes to light about breakfast time each day. It is entitled the “Caribou Bull” & certainly helps us to keep track of things now that newspapers are non-existent and news broadcasts difficult to receive.
Seeadler Harbour is a large anchorage bounded by the Island of Manus to the south, and odd small islands & coral reefs the rest of the way round, the area being about 30-40 sq miles. The hills are covered in profuse tropical vegetation & even the smallest islands sport a few palm trees. United States installations include a couple of floating docks, which look capable of dealing with light cruisers, a repair yard for Landing craft and a large seaplane base for Catalinas.