Lake Macquarie History

HMAS Canberra. August 1942

“…the flames, fuelled by several coats of paint since 1925, spread uncontrollably. Much was done between the hours of 0143 to 0600 to attend the wounded and dying men. I was amongst the group gathered on the quarterdeck. Everybody kept calm despite the situation. Flames burned amidships and at one stage were licking at the Walrus amphibious aircraft mounted on the catapult. The bombs on both wings seemed likely at one stage to explode. The fuel tank of 2000 gallons [9000 litres] was in danger of catching alight. Thankfully nothing eventuated.” Account of the loss of HMAS Canberra. Leading Signalman Francis William Pickup, RAN. Collection of the Australian War Memorial 02/0917

photo: hmas canberra

Canberra’s P5715 Walrus I arrived at Rathmines in June 1942 and was assigned to 9 Squadron. 9 Squadron flew P5715 to Amberley in Queensland and embarked on HMAS Canberra.

Canberra was deployed to the Pacific to support American landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi. Within two hours of the first landings Japanese Imperial Navy Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, commander of the 8th Fleet at Rabaul, sailed for Guadalcanal. Mikawa commanded a force including the heavy cruisers Chokai, Aoba, Furataka, Kinugasa, and Kako, the light cruisers Tenryu and Tatsuta and the destroyer Yunangi. A night time attack on Allied forces was planned.

Illuminated by flares dropped by aircraft launched from the Japanese force, Canberra was immediately disabled. Wounded and survivors were transferred to USS Patterson and Blue. USS Selfridge fired 263 5-inch shells and four torpedoes into Canberra. She remained afloat. A final torpedo fired by USS Ellet saw Canberra sink at about 8am on 9 August 1942.

Five of the seven 9 Squadron members aboard and P5715 were among the casualties of the Battle of Savo Island.

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