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October 29, 2009
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FATE wreaked her awful revenge
upon me for trying to be a smartie
with Miss October 1.
As usual, I went through my selection
of ship photos -- most of them from the
Vic Jeffery Emporium of Obscure Ship
Photos -- and, because I'd given you such
a soft, old image of HMA Ships Platypus
and Dubbo at Watsons Bay to deal with in
September, I thought I'd give you a nice
clear shot -- but one with a sting in the tail.
The metadata -- that's the information
linked within the electronic image -- said
the ship I'd chosen for Miss October 1
was HMAS Waterhen.
"Gotcha!" I thought as I read the first
entry that sailed onto my desktop from
CAPT Tony Aldred: "I think Miss October
is HMAS Stuart, CAPT Hec Waller's
'flagship of the Scrap Iron Flotilla'. The
general configuration looks right and I
noted a semblance of the black 'leader's'
band atop the funnel, so after recently
snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
with Miss August (HMAS Shoalhaven)
please don't tell me I've jumped the wrong
Well I'd like to, but I can't.
Next in, SBLT Steve Dunne, ANC,
also identified Miss October as HMAS
Then ex-RO 'Sandy' McNabbed me
with: "I have narrowed it down to one of
the five pre-WWII destroyers V and W
class, but which one?
"All five ships had been earmarked for
decommissioning but were transferred 'on
loan' to the RAN in 1933. From mid-1940
to October 1941, the ships became known
as the 'Scrap Iron Flotilla', so named by
the Germans because of their age and con-
dition. All five operated for the resupply of
allied forces ashore at Tobruk.
"As the ship does not have a shortened
aft funnel as in several photos of the sis-
ter ships, Vampire /BDKM/168, Vendetta/
VJZD/169, Voyager/VJZF/131, and
Waterhen/VJZG/122, and purely as a guess
with its crows nest type lookout on the
main mast, I believe Miss October is the
leader destroyer HMAS Stuart/VJZB/100
possibly swinging around a buoy on
CMDR Dave Goble, who's not often
mistaken, also plumped for Stuart.
Author hoist on own petard
"She's a member of the scrap
iron flotilla and has the black band
surrounding her for'ard funnel (flo-
tilla leader)," he wrote. "She also
has the taller aft funnel, which the
others in the flotilla did not have.
There are some other tell-tale signs
but that would be stretching it."
Then came the entries from
Geoffrey Skelton, CMDR Col Jones
(rtd), LCDR Derek Williams, Mark
Biega, Richard Jones, Mike, Ex-PO
Dave Rickard, Brian Holden, Harry
Goodall, ex-CPOUC Rob Sweet and
Tony Woodland. All reckoned Miss
October 1 was Tartan Terror Mk 1.
A little wary that Miss October
1 might not be Waterhen, I pulled
up a few references including our
own Sea Power Centre that showed
Stuart very clearly with funnel band-
ing that was not fully apparent in the
shot I'd chosen for Miss October.
Then again, shots I could find of
Waterhen very clearly disclosed fun-
nels of different heights, apart from
My suspicions piqued by the
flood of Stuart advocates, I decided
to defer to my ultimate mystery ship
authority, Keeper of the Emporium
He said: "Definitely the flotilla
leader HMAS Stuart.
"The photo in question is indeed
from my extensive collection and
depicts the Admiralty-type flotilla
leader HMAS Stuart showing her
original appearance with a tall main-
mast at the time of her transfer on
loan to the Royal Australian Navy in
1933. The original print came from
the Sport @ General Press Agency,
"Built by Hawthorn Leslie &
DON'T BELIEVE THE DATA: Miss
October -- I fooled nobody.
Co. Ltd. of Hebburn-on-Tyne, she
was laid down on October 18, 1917,
launched on August 22, 1918 and
first commissioned into the RN,
arrived at her new home, Sydney, on
December 21, 1933.
"After a couple of brief periods in
reserve, Stuart commissioned under
the command of CMDR Hec Waller
(Commander D) and led her brood,
HMA Ships Vampire, Vendetta,
Voyager and Waterhen to war in the
Mediterranean, where they became
known as the 'Scrap Iron Flotilla'
and wrote an indelible chapter in the
"By 1942 Stuart had her arma-
ment modified and she served in
northern Australian and New Guinea
waters. In 1944 she was converted to
a fast transport for troops and urgent-
ly-needed supplies with her fore fun-
nel and boiler removed to provide
extra storage space, her forecast was
vertical, cargo derricks fitted, and
she was re-armed.
"Finally the war-weary Stuart
entered Sydney for the last time in
February, 1946 and she was laid-up
"Stuart's death knell came on
February 3, 1947 when she was sold
to T.Carr & Co. of Ultimo, Sydney
and she was scrapped.
"During World War II HMAS
Stuart won an impressive list of
the Battle Honours, they were:
Mediterranean 1940, Calabria 1940,
Libya 1940-41, Matapan 1941,
Greece 1941, Crete 1941, New
So I got it real wrong.
The Stuart entries continued
to roll in -- from Gordon Branch,
CMDR Greg Swinden, SQNLDR
Jimbo Stewart, Richard Bonsey,
ex-Defence civilian Reg Bonney,
PO Frank Bray ANC, CAPT Steve
Pearson and Alan Baddams. All con-
fident and all correct
So, I can't tell CAPT Aldred,
who was first in, or any of the 23
other mystery shippers that they had
'jumped the wrong way'.
One of the entrants, Richard
Bonsey claims a family connection
with Stuart (1) before she was com-
missioned into RAN service.
"My grandfather served in her,"
he said and produced a photo (which
we don't have space for) taken in
November 1926, showing his grand-
father, PO Wareham, front right in a
shore party before Stuart was trans-
ferred to the RAN.
I also owe an apology to CAPT
Pearson who was at pains to point
out that he scored three out of three
with his correct identification of
HMA Ships Platypus and Dubbo
alongside at Watsons Bay in the late
Prophetically, he said: "If it is
Plats at that time and place then I
can also tell you the name of the then
CO (and Co Reserve Fleet) -- CMDR
R. S. Pearson, my late father."
And finally, I do agree with
SQNLDR Stewart that I should
avoid giving LCDR 'Guns' Manolas
another chance to attack me and that
he really does need to "harden up
and get some service in".
Now, have a look at Miss
October II -- yes you get two
Misses October -- and let me know
her identity by November 11.
Please send your entries to tony.
-- LCDR Antony Underwood
MISS OCTOBER II:
Can you guess? We'll
need your entries by
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