Home' Navy News : March 3rd 2011 Contents S OF CHANGE03
IVE LIFT-OUT -- March 3, 2011
rines AE1 and AE2
were the only losses suf-
fered by the RAN during this
onflict. AE1 was lost with all hands off
w Britain on September 14, 1914.
ith the cessation of hostilities and the signing
rmistice in 1918, a worldwide period of naval
ent began, while subsequent disarmament confer-
minating in the Washington Treaty of 1922, brought drastic
he terms of the treaty, the battle cruiser Australia was scuttled
Heads in 1924. However, additions to the battle order of the
war RAN included six submarines, five destroyers, an addi-
tional destroyer and a number of sloops. All these
vessels were acquired from the Royal Navy.
In 1924 it was decided to purchase two
10,000 tonne cruisers, two additional sub-
marines and a further decision was made
to build a seaplane carrier at Cockatoo
HMAS Moresby was acquired
on loan from the Royal Navy in
1925 for surveying duties. The
two cruisers commissioned
as HMA Ships Australia
and Canberra in 1928,
and in the following year
the submarines Oxley
and Otway reached
The seaplane car-
as HMAS Albatross
at Sydney in 1929.
In the early
'30s, lack of funds
economies in naval
activity, one being
the transfer of
the Naval College
from Jervis Bay
to Flinders Naval
Depot in Victoria.
Strength of the RAN
fell to 3117 person-
nel plus 131 members
of the Naval Auxiliary
Services. In 1932 the
strength of the reserves
stood at 5446. About this
time, the submarines Oxley
and Otway reverted to the Royal
In 1933, the RAN added five addi-
tional destroyers to the Fleet to replace
the ageing vessels that were due for scrap-
These vessels (which later became famous
during World War II as the 'Scrap Iron Flotilla') were not new; like their
predecessors they were built during World War I.
In the remaining years of peace, three light cruisers were added to the
Fleet, Albatross was transferred to the Royal Navy and two additional
sloops were constructed in Sydney.
During the interwar years, the fortunes of the RAN fluctuated and
reflected the general economic and social trends. The monotony of peace-
time exercises was only broken by a punitive expedition to Solomon
Islands in 1927.
World War II
In 1939 the men of the RAN once again answered their nation's call.
The role of the RAN during WWII was much as it was in the WWI,
securing Australia's sea lines of communication and assisting Allied naval
At the onset of war in 1939, the RAN numbered two heavy cruisers,
four light cruisers, five destroyers, three sloops and a variety of support
and ancillary craft. During the 27 months that ensued from the declaration
of war against Germany and the Japanese attack on the American Pacific
Fleet at Pearl Harbor, units of the RAN were engaged in operations
against the enemy as far afield as the North, West and South Atlantic,
Caribbean, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea.
The RAN distinguished itself in the Mediterranean through the
exploits of the Scrap Iron Flotilla and the cruisers, most notably HMAS
Sydney II's destruction of the Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni.
Unfortunately, Sydney was later lost with all hands off the Western
A new dimension was added when war broke out in the Pacific in
December 1941 with the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor. Australia came
under threat of direct attack and the ships of the RAN formed Australia's
first line of defence.
With Allied navies, the RAN took part in the battles of Java Sea,
Sunda Strait, Coral Sea, Savo Island and Lingayen Gulf. The road to
Tokyo was to cost the RAN dearly with the heaviest losses resulting from
the sinking of the cruisers Perth and Canberra.
The total number of personnel serving in the permanent forces at the
outbreak of war was 5010. By July 1945, the heavy demands of war had
increased this number to nearly 37,000 all ranks.
Ship losses and personnel casualties suffered by the RAN during the
conflict were substantial. The heavy cruiser Canberra, the light cruisers
Sydney and Perth the destroyers Nestor, Vampire, Voyager and Waterhen,
the sloops Parramatta and Yarra and nearly 30 other RAN vessels of all
types were lost as a result of war service. Nearly 2170 members of the
RAN lost their lives during WWII.
Since the end of WWII, units of the RAN have served in operations in
the Korean theatre, the Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation
as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf
War, ongoing operations in the Middle East and the 2003 Iraq war.
The RAN has also played an active role in supporting United Nations
and other peacekeeping/peacemaking operations throughout the world
including Somalia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bougainville, East Timor and
More recently, the RAN has been involved in disaster relief operations
throughout the region.
Editor's note: This feature is intended as a brief summary of the RAN's history.
JOYFUL IN VICTORY: HMAS Sydney II sails into Alexandria after her victory against the Italian cruis-
er Bartolomeo Colleoni.
IN THE JUNGLE: Choppers from RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam on operations in
Photos courtesy Sea Power Centre
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