Home' Navy News : October 24th 2013 Contents 15
October 24, 2013 www.defence.gov.au/news/NAVYNEWS
THE official history of HMAS
Strahan doesn't mention her
shooting down a Japanese
medium bomber at Morotai in
But former CPO Blair Mason, 86, was
there when it happened and said the ship
was robbed of its kill by an American shore
"It was hard to say whether he was a
suicide bomber or not, but it was a single
plane and it was engaged by our 4-inch
gun," he said.
"It was quite obvious that one of our
shells damaged the plane because it lost
height and started spiralling towards the
"An American Bofors on the shore
engaged it on its way down and blew it
"The next day, when an American barge
came alongside, one of the Americans said,
'you guys were robbed, you definitely got
that plane, but our guys have claimed it'."
In June 1945, the Bathurst-class corvette
went into action against Japanese land forc-
es for the first time when she bombarded
gun emplacements on Kairiru Island, north
On the way back from Tarakan in
August 1945, she sank a Japanese barge and
picked up three survivors.
Mr Mason said this sinking was conten-
"It was as black as pitch and there was
a report of a contact resembling an enemy
target," he said.
"Action stations was piped and our
20-inch searchlight picked up a craft under
"There were people on board and the
captain claimed he'd recognised figures in
uniform jettisoning equipment over the side.
"The order was given to engage so the
4-inch gun, the Oerlikons, the Bofors and
the stern Lewis gun all engaged the target."
He couldn't say for sure if there was any
"It logically follows if all these guns
were fired there wasn't much chance of the
target surviving," Mr Mason said.
"Three men survived and were keep-
ing afloat in the water, but no amount of
encouragement could entice them to swim
"They tried to swim away but were
retrieved and brought on board where we
found they were natives of the region.
"We presumed the uniformed people on
board were Japanese moving from island to
island and had taken over the craft, using
the natives to assist them."
Strahan was in Hong Kong for the sign-
ing of the Japanese surrender as a unit of
the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla conducting
While on patrol on September 26, 1945,
she triggered an acoustic mine, which dam-
aged her rudder and she was towed into
Hong Kong Harbour.
Mr Mason said Chinese pirates were
targeting businessmen who were returning
to Hong Kong with their valuables after
spending the war in neutral Macau.
"The pirates were in junks that were fit-
ted with particularly powerful diesels that
could easily outrun our 16 knots," he said.
"We didn't have our anti-acoustic gear
operating, because lowering it over the side
would have reduced our speed even more.
"Due to the short length of our ship the
mine went off under the stern, lifting it out
of the water.
"There was an almighty bang. There
were no fatalities but a number of crewmen
were injured, and the ship was immobilised,
although the hull hadn't been breached."
Strahan's sister ship, HMAS Wagga,
towed her back into Hong Kong for repairs.
After the repairs, Strahan commenced
the long trip back to Sydney and was
escorted as far as the Torres Strait by
In November, 1945, she paid an official
visit to her namesake town in Tasmania
where tragically one of her crew, LS Bertie
Newman, drowned. He was Strahan's only
casualty during her two-year service.
Strahan paid off into Reserve in Sydney
on January 25, 1946, ending her seagoing
career. During her service she had steamed
almost 60,000 miles.
Strahan's stolen success
A WWII-era minesweeper may have had a victory claimed by another, SGT Dave Morley reports.
AT SEA: The Bathurst-class corvette HMAS Strahan circa 1944.
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