65th Anniversary Of The Loss Of HMAS Armidale I

Published: Sun 2 Dec 2007 12:11 AM
65th Anniversary Of The Loss Of HMAS Armidale I
Yesterday the Royal Australian Navy commemorated the 65th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Armidale I in a combined ceremony with the City of Armidale, New South Wales (NSW) and HMAS Armidale at sea.
The Armidale Class Patrol Boat (ACPB) HMAS Armidale, was in position over the original HMAS Armidale I, where it was sunk exactly 65 years ago. The memorial service was conducted at 3:15pm (Northern Territory time), and was transmitted live to the City of Armidale. The Corvette Association, Australian Naval Cadet Unit Training Ship Armidale and people of the city were in attendance at the HMAS Armidale I Memorial in Central Park.
"It was an honour for the men and women of my crew to be able to pay respects to those who have served their country and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for that service. They shall not be forgotten," Lieutenant James Harper, RAN, Commanding Officer of the current Armidale said.
Mr Brian Read, the son of Able Seaman William Read, a survivor of the sinking of Armidale I was also embarked in Armidale during the service.
HMAS Armidale I was one of sixty Australian Minesweepers (commonly known as corvettes) built during World War II in Australia.
On 29 November 1942 Armidale was ordered to proceed to Betano (Timor) in company of her sister ship HMAS Castlemaine. The purpose of this mission was the reinforcement of guerrilla forces operating in Timor and evacuation of Dutch troops and Portuguese women and children. Armidale carried three Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) soldiers, two Dutch officers and 61 Indonesian troops of the Netherlands East Indies Army.
Armidale and Castlemaine arrived off Betano in the early hours of 1 December. En route they had been attacked three times by Japanese aircraft, but did not sustain any damage or casualties. After failing to make contact with forces ashore, the ships retired with no civilian evacuees on board, to clear the coast before daylight.
At 3:15pm on 1 December Armidale was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The ship was sunk within five minutes in position 10°S, 126°30´E in the Timor Sea.
The survivors of the attack abandoned ship in two boats (a motor boat and a whaler), a Carley float and a raft. They remained together until midday on 2 December, when the Commanding Officer (Lieutenant Commander Richards), 16 of the ship's company and some Dutch service personnel set out in the motor boat in the hope of being sighted.
The personnel in the motor boat were rescued, following a sighting by aircraft, and on the 5 December, the occupants of the whaler were also rescued. Sadly, continued searches for the raft and Carley float were not successful.
Out of a total of 83 naval personnel, 40 (two officers and 38 ratings) lost their lives. Losses of Netherlands East Indies personnel amounted to two officers and 58 soldiers.
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