From the Archives, 1942: H.M.A.S. Armidale sunk near Timor

First published in The Age on December 26, 1942


Two Australian Officers and 38 Ratings Missing

“The Age” Special Representative CANBERRA, Friday. – H.M.A.S. Armidale, an Australian minesweeping vessel of 938 tons, has been sunk by enemy air action in the vicinity of Timor. Of the ship’s complement of 83 officers and men, 40 (comprising 2 officers and 38 ratings) are missing. The remainder were picked up from lifeboats and have now reached Australia. Although the survivors when picked up were suffering from the effects of exposure, none of them is in a serious condition.

HMAS Armidale, which was sunk by Japanese bombers off the coast of Timor on December 1, 1942.

The Prime Minister, Mr Curtin, said that during the action H.M.A.S. Armidale shot down one bomber and one fighter, and probably a second fighter. “That tally,” Mr. Curtin said, is sufficient proof of the fighting spirit of her men. It indicates, too, that the enemy knows the type of ship sunk in this attack, and it is fitting that Australia should make known her name.

“I extend the sympathy of the Government and of the Naval Board to the next of kin of the missing personnel. A wide and thorough search has been made by aircraft, and surface vessels, and that search was reluctantly abandoned only when it became obvious that there was no possibility of there being further survivors. Next of kin of the missing personnel have been informed.”

Mr. Curtin said that H.M.A.S. Armidale had been heavily and repeatedly attacked by enemy aircraft, including torpedo bombers. The first, intimation that the ship had been sunk was when aircraft, reported sighting a lifeboat carrying survivors. An Australian naval ship sent to the rescue was subjected to enemy air attack, but located the lifeboat, in which there were 17 of the Armidale’s personnel. These were taken on board, and were brought to an Australian port. Meanwhile the search was continued, and three days later a further 26 of the ship’s personnel were picked up from another lifeboat. They also had been sighted by aircraft, and were rescued by an Australian naval vessel, which carried them to an Australian port.

The sinking of H.M.A.S. Armidale, Mr. Curtin said, was the first loss of an Australian minesweeping class ship. These vessels were built in Australia to an Australian design by Australian workmen. H.M.A.S. Armidale was built, at a New South Wales dock yard, and was commissioned in June, 1942. Ships of her type are still coming off Australian slipways at frequent intervals.

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