Friday, July 06, 2012

More about HMAS Perth

As we have seen, the Captain of HMAS Perth was responsible for not approaching Kalamata when some 6,000 troops could have been embarked. He commanded a group consisting of two cruisers and six destroyers. This was in late April 1941. The Perth had only been in Australian hands since the summer of 1939. The Perth had been HMS Amphion, which as a modified Leander class cruiser with 8-6in guns. Almost immediately after being commissioned as an Australian ship, there was a mutiny of some sixty sailors. As these things go, a seemingly small issue blew up into a confrontation. New York police even gathered on the pier in preparation to intervene. In the even, the captain at the time, Harold Farncomb, was able to defuse the situation. The Perth was to go to Australia, but the start of the war delayed that trip until early 1940. The Perth was employed as a convoyer until late 1940 when she was dispatched to the Mediterranean to replace HMAS Sydney, a sister-ship. By April 1941, the Perth was commanded by Captain Bowyer-Smith. He showed unusual lack of initiative or perhaps even courage and did not go into Kalamata when there was the one opportunity to embark the troops and save them from German prisoner-of-war camps. Admiral Cunningham and Vice-Admiral Pridham-Wippel tried to salvage the situation, but the navy was only able to retrieve less than 1000 troops. This is based on widely available information about the Perth and the situation at Kalamata in late April 1941.

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