HMAS
Arunta
(I)

HMAS Arunta (I)
Class
Tribal Class
Type
Surface Combatant
Role
  • Convoy escort
  • Patrol ship
  • Shore bombardment
  • amphibious landing support
Pennant
I30/D5/D130
Motto
Conquer or Die
Builder
Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co Ltd, Sydney
Laid Down
15 November 1939
Launched
30 October 1940
Commissioned
30 March 1942
Decommissioned
21 December 1956
Fate
Sold for scrap in 1968 and sank while under tow in 1969
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement
  • 1,787 tonnes (standard load)
  • 2,449 tonnes (full load)
Length 115.06 metres
Beam 11.13 metres
Draught 2.74 metres
Performance
Speed 36 knots
Complement
Crew 250
Propulsion
Machinery Parsons geared turbines, twin screws, 44,000 hp
Horsepower 44,000
Armament
Guns
  • 4 x 120mm guns
  • 2 x 102mm guns
  • 6 x 40mm anti-aircraft guns
  • 4 x 2 pounder anti-aircraft guns
Torpedoes 4 x 21 inch torpedo tubes
Other Armament Squid triple barrelled anti-submarine depth charge mortars
Radars
  • SG1
  • SG4
  • 285P4
  • 253P
Awards
Battle Honours
HMAS Arunta (I) Badge

HMAS Arunta (I), the first of three Tribal Class destroyers built at Cockatoo Dockyard during World War II, was commissioned on 30 March 1942 under the command of CMDR James C. Morrow DSO RAN.

Following a period of trials and working up, Arunta (I) commenced operational duty on 17 May 1942 on anti-submarine patrol off the Australian east coast. This service continued until August. This period encompassed the Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour and the loss of three ships that were torpedoed in June off the coast of New South Wales. Japanese submarines remained active in July, sinking four ships totalling 15,000 tons.

HMAS Arunta was the first of three Tribal Class Destroyers to be commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 30 March 1942
HMAS Arunta was the first of three Tribal Class Destroyers to be commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 30 March 1942

On 11 August 1942 Arunta (I) began escorting convoys and other shipping between Australia and New Guinea. On 29 August she experienced her first contact with the enemy when she destroyed by depth charge the Japanese Submarine RO33 off Port Moresby. In September she continued escorting convoys to New Guinea and while thus engaged took on board the survivors of the SS Anshun at Milne Bay after that ship had been sunk by Japanese cruisers on the night of 6/7 September.

HMAS Arunta wearing her wartime disruptive camouflage paint scheme and original pennant number - I30
HMAS Arunta wearing her wartime disruptive camouflage paint scheme and original pennant number - I30

On 7 January 1943 Arunta (I) entered Darwin Harbour for the first time when she arrived to take part in the evacuation of guerilla troops from Timor. The operation as completed on 10 January and Arunta (I) then proceeded to Sydney for a two week refit. In February she resumed the escort of New Guinea bound convoys.

Between April and June 1943 Arunta (I) continued to escort shipping between Queensland ports and New Guinea. On 4 May 1943 she became a unit of Task Force 74, the composite Australian-American force operating with the 7th Fleet. In June she spent 23 days in company with the Task Force, of which HMAS Australia (II) was the Flagship, mainly cruising in north east Australian waters. At the close of June 1943 Task Force 74 entered the Coral Sea to give covering support for the American landings on Kiriwina and Woodlark Islands.

Leading Seaman W.G. Keegan, comes up from below decks as HMAS Arunta arrives in Melbourne, September 1943
Leading Seaman W.G. Keegan, comes up from below decks as HMAS Arunta arrives in Melbourne, September 1943

In early July Arunta (I) continued operating as a destroyer with Task Force 74 covering the Woodlark-Kiriwina operations. It was uneventful cruising interrupted by several days refuelling in the Flinders Islands Group. In mid July she proceeded in company with Task Force 74 to Espiritu Santo where she detached to proceed to Townsville with her sister ship HMAS Warramunga (I). The remainder of the July / August period was spent on escort and anti-submarine duty in the South and South West Pacific. On 31 August Arunta (I) began a three week refit in Sydney, sailing on 21 September for Melbourne to become part of the escort of a north bound coastal convoy, arriving in Brisbane on 3 October.

On 8 October 1943 Arunta (I) returned to Melbourne, sailing the following day for Townsville the following day escorting a convoy. From Townsville she proceeded to Milne Bay in company with HMAS Stuart (I), escorting the Landing Ships (Infantry) HMAS Manoora (I) and HMAS Westralia (I). On 28 October she arrived in Brisbane from New Guinea and there rejoined the Australian Squadron (Task Force 74) consisting of HMA Ships Australia (II), Shropshire, Warramunga (I) and Arunta (I) and US Ships Ralph Talbot and Helm.

On 5 November Task Force 74 arrived at Milne Bay where it remained based throughout the month. The Task Force spent six days at sea in the Solomons area giving distant covering support to the Bougainville operations then in progress. The four destroyers, operating as a detached group, bombarded the Gasmata (New Britain) area on 30 November. Arunta (I) and Warramunga (I) expended 909 rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition against Japanese ammunition dumps near the mouth of the Anwek River. On 27 November the cruiser USS Nashville joined Task Force 74.

December 1943 opened with Task Force 74 at Milne Bay preparing for the New Britain operations and was strengthened on 3 December by a second cruiser, USS Phoenix. The first two weeks were spent exercising in New Guinea waters. On 14 December Australia (II), Shropshire, Arunta (I), Warramunga (I) and Ralph Talbot, constituting Task Group 74.1, sailed from Milne Bay for the first phase of the New Britain operations, the landings at Arawe. There was no opposition to the covering forces. On 16 December Task Force 74 returned to Milne Bay.

On 26 December a second landing took place at Cape Gloucestor, for which Task Force 74 again gave cover and bombardment support to the American amphibious groups (Task Force 76). Again there was no enemy naval reaction and only a small counter attack from the air. On 28 December Task Force 74 withdrew to Buna. At the close of the 1943 Arunta (I) had reached 100,000 miles steamed since commissioning.

January 1944 opened with Arunta (I) temporarily attached to Task Force 76 (the American amphibious group), constituting with Warramunga (I) and the two American destroyers Task Unit 76.1.3. On 1 January the four destroyers gave support to the American 32nd Division for the landings at Saidor, New Guinea. Thereafter throughout the month Arunta (I) was busy on escort duties between New Britain and New Guinea. On 16 January, off Saidor, Arunta (I) captured her only Japanese prisoner of the war when she picked up an airman shot down by American fighters. At the close of January Arunta (I) detached from Task Unit 76.1.3. On 1 February she sailed for Sydney for refit.

Arunta (I) returned to Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 1 March 1944 and rejoined Task Unit 76.1.3 (eight destroyers) for the landings in the Admiralty Islands. On 3 March she embarked troops of the 7th US Cavalry, stores and ammunition and sailed with the Task Unit for Hyane Harbour in the Admiralties, where after preliminary bombardment she put the troops and stores safely ashore.

Arunta (I) was constantly at sea on escort and patrol duty in support of the troops ashore in the Admiralty Islands until 27 March, when at Milne Bay she rejoined Task Force 74 for exercises in preparation for the landings at Hollandia on the New Guinea coast.

On 19 April Arunta (I) sailed from Manus with Task Force 74 as one of the units of the very large naval forces assembled to carry out the first large scale landings in Japanese held New Guinea. The plan of operations was to seize and occupy the Tanahmerah Bay, Humboldt Bay and Aitape areas, isolate large bodies of Japanese troops and thus put an end to effective enemy resistance in New Guinea. Again the Japanese put up no effective resistance and some 79,000 troops were landed under the cover of naval bombardment with negligible casualties.

As part of Task Force 74, Arunta bombarded the shore of Japanese held New Guinea enabling 79,000 troops to land.
As part of Task Force 74, Arunta bombarded the shore of Japanese held New Guinea enabling 79,000 troops to land.

Task Force 74 remained in the Hollandia area providing bombardment support when called upon until 3 May when it withdrew to Manus to prepare for a further phase of the campaign to destroy the Japanese Army in New Guinea.

In mid May 1944 Arunta (I) took part in the seizure of Wakde Island, her duty with Task Force 74 being mainly confined to the bombardment of adjacent areas on the mainland on 17 May ('D' Day) when she expended more than 300 rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition. On Wakde the Japanese garrison fought to the last man (only one prisoner was taken) and some 859 dead were counted after the battle.

Following the Wakde operations Task Force 74 returned briefly to Hollandia before sailing on 25 May to give cover and bombardment support for the landings on Biak Island on 27 May.

In June Task Force 74 operated in the Biak area to prevent any Japanese attempt to counter attack or reinforce Biak. For most of the month the Australian Squadron operated in company with Task Force 75 (cruiser group), cruising in the threatened area by night and withdrawing towards Hollandia by day. On the night of 7/8 June four Japanese destroyers were contacted and a high speed but unsuccessful chase developed ( Arunta (I) exceeded 30 knots) which was finally abandoned when the leading Allied destroyers were 30 miles south east of Mapia Island.

On 10 June the Biak patrol ended and Task Force 74 returned to Manus to prepare for the landing of Allied troops on Noemfoor, a small island lying at the northern head of Geelvink Bay in New Guinea. This took place on 2 July when after a heavy naval bombardment the troops went ashore unopposed. Arunta (I) contributed 545 rounds to the hail of shell fire.

During the bombardment of Noemfoor on 2 July 1944, Arunta fired 545 rounds of 4.7 inch ammunition in preperation for the landing of Australian troops.
During the bombardment of Noemfoor on 2 July 1944, Arunta fired 545 rounds of 4.7 inch ammunition in preparation for the landing of Australian troops.

Following withdrawal from Noemfoor on completion of the bombardments, Task Force 74 was allotted the task of eliminating Japanese shore batteries eastward of Aitape on the New Guinea mainland. In these operations Arunta (I) was assigned bombardment tasks on six days before joining Task Force 78 (three cruisers and nine destroyers) to give support to the Cape Sansapor landings on 30 July.

Arunta (I) spent August in Sydney, returning to New Guinea on 1 September in time to take part in the final major landing operation of the New Guinea campaign, the seizure of Morotai Island on 15 September. On completion of the Morotai operations, Task Force 74 proceeded to Mios Woendi and thence, on 25 September, to Manus to prepare for the American advance to the Philippines.

On 13 October 1944 Arunta (I) sailed from Hollandia with the vast armada assembled for the landings at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. She was attached, with HMA Ships Australia (II), Shropshire and Warramunga (I), to Task Group 77.3 (Close Covering Group) under Rear Admiral Berkey USN. She took part in the pre landing bombardments and on 25 October, with Shropshire, took part in the final and most decisive surface engagement of World War II – the Battle of Surigao Strait. Fought in the darkness, the Japanese were placed at a hopeless tactical disadvantage which ended in their complete rout with the loss of two battleships and three destroyers. The Allied force, under Rear Admiral Oldendorf USN, comprised six battleships, eight cruisers and 20 Destroyers, did not lose any ships and suffered only superficial damage. Arunta (I) remained with the task groups patrolling the Leyte area until 16 November when she sailed for Manus. In all she spent 28 days in the Leyte area under frequent air attack but suffered no damage and fortunately was not attacked by the 'Kamikaze' aircraft which inflicted such grievous damage on many ships of the Allied fleet including HMAS Australia (II).

December was spent at Manus until Boxing Day when she proceeded in company with Australia (II), Shropshire, Warramunga (I) and three US destroyers to return to Leyte.

In January 1945 Arunta (I) took part in the second phase of the Philippines campaign, the landings at Lingayen. The entire attack force for the operation comprised in all some 850 ships of which 305 were fighting or semi fighting ships. Eleven RAN ships were included. Four of them, Australia (II), Shropshire, Arunta (I) and Warramunga (I), were attached to Task Group 77.2, consisting of six battleships, six cruisers and 29 destroyers divided into two groups.

HMAS Arunta was narrowly missed by a Kamikaze on 5 January 1945 en route to Lingayen landings. Photograph taken from USS Tulagi
HMAS Arunta was narrowly missed by a Kamikaze on 5 January 1945 en route to Lingayen landings. Photograph taken from USS Tulagi

The landings were successfully completed on 9 January in the face of continual air attack. Twelve ships of Task Group 77.2 were damaged by 'Kamikaze' planes including Australia (II) which was hit five times. Arunta (I) was damaged during the approach on 5 January when a 'Kamikaze' narrowly missed crashing into her port side. Two ratings died of wounds. Following the landings Arunta (I) proceeded to Leyte escorting Australia (II) and reported for at Lingayen with Task Group 77.2 on 22 January. Thereafter until the close of February Arunta (I) continued to support the Philippines campaign as a unit of the Lingayen Defence Force. On 5 March she returned to Manus, departing on 10 March for Sydney to refit.

Arunta (I) sailed from Sydney for Manus on 2 May 1945 after six weeks in refit. On 10/11 May she took part in the naval operations in support of the landing of the 6th Australian Division at Wewak in New Guinea. Later in the month she returned to the Philippines for a brief visit to Manila. On 5 June she sailed from Subic Bay as a unit of Task Group 74.3 (flag in the cruiser USS Nashville) to support the landing of the Australians at Brunei Bay in Borneo. The troops went ashore at dawn on 10 June under the cover of a naval bombardment of which Arunta (I)'s share was 500 rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition.

Arunta (I) remained in the Borneo theatre giving fire support, including the bombardment of Lutong (414 rounds) from 20 to 22 June, when she departed for Tawi Tawi with Task Group 74.1 ( Shropshire, Hobart (I), Arunta (I) and US Ships Metcalf and Hart). On 27 June Task Group 74.1 returned to Borneo and that day began preliminary shelling of Balikpapan in preparation for the landing of Australian troops on 1 July. In these operations, which were unopposed at sea, Arunta (I) fired 601 rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition in pre landing bombardments. In all on 1 July the covering force expended 38,052 shells ranging in calibre from 8-inch to 3-inch. Task Group 74.1 ( Shropshire, Hobart (I), Arunta (I), USS A.W. Grant and USS Killen) withdrew to Tawi Tawi on 3 July where Arunta (I) remained until she sailed for Sydney on 11 July.

When VJ Day came on 15 August 1945, Arunta (I) was refitting at Cockatoo Dock having steamed 184,368 miles on war service in the South West Pacific.

Arunta (I) completed her refit at Sydney on 18 October 1945. On 25 October she arrived in Darwin, departing the same day escorting the repatriation ship Esperance Bay to Timor and thence to Java. In November she proceeded to Japan via Morotai and Guam to join the occupation naval forces.

During her 1945 refit, Arunta had 6 x 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft guns installed before she was deployed to Japan to serve with the British Pacific Fleet.
During her 1945 refit, Arunta had 6 x 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft guns installed before she was deployed to Japan to serve with the British Pacific Fleet.

Arunta (I) remained in Japanese waters as the Australian Squadron representative until March 1946. She returned to Sydney on 2 April with urgent defects which kept her in dockyard hands until the end of March. On 11 June, her crew having taken part in the Victory Parade the previous day, she sailed for a northern cruise flying the flag of CDRE John A. Collins CB RAN (Commodore Commanding Australian Squadron). She visited Port Moresby, Rabaul, Manus and Manila during a seven week cruise.

Following her return to Sydney from the Philippines on 18 July 1946, Arunta (I) remained in home waters, mainly at Sydney, until 3 December when she sailed for Japan in company with Shropshire, where both ships came under the operational control of the Commander-in-Chief British Pacific Fleet. Kure was reached on 16 December.

Arunta (I) spent the first three months of 1947 in Japanese waters on patrol and general duties as one of the British Occupation Force destroyers. In April she was relieved by HMAS Quiberon, departing Kure on 7 April and arriving in Sydney on 21 April. Except for a winter cruise in Queensland waters, Arunta (I) remained at Sydney until 10 November when she departed in company with her sister ship Warramunga (I) for a second tour of post war duty in Japan.

Arunta (I) returned to Sydney on 7 April 1948 following a 15 week tour of duty in Japan. In June she proceeded on a cruise in the Western Pacific, visiting Noumea, Vila, Suva and Tongatabu, where she fired a 21-gun Salute for Queen Salote. The remainder of the year was spent in home waters at Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. In May 1948 she steamed her 250,000th mile.

On 21 January 1949 Arunta (I) arrived in Sydney from Jervis Bay. For the next four years she was immobilised, passing to Cockatoo Dockyard control for modernisation in 1950. On 11 November 1952 she recommissioned under the command of CMDR James M. Ramsay RAN.

Commander J.M. Ramsay, RAN, was appointed captain of HMAS Arunta following her recommissioning in November 1952.
Commander J.M. Ramsay, RAN, was appointed captain of HMAS Arunta following her recommissioning in November 1952.
After recommissioning in 1952, HMAS Arunta had her pennant number changed to D130 and was reclassified as an anti-submarine destroyer.
After recommissioning in 1952, HMAS Arunta had her pennant number changed to D130 and was reclassified as an anti-submarine destroyer.

 

The first year of Arunta (I)'s new commission was spent in Australian waters. At the end of 1953 she had steamed 15,000 miles, mostly on fleet exercises.

In January 1954 Arunta (I) proceeded for service in the Far East, arriving in Hong Kong on 4 February and Kure on 23 February. Until September 1954 she operated as one of the Allied units of the Korean Patrol groups based on Japan. Arunta (I) returned to Sydney to refit in October.

Arunta (I) spent the first four months of 1955 in home waters mainly in the Sydney area. In mid May she proceeded for a second tour of duty in the Far East. On 29 May she departed Darwin in company with HMA Ships Anzac (I), Warramunga (I), Tobruk (I) and Quadrant and Ships Black Prince and Pukaki, for Singapore for exercises with the Far East Fleet. The exercises continued in Malayan waters until the close of June when Anzac (I), Tobruk (I) and Quadrant detached to return to Australia. Arunta (I) began a three week refit at Singapore before joining Warramunga (I) as the first Australian ships of the Strategic Reserve on the Far East Station. At the close of July Arunta (I) proceeded to Hong Kong and thence to Japanese waters for exercises with American units. In October she returned to Malaya where she spent most of the remaining period of her 1955 Far East tour of duty. In December, Anzac (I) and Tobruk (I) relieved Arunta (I) and Warramunga (I) and on 5 December both ships sailed for Australia, arriving in Sydney on 19 December.

Arunta (I) spent 1956 on the Australia Station. With the exception of a visit to New Guinea, New Britain and Manus in March and April 1956 and a visit to Norfolk Island in June for the Centenary of the landing of the Pitcairn Islanders, the entire period was spent in Australian home waters. On 14 June 1956 she arrived in Sydney flying her paying off pennant. On 21 December 1956 she passed to dockyard control for refitting for Operational Reserve. Arunta (I) steamed 95,221 miles during her second commission bringing her total mileage to 357,273 since commissioning in 1942.

Arunta (I) remained in Operational Reserve at Sydney from 1957 to 1968. She was sold for scrap to the China Steel Corporation of Taipei, Formosa, on 1 November 1968. On 13 February 1969 Arunta (I) sank 65 miles off the New South Wales coast while under tow to Formosa by the Japanese tug Tokyo Maru.

On 13 February while under tow by the Japanese tug Tokyo Maru, Arunta began to take on water. Although efforts were made to stop the flooding, it was decided that recovery would be impossible, and Arunta was left to capsize and sink off Broken Bay.
On 13 February while under tow by the Japanese tug Tokyo Maru, Arunta began to take on water. Although efforts were made to stop the flooding, it was decided that recovery would be impossible, and Arunta was left to capsize and sink off Broken Bay.