HMAS
Hobart
(I)

HMAS Hobart (I)
Class
Modified Leander Class
Type
Light Cruiser
Pennant
D63
Builder
HM Dockyard, Devonport, England
Laid Down
15 August 1934
Launched
9 October 1934
Launched by
Lady Florence, wife of Admiral Sir W.H.D. Boyle
Commissioned
28 September 1938
Decommissioned
20 December 1947
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 7,105 tons
Length 562 feet 3 inches (overall)
Beam 56 feet 8 inches
Draught 15 feet 8 inches (mean)
Performance
Speed 32.5 knots
Propulsion
Horsepower 72,000
Armament
Guns
  • 8 x 6-inch guns
  • 8 x 4-inch guns
  • 4 x 3-pounder guns
Torpedoes 8 x 21 inch torpedo tubes (quadruple mounts)
Awards
Battle Honours
HMAS Hobart (I) Badge

HMS Apollo and her sister ships Phaeton and Amphion were  modified Leander Class light cruisers.

Apollo commissioned on 13 January 1936 and served on the North American and West Indies Station from 1936 to 1938. At Devonport on 6 October 1938, she was due to transfer to the Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Hobart but, owing to the mobilisation of the British Fleet on 28 September 1938 during the Munich Crisis she commissioned on that date under the command of Captain R.R. Stewart RN. She was manned by the crew of the seaplane carrier HMAS Albatross which had transferred to the Royal Navy in part payment for Apollo. The renaming ceremony was performed by Mrs Bruce, wife of the High Commissioner for Australia in London.

HMAS Hobart arrived in Australia at the end of 1938 and made her first visit to Hobart from 17 to 28 February 1939. She was engaged on various patrols and exercises, including trade defence exercises, and at the outbreak of World War II was on patrol and search duties in Bass Strait.

Between July and October 1939 Hobart exercised in Australian waters and throughout the Pacific.
Between July and October 1939 Hobart exercised in Australian waters and throughout the Pacific.

On 14 October 1939 Hobart sailed for service on the East Indies Station stopping en route at Darwin and Singapore. Her first few months of overseas were spent escorting convoys in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea and she was ocean escort from Colombo for the first contingent of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) bound for the Middle East in Convoy US1.

 

HMAS Hobart leaving harbour in her pre war paint scheme
HMAS Hobart leaving harbour in her pre war paint scheme

During this period Hobart paid courtesy visits to Kamarau, Hodeida and Mocha in the Red Sea and paid a short visit to Djibouti in French Somaliland.

Hobart was at Aden when Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and her first shots against an enemy were fired two days later when her anti-aircraft guns opened fire on three Italian aircraft during a raid on Aden. Seven days later Hobart returned the compliment when her Walrus aircraft was flown off and carried out a bombing attack on the Italian wireless station on Centre Peak Island in the Red Sea.

On 1 August 1940 Hobart arrived in Berbera, British Somaliland, escorting Army reinforcements and remained there to assist in disembarkation and to give protection against any possible attack by sea. The British however, were heavily outnumbered by three Italian columns advancing overland. On 15 August the evacuation of the territory from Berbera was begun.

Hobart was operational headquarters for the evacuation and in common with other ships concerned, her personnel had many and varied occupations during the operation. Her shipwrights and joiners completed a pontoon which served as an additional embarkation pier to the quite inadequate existing piers – one of wood and the other of stone. Her signal staff provided ship to shore communications. A sea transport officer, beach and pier masters were provided from among her officers. She provided security platoons to maintain order in the town and during the whole of the operation, her tow motor boats, pinnace and two cutters continued to run troops, while her personnel provided crews for the tugs Queen and Zeila.

During the evacuation, the harbour area suffered a number of enemy air attacks while Hobart's Walrus again took up the attack and bombed the Italian headquarters at Zeila. After the bombs had dropped, the Walrus machine gunner, from a height of 250 feet silenced two enemy machine gun posts, drove a lorry off the road into a ditch and scored many hits on Italian staff cars.

Hobart also landed a QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss gun for service with the Army as an anti-tank gun. A volunteer crew of three from Hobart accompanied the gun. Fighting a rearguard action, these men were at first reported ‘missing, believed killed’ but were later rescued unharmed from Italian hands when the British captured Massawa in April 1941.

Demolition parties from the cruiser destroyed everything of value to the enemy before Berbera was finally abandoned and her boats were the last ashore on the final day of the evacuation picking up stragglers.

At 7:45 am on Monday, 19 August 1940, Hobart commenced bombarding Berbera. The bombardment rounded off the work of the demolition parties and an hour later, her task completed, the ship proceeded to Aden leaving British Somaliland under the temporary control of the Italians.

The Australian cruiser continued escort and patrol duties as a unit of the Red Sea Force until October 1940 when it was arranged between the Commander-in-Chief East Indies and the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board that she be returned to her home waters. Following refit at Colombo, Hobart reached Fremantle on 28 December 1940. Thereafter until the end of June 1941 she was engaged on escort duties on the Australia Station.

In early August 1941 Hobart joined the Mediterranean Fleet. En route from Australia she encountered action when she reached Suez on 13 July. Shortly after midnight heavy raids by dive bombers developed and the crowded troop transport Georgic received a direct hit setting her fiercely ablaze. In an effort to beach herself, she collided with the transport Glenearn, forcing that ship ashore. Hobart had a busy night with boats and medical parties away transferring the Georgic’s crew and passengers to safety. Later that day (14 July) she successfully refloated Glenearn and towed her into deep water.

In the Mediterranean, Hobart was engaged in support of the campaign in the Western Desert, the reinforcement of Cyprus, operations against Syria and in a series of Mediterranean sweeps, as a unit of the British Battle Fleet.

With the entry of Japan into the war, Hobart transferred to Far East waters. She arrived in Malayan waters in January 1942. It was during her period in these seas that Hobart withstood some of the severest bombing of her career. During one of these attacks on 3 February 1942 she rescued the passengers and crew of the British ship Norah Moller, under attack by three Japanese aircraft and on fire with many wounded among her personnel.

On another occasion when operating as a unit of a combined Dutch-British-American-Australian (ABDA) striking force, Hobart and the ships around her were attacked thirteen times. Her commanding officer, CAPT H. Howden RAN, wrote ‘the bombs fell close enough for me to see the red flash of their burst and to feel the heat of their explosions across my face.’

Hobart was fuelling at Tandjong Priok on 25 February 1942 when 27 bombers attacked her and the tanker from which she was fuelling. It was estimated that 60 bombs fell near and around her. She suffered some damage from bomb splinters and some casualties and it was her inability to complete fuelling on this occasion that prevented her from taking part in the disastrous Battle of the Java Sea on 27 February 1942.

Hobart took part in the western ‘extension’ of the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. One of the covering force for the United States aircraft carriers, she was the target of an attack by eight Japanese twin engine torpedo bombers and 19 heavy bombers on 7 May. The naval force was without fighter cover but escaped damage by evasive action, shooting down three of the enemy aircraft.

Hobart under attack in the Coral Sea
Hobart under attack in the Coral Sea

On 7 August 1942 Hobart was one of the Cruiser Covering Force for the American landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. Again, she was successful in evading fierce attacks by Japanese torpedo and high level bombers and inflicted severe damage on the enemy in both shore bombardments and anti-aircraft fire.

Following a refit at Sydney from 8 to 21 October 1942, Hobart rejoined the Australian Task Force (TF74) on Coral Sea patrols.

 
Hobart
The damaged sustained by Hobart following an attack by an enemy submarine on 20 July 1943.

On 20 July 1943, Hobart was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine whilst en route to Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, as part of Task Force 74. The torpedo struck aft on the port side causing considerable damage in the vicinity of the wardroom. Thirteen officers and sailors were killed and another seven injured. She made it to Espiritu Santo under her own power the following day where she underwent temporary repairs and was escorted to Sydney by HMA Ships Warramunga and Arunta. She arrived on 26 August for extensive repairs which kept her out of service until December 1944.

She was back at sea on 15 December 1944 for sea trials and work up, which was cut short on Christmas day by a submarine attack on a merchant vessel in the area. Hobart returned to the relative safety of Sydney Harbour and put to sea again on 30 December. She rendezvoused with the British Pacific Fleet at Manus in February 1945 and the following month comprised part of the covering and support group for the Allied landing at Cebu, Philippines, on 26 March.

HMAS Hobart exercising with allied cruisers off Subic Bay, August 1945
A rare colour photograph of HMAS Hobart exercising with allied cruisers off Subic Bay, August 1945

On 24 April 1945 Hobart was part of the covering force for the landings at Tarakan in Borneo. On 11 May she supported the landings near Wewak of elements of the Australian 6th Division.

From 7 to 9 June 1945 she was operating off Brunei, Borneo, where cover was provided for minesweeping and preliminary bombardments carried out for the subsequent landing there. Hobart was also in the force which provided cover and bombardment for the landings at Balikpapan early in July. On 31 August she arrived in Tokyo Bay and was among the Australian ships present at the time of the Japanese surrender.

HMAS Hobart's ships company in Tokyo Bay, 1945
HMAS Hobart's ships company in Tokyo Bay, 1945

In the two years following the end of hostilities, Hobart remained in service as a unit of the Australian Squadron. Three periods were spent in Japanese waters in support of the occupation forces; November 1945 to March 1946; September to November 1946; and April to July 1947. In August 1947 she returned to Sydney for paying off into Reserve. She paid off on 20 December 1947. From 1953 to 1956 HOBART underwent an extensive refit and modernisation at Newcastle State Dockyard to convert her to a training ship, but was not again brought into seagoing service. On 5 February 1960 it was officially announced that Hobart had been added to the list of obsolete RAN ships for sale as scrap.

On 22 February 1962 Hobart was sold for breaking up to the Japanese firm of Mitsui & Co (Aust) Pty Ltd for £186,886, comprising £170,876 for the ship and £16,010 for spares. The ship left Sydney under tow on 3 March 1962 and arrived at Miyachi Shipyard, Saki, Osaka, on 2 April 1962.

Hobart Scrapping
The end of the line for Hobart and one of the Royal Navy's modified Dido class cruisers at the breakers yard in Japan.