HMAS Manoora (I)
Armed Merchant Cruiser/Landing Ship Infantry
Alex Stephen and Sons Ltd
24 October 1934
12 December 1939
6 December 1947
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 10,856 tons gross
Length 480 feet
Beam 66 feet 3 inches
Draught 24 feet
Speed 15.7 knots
Crew 345
Machinery Diesels, twin screws
  • 7 x 6-inch guns (later replaced by 2 x 4-inch guns)
  • 2 x 3-inch anti-aircraft guns
  • 2 x Lewis light machine guns
  • 8 x 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns (later)
  • 6 x 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns (later)
Other Armament 1 x Seagull V aircraft
Battle Honours
HMAS Manoora (I) Badge

The motor vessel Manoora was built for the Adelaide Steamship Company and entered service on the Cairns – Fremantle run in 1935. After the outbreak of war she was requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy on 11 October 1939 for service as an Armed Merchant Cruiser and outfitted in Sydney. She was commissioned on 12 December 1939 and her conversion was completed on 5 February 1940. After trials and exercises in Port Phillip Bay she returned to Sydney before proceeding to northern Queensland waters.

After conducting further exercises off the Queensland coast and in the Coral Sea Manoora sailed for Macassar where she arrived on 1 April and carried out patrol duties to prevent the breakout of German merchant ships from Dutch East Indies ports as a German invasion of the Netherlands was considered possible. She was relieved by HMAS Westralia (I) on the 10th and departed for Darwin. Subsequent to the German invasion of Denmark and Norway on 9 April it was necessary to ensure that the occupied countries' merchant vessels came under Allied control. To this end the Manoora intercepted and boarded the Norwegian tanker Havbor and escorted her to Darwin. She then escorted Havbor and another Norwegian tanker, Thordis, to Thursday Island where two further Norwegian vessels were collected and escorted to Brisbane.

For the next three months Manoora operated mainly in New Guinea and north eastern Australian waters. With the likelihood of the entry of Italy into the war, Manoora shadowed the Italian liner Romolo which had departed Brisbane on 5 June. When, by the morning of 9 June, Italy's attentions were still unclear and the shadowing might continue indefinitely, Manoora was called off. By that evening, however, the situation had become clearer and Manoora was ordered to find Romolo and recommence shadowing. By this time the Italian liner was 160 miles away, steering north east. She was eventually caught by Manoora approximately 220 miles south west of Nauru and scuttled herself, her sinking being by gunfire.

As she returned to Australia with the Romolo's crew and passengers, Manoora embarked the complement of the American merchant vessel Admiral Wiley which had run aground on Kitava Island in the Trobriands. She reached Townsville on 17 June.

After refitting in August, Manoora sailed for Fremantle from where she escorted a convoy to Sunda Strait at the end of August. On her return she conducted patrols in the Indian Ocean before moving to Darwin in October and commencing patrols to Thursday Island.

HMAS Manoora (I) in harbour.
HMAS Manoora (I) in harbour.

After attacks by German raiders on Nauru and Ocean Island in December, Manoora was despatched there at the end of the month for escort and patrol duties. She remained until 7 February 1941, before returning to Sydney for a reft. The remainder of the year was spent on patrol and escort duties in Australian and New Guinea waters with two deployments to the Nauru and Ocean Island areas in May and September / October.

After a refit in November Manoora sailed for Singapore, arriving on 6 December. After the entry of Japan into the war, Manoora was employed on patrol and escort duties between India, Ceylon and Burma until March 1942, when she returned to Australia as part of the escort of Convoy SU.1, the first of the ‘Stepsister’ convoys returning Australian troops from the Middle East.

After reaching Melbourne she remained there until the 17 April when she departed escorting a convoy to Noumea, returning to Sydney on the 27th. She made another trip to Noumea in May, escorting the minelayer HMAS Bungaree. In June she refitted in Sydney then proceeded to Fremantle to escort a convoy to Sydney. Further escort duties between Sydney and Fremantle followed until 30 September when she arrived in Sydney to begin conversion to a Landing Ship Infantry (LSI).

On 2 February 1943 Manoora recommissioned. Her conversion was completed in March and she proceeded to Port Stephens for a few days before returning to Sydney. She then departed for Melbourne where, until mid June, she was involved in exercises with United States troops. She returned to Sydney and operated in the Sydney / Port Stephens area until 26 July when she departed for Milne Bay transporting Australian troops. She returned to Port Stephens on 16 August and remained there until 2 October. She then visited Sydney and after returning to Port Stephens for a short stay transported troops to Oro Bay, New Guinea, a voyage she repeated early in November. During this period she also carried out landing exercises in the Cairns area. On 15 December she commenced a major refit at Garden Island.

Manoora's refit was completed on 9 February 1944. From March to June 1944 she was in New Guinea waters and, on 22 April, with the Landing Ship Infantry HMAS Kanimbla (I) and four other transports, 16 Landing Craft Infantry and seven Landing Ships Tank, landed troops at Tanahmerah Bay without incident. On 17 May Manoora landed troops of the American 41st Division on Wake Island.

In early September 1944 Manoora and Kanimbla (I) prepared for the Morotai landings. On 10 September Manoora embarked 1,272 men at Maffin Bay. The ships then sailed to Morotai. The landings took place on 15 September with little opposition and few casualties to the Allied forces. On the 16th Manoora and Kanimbla (I) departed for Humboldt Bay, arriving on the 18th.

At Humboldt Bay Manoora and Kanimbla (I), joined by the third Australian Landing Ship Infantry, HMAS Westralia (I), overhauled equipment and embarked troops and supplies for the landings on Leyte. A full scale rehearsal was carried out at Tanahmerah Bay on 10 October. On the 13th the three Australian LSIs departed for Leyte as part of a large assault convoy escorted by a covering force of American and Australian cruisers and destroyers. The Australian landing ships were part of the Panaon Attack Group which detached from the main group at 2:00 am on the morning of the 20th and arrived off Panaon at 8:45. No Japanese resistance was encountered. Cargo was discharged by 4:00 pm and the ships sailed for Humboldt Bay arriving on the 25th.

During November the three LSIs were engaged in transporting troops from Humboldt Bay to Leyte. On 30 November they, and 15 other ships designated Transport Group ‘A’, commenced embarking troops and stores for the Lingayen landings. Transport Group ‘A’ then proceeded to Lae where, in company with Landing Group ‘B’, practice landings were carried out. The ships then sailed for Manus Island. On 31 December they departed Manus to execute Assault Mike I on Luzon Island in Lingayen Gulf.

As part of Task Force 79, the Lingayen Attack Force, Kanimbla (I), Manoora and Westralia (I) passed through Surigao Strait and proceeded up the western side of the Philippine Archipelago to Lingayen Gulf, arriving on 8 January 1945. As the ships made their final approach to the gulf they came under air attack, one aircraft being shot down by Westralia (I). The troops were landed on the 9th, supported by a heavy bombardment. The LSIs discharged their cargoes rapidly and left the area that evening to avoid further air attack, returning via Leyte to Morotai.

Manoora and Westralia (I) were then engaged in the Australian landings on Tarakan. Embarking Australian units for the first time the LSIs sailed from Morotai on 27 April 1945, each ship towing a Landing Craft Tank (LCT). The transport force arrived off Tarakan on the 30th and the LCTs were slipped. The troops were successfully landed on 1 May and the ships finished discharging their cargoes the next day. They departed for Morotai where further stores were loaded and brought forward to the landing beaches.

The LSIs' next operation was the invasion of Brunei. Departing from Morotai on 4 June in company with a large group of American vessels, mostly landing ships and landing craft, they arrived off Brunei on 10 June and commenced landing their troops on Green Beach just before 9:00 am with little or no opposition. They unloaded their cargo that day and set sail for Morotai on the 11th, arriving on the 14th.

The final amphibious operation in which the LSIs took part was the Balikpapan landing. After embarking troops and cargo at Morotai, Manoora, Kanimbla (I) and Westralia (I) sailed on 26 June, arriving off Balikpapan on 1 July. That day was spent disembarking troops and unloading the cargo after which the ships sailed for Morotai at 7:30 pm. Arriving on the 4th, they embarked reinforcements and departed the same day, returning to Balikpapan on the 7th. It was the LSIs last operation together and the remainder of the war was spent on transport duties around New Guinea, the Philippines and Borneo.

Manoora began post war operations in September 1945, repatriating troops from New Guinea, New Britain, Morotai and Borneo. This work continued until April 1946, when she made the first of four trips to Japan.

Manoora paid off on 6 December 1947 and was returned to her owners on 31 August 1949. In 1961 she was sold to an Indonesian company as the Ambulombo and finally sold to a Japanese firm for scrapping in 1972.

Further Reading

  1. Taken by storm: the true story of H.M.A.S. Manoora's experiences in the South West Pacific theatre of war by Mervyn Eather and Bill Galmes - published by the HMAS Manoora Association