HMAS
Yandra

HMAS Yandra
Type
Requisitioned Patrol Craft
Pennant
FY91
Builder
Copenhagen, 1928
Commissioned
22 September 1940
Decommissioned
25 March 1946
Dimensions & Displacement
Displacement 1620 tons
Length 216 feet
Beam 35 feet 2 inches
Draught 11 feet 9 inches
Performance
Speed 11 knots
Complement
Crew 6 Officers and up to 53 Ratings
Armament
Guns
  • 1 x 4-inch QF Mk IV gun
  • 1 x Maxim .303 machine gun
  • 1 x Vickers machine gun
  • 1 x 2-pounder gun
Other Armament
  • 2 Depth Charge Throwers
  • 31 Depth Charges
Awards
Battle Honours PACIFIC 1942-44

Yandra was requisitioned from the Coast Steam Ship Company, Adelaide, South Australia, on 27 June 1940. Following conversion to an anti-submarine vessel at Sydney, she commissioned in the Royal Australian Navy on 22 September 1940 under the command of Lieutenant James A. Taplin, RANR (S).

Yandra closing to recover Kormoran survivors (Kim Hay collection)
Yandra closing to recover Kormoran survivors (Kim Hay collection)

Yandra spent the first six months of her war based in Fremantle, Western Australia, where she undertook routine patrol duties before returning briefly to Sydney. She returned to western Australian waters in June 1941 and remained there until early 1942. During this time the light cruiser HMAS Sydney (II) was sunk off the western Australian coast following an action with the German auxiliary cruiser HSK Kormoran on 19 November. Days after her loss a wide scale air and sea search was launched during which Yandra recovered one of the Kormoran's life boats containing 72 survivors comprising 2 German officers, 68 German ratings and 2 Chinese seamen. This boat was subsequently landed at Carnarvon. Sadly, no member of Sydney's crew of 645 was found.

Survivors from the German raider Kormoran sheltering on Yandra's well deck. (Kim Hay collection)
Survivors from the German raider Kormoran sheltering on Yandra's well deck. (Kim Hay collection)

In January 1942 Yandra returned to Sydney where she conducted patrol and escort duties along the eastern seaboard. On the night of 31 May 1942 she was patrolling the entrance to Sydney Harbour when three Japanese midget submarines evaded detection and penetrated the harbour defences. The alarm was raised in the harbour when one of the midget submarines became entangled in the anti-submarine boom net that stretched across the inner harbour. At 22:37 the commander of this midget submarine, Lieutenant Kenshi Chuman, realising the hopelessness of his situation, detonated scuttling charges which destroyed the vessel killing himself and Petty Officer Takeshi Omori.

Kormoran survivors being landed in Carnarvon. (Kim Hay collection)
Kormoran survivors being landed in Carnarvon. (Kim Hay collection)

The blast reverberated around Sydney harbour alerting Yandra's captain, Lieutenant Taplin, to the threat. He immediately altered course towards the inner harbour to investigate and quickly spotted a conning tower about 360 meters ahead of him. Increasing speed he pursued the submarine towards the eastern channel and attempted to ram it. There is little doubt that Yandra struck the submarine a glancing blow damaging the protective cage around its torpedo tubes which prevented it from firing its deadly cargo. The submarine, later identified as M-21, was crewed by Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo and Petty Officer First Class Masao Tsuzuku.

Following Taplin's initial attack, Yandra reversed course and next sighted the submarine approximately 550 meters on her starboard bow moving very slowly from left to right. Taplin immediately pressed home a depth charge attack, the result of which was inconclusive. Unfortunately Yandra sustained damage in this attack due to her close proximity to the explosion of her own depth charges and was forced to withdraw from the action to effect repairs.

Matsuo's damaged submarine was later disabled in Taylor's Bay by the channel patrol boats Sea Mist and Steady Hour. The midget submarine's crew were found dead inside the vessel when it was later salvaged. It appears that Matsuo first shot Tsuzuku before turning his gun on himself to avoid capture.

Japanese midget submarine M-21 being salvaged in Taylor's Bay
Japanese midget submarine M-21 being salvaged in Taylor's Bay

The third Japanese midget submarine crewed by Sub-Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban and Petty Officer First Class Mamoru Ashibe managed to fire its torpedoes at the American cruiser USS Chicago, however, the torpedos missed their intended target and struck the depot ship HMAS Kuttabul which was secured alongside the sea wall at Garden Island. Twenty-one sailors were killed as a result of the attack. The submarine later escaped the harbour but failed to rendezvous with its parent ship. Her wreck was found by recreational divers north off Newport Reef, Sydney in November 2006.

Following the excitement of the attack on Sydney Harbour, Yandra remained in eastern Australian waters conducting routine patrol, anti-submarine and escort duties which extended as far north as New Guinea. She paid off at Port Adelaide on 25 March 1946 and was returned to her owners in July that year. She was wrecked on 25 January 1959 on Neptune Island, Spencer Gulf, South Australia.