Military Wiki
HMAS Perth (D29)
HMAS Perth in 1940
HMAS Perth in 1940
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Amphion
Builder: Portsmouth Naval Dockyard
Laid down: 26 June 1933
Launched: 27 July 1934
Commissioned: 15 June 1936
Decommissioned: 1939
Identification: Pennant number: I29
Fate: Sold to Royal Australian Navy
Career (Australia)
Name: HMAS Perth
Namesake: City of Perth, Western Australia
Acquired: 1939
Commissioned: 29 June 1939
Identification: Pennant number: D29
Motto: Floreat
(Latin language: "Let it flourish")
Honours and
Battle honours:
Atlantic 1939
Malta Convoys 1941
Matapan 1941
Greece 1941
Crete 1941
Mediterranean 1941
Pacific 1941–42
Sunda Strait 1942
Fate: Sunk in action, Sunda Strait, 1 March 1942
General characteristics
Class & type: Modified Leander-class light cruiser
Displacement: 6,830 tons (standard)
Length: 562 ft 3.875 in (171.39603 m) overall
530 ft (160 m) between perpendiculars
Beam: 56 ft 8 in (17.27 m)
Draught: 19 ft 7 in (5.97 m)
Installed power: 72,000 shaft horsepower (54,000 kW)
Propulsion: 4 x Parsons geared turbines
4 x Admiralty 3-drum boilers
4 shafts
Speed: 31.7 knots (58.7 km/h; 36.5 mph)
Range: 6,060 nautical miles (11,220 km; 6,970 mi) at 22.7 knots (42.0 km/h; 26.1 mph)
1,780 nautical miles (3,300 km; 2,050 mi) at 31.7 knots (58.7 km/h; 36.5 mph)
Complement: 646 (35 officers, 611 ratings) standard
681 at time of loss (includes six RAAF and four civilians)

8 × BL 6-inch Mk XXIII naval guns (4 x 2)
8 × 4-inch Mk XVI guns (4 × 2)
12 x 0.5-inch machine guns (3 × 4)
10 x 0.303-inch machine guns (10 × 1)

8 × 21-inch torpedo tubes (2 × 4)
Aircraft carried: one seaplane

HMAS Perth was a modified Leander-class light cruiser operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) during the early part of World War II. She was constructed for the Royal Navy, where she was commissioned as HMS Amphion in 1936. After several years on the North America and West Indies Station, the cruiser was transferred to the RAN in 1939 and recommissioned as HMAS Perth.

At the start of World War II, the Perth was used to patrol $3 and then Australian waters, before she was sent to the Mediterranean Sea at the end of 1940. There, the Perth was involved in the Battle of Greece and the Battle of Crete, and the Syria-Lebanon Campaign before returning to Australian waters in late 1941.

In February 1942, the Perth survived the Allied defeat at the Battle of the Java Sea, only then to be torpedoed and sunk by the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Sunda Strait. Of the 681 sailors aboard, 353 were killed in battle. All but four of the 328 survivors were captured as prisoners of war. Of those captured, 106 died in captivity and the surviving 218 were returned home to Australia after the war.

Design and construction[]

The ship was one of three Modified Leander-class light cruisers constructed for the Royal Navy. She had a displacement of 6,830 tons, with a length overall of 562 feet 3.875 inches (171.39603 m), a length between perpendiculars of 530 feet (160 m), a beam of 56 feet 8 inches (17.27 m), and a draught of 19 feet 7 inches (5.97 m).[1] The main difference to the previous five Leanders was that the newer ships had their machinery and propulsion equipment organised in two self-contained units (two Parsons geared turbines and two Admiralty 3-drum boilers in each machinery space), allowing the ship to continue operating if one set was damaged.[2][3] The two exhaust funnels, one for each machinery space, gave the modified ships a different profile from the early Leanders, which had a single funnel.[2] To cover the separate machinery spaces, the side armour was extended from 84 to 141 feet (26 to 43 m), negating the weight reduction created by the separation.[4] The machinery spaces produced 72,000 shaft horsepower (54,000 kW) for the four propellers, and could drive the ship to a maximum speed of 31.7 knots (58.7 km/h; 36.5 mph).[3] At top speed, the cruiser could travel 1,780 nautical miles (3,300 km; 2,050 mi), while the more economical speed of 22.7 knots (42.0 km/h; 26.1 mph) produced a maximum range of 6,060 nautical miles (11,220 km; 6,970 mi).[3]

Sailors astride one of Perth's main guns, 1941

The Leanders' main armament was eight BL 6-inch Mk XXIII naval guns, fitted in four twin turrets.[1] During design, it was planned to modify the foremost and aftmost 6-inch turrets to be fitted with three guns instead of two, but this plan was cancelled when it was determined that the required alterations would cause several negative side effects, such as reducing the cruiser's top speed and causing problems with her effective fire control.[5]

Her secondary armament consisted of four 4-inch Mk XVI guns at first, but these were later upgraded to four twin mounts.[1] For close-in defence, the ship was fitted with twelve 50 calibre machine guns in three quadruple mounts, and ten .303-inch machine guns, and a mixtue of Lewis Guns and Vickers machine guns.[3]

She was also armed with eight Mark VII 21-inch torpedo tubes in two quadruple mounts.[3] The ship carried an amphibious aircraft (initially a Supermarine Seagull V, later a Supermarine Walrus) on a catapult.[3] At the time of entry to Australian service, the ship's company stood at 646 (35 officers and 611 sailors), but by the time of her loss, 681 were aboard: 671 naval personnel, six RAAF personnel, and four civilian canteen staff members.[3]

This cruiser was laid down as HMS Amphion for the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Dockyard on 26 June 1933.[3] She was launched by the Marchioness of Titchfield on 27 July 1934, commissioned into the Royal Navy on 15 June 1936, and completed on 6 July 1936.[3]

Operational history[]

Royal Navy service[]

During her Royal Navy career, Amphion saw service in the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean as part of the North America and West Indies Station.[3] The cruiser also saw service as flagship of the Africa Station.[6]

Australian acquisition[]

Perth arriving in New York in 1939

In 1939, Amphion was sold to the RAN: she was renamed HMAS Perth on 10 July 1939 by Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, and was commissioned into service in the RAN on 29 June 1939.[3] Perth was the last cruiser ever acquired by the RAN,[7] though the three guided missile destroyers that it bought from the United States later were more powerful warships.

Most of the ship's company departed Australia in May 1939 aboard SS Autolycus: the enlisted men had to live and sleep in the ship's livestock holds.[8] In early August, while en route to Australia, the Perth was used to represent her nation at the 1939 New York World's Fair.[3] While at New York City, there was a minor "mutiny" aboard.[8] The instigation was orders that sailors ashore for leave would have to return to the ship at 18:00 and change from white uniforms to blue uniforms, although the overall treatment of the sailors by the officers had been an issue since the cruiser was taken over by the RAN.[8] Over 60 sailors gathered on the ship's foredeck, where they were confronted by officers with sidearms (the first time RAN officers had been armed to deal with a mutiny) and were ordered belowdecks, but they disobeyed.[9] The warship's commanding officer, Captain Harold Farncomb, next approached the sailors and informed them that if they did not follow orders to disperse, he would treat their actions as a mutiny.[10] The standoff could be seen from the wharfside, and a heavily armed force from the New York City Police Department was dispatched, but did not intervene.[10] Farncomb successfully defused the situation by making the offer that any sailor wanting to wear blue uniform all day ashore could do so after asking permission. This offer was taken up by almost every sailor taking shore leave.[10]

World War II[]

While still en route to Australia, the Perth was steaming off the coast of Venezuela when World War II broke out, and she immediately began to search for Nazi German shipping on the Caribbean Sea and the western Atlantic Ocean, as the only British Commonwealth warship in that region.[11] The cruiser did not reach Australian waters until 31 March 1940, having steamed via the Panama Canal at the beginning of the month.[12] On arrival, the Perth was assigned to convoy escort duty and patrols along the Australian coasts.[3] These continued through November 1940, when she was sent to the Mediterranean Sea to relieve her sister ship the Sydney.[3][13] The Perth reached Alexandria, Egypt on 24 December, and she was assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron.[14]

During January 1941, the Perth carried out patrols of the Aegean Sea, and she supported the convoys to Malta. The Perth survived air attacks on several occasions.[14] February saw the cruiser patrolling around Greece and Crete, and then during March, she supported the Allied reinforcement of Greece by transporting soldiers from Alexandria, Egypt, to Piraeus.[14][15]

On the night of 28–29 March, the Perth played a major role in the Battle of Cape Matapan.[15] The cruiser was involved in the evacuation of Allied troops from Greece in April.[3] The cruiser was also involved in the Battle of Crete during April and May, and she was bombed on 30 May, with four of her sailors and nine of the 1,188 embarked soldiers killed when a bomb exploded in the "A" boiler room.[3][16][17]

During June and July, the Perth fought against Vichy French forces in Syria, and on one occasion, she avoided a friendly fire attack by Allied bombers.[14] The Perth was relieved by her sister ship the Hobart, and she returned to Australia for upgrades to her antiaircraft armament, and also a general overhaul in August.[14]

After her overhaul, the Perth, in company with HMAS Canberra steamed on 12 December 1941 from Sydney to Brisbane where Rear Admiral John G. Crace hoisted his flag on the Canberra on the 15th before both ships steamed out to meet the allied light cruiser HMNZS Achilles to form the heavy escort for the Pensacola Convoy.[18] The Perth continued convoy escort duties in home waters until early 1942.[3]

Perth underway in 1942

On 14 February 1942, Perth sailed with a convoy, designated MS.4, of empty oil tankers and two cargo ships to the Netherlands East Indies: the Allies wanted to retrieve as much oil as possible before the Japanese could invade the islands.[3][19] The convoy took a route south of Australia with HMAS Adelaide taking over the escort from Melbourne to Western Australia where Perth again took over on 15 February the day Singapore fell and the destination port of Palembang was under serious threat so that the tankers and one cargo vessel were ordered to return to Australia. Perth with the Dutch cargo vessel 's Jacob continued and were later joined by the Dutch ships Swartenhondt and Karsik until, on the evening of 21 February and some 600 miles south of the Sunda Strait, they too were ordered to return to Fremantle. Perth provided escort to within 700 miles of Fremantle before turning back to join the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) fleet to enter the port of Tanjong Priok on the 24th during an air raid.[19][3]

Perth then proceeded the next day, in company with HMS Exeter (68), HMS Jupiter (F85), HMS Electra (H27) and HMS Encounter (H10), to Surabaya where she met the ABDA fleet under Rear-Admiral Doorman.[3] On receiving reports that a Japanese convoy of eight cruisers, twelve destroyers, and thirty transports was heading for Surabaya, the ABDA ships sailed to meet them.[3] The Japanese ships were located on the afternoon of 27 February, and the Allied ships opened fire, with Perth setting a Japanese cruiser on fire with her second salvo.[3] Later in the engagement, the Australian cruiser successfully fired on a Japanese destroyer.[14] The forces broke apart after the British cruiser HMS Exeter was disabled, then later reengaged; during this, the Dutch cruisers De Ruyter and HNLMS Java were torpedoed and sunk.[3] Perth and the United States cruiser USS Houston were the only large Allied ships to survive the Battle of the Java Sea, and retreated to Tanjong Priok, where they arrived on 28 February.[3] The two ships attempted to resupply, but fuel shortages meant that Perth took on only half her normal fuel capacity, and a lack of shells left the cruisers with the little ammunition they had left over from the previous day.[20] Perth, Houston, and the Dutch destroyer Evertsen were ordered to sail for Tjilatjap via the Sunda Strait.[20]


Perth and Houston sailed at 19:00 (Evertsen was delayed), with the Australian warship leading.[20] The Allies believed that Sunda Strait was free of enemy vessels, but a large Japanese force had assembled at Bantam Bay.[7][20] At 23:06, the two cruisers were off St. Nicholas Point when lookouts on Perth sighted an unidentified ship; when it was realised that she was a Japanese destroyer, the Australian ship engaged.[7][20] However, as this happened, multiple Japanese warships appeared and surrounded the two Allied ships.[7][20]

File:AWM ART24483 HMAS Perth.jpg

The painting HMAS Perth fights to the last, 28 February 1942, by official war artist Murray Griffin. It was painted circa 1942–43 at Changi Prison, Singapore, where Perth survivors and Griffin were held as prisoners of war.

At midnight, with ammunition running low, Captain Hector Waller ordered his ship to try to force a way through.[20] Just as Perth settled on a new heading, four Japanese torpedoes hit the cruiser in the space of a few minutes.[7][20] The first hit on the starboard side and damaged the forward engine room, the second caused a hull breach near the bridge, the third impacted in the starboard aft area, and the fourth struck on the port side.[7][20]

Waller gave the order to abandon ship after the second torpedo impact.[7]

After some further close-range fire from the destroyers, the Perth heeled to port and she sank at 00:25 on 1 March 1942, with 353 killed: 342 RAN (including Waller), five Royal Navy, three Royal Australian Air Force, and three civilian canteen workers.[20] Houston was torpedoed and sank about 20 minutes later.[21]

Of the 328 survivors, four died after reaching shore, while the rest were captured as prisoners of war.[21] 106 died during their internment: 105 naval and 1 RAAF, including 38 killed by Allied attacks on Japanese "hell ships".[22] The remaining 218 were repatriated after the war.[21]

The cruiser's wartime service was later recognised with the battle honours "Atlantic 1939", "Malta Convoys 1941", "Matapan 1941", "Greece 1941", "Crete 1941", "Mediterranean 1941", "Pacific 1941–42", and "Sunda Strait 1942".[23][24]


The HMAS Perth Memorial Regatta is held annually by the Nedlands Yacht Club, Perth, in honour of Waller, the crew, and the ship.[25]

In the Lower Foyer of the Perth Town Hall, at the corner of Hay and Barrack Streets, Perth, are a model of Perth, and the original ship's bells of both that vessel and the second HMAS Perth.[26]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 92
  2. 2.0 2.1 Frame, HMAS Sydney, p. 15
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 93
  4. Frame, HMAS Sydney, pp. 15–16
  5. Frame, HMAS Sydney, p. 16
  6. Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, p. 126
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, p. 128
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Frame & Baker, Mutiny!, p. 145
  9. Frame & Baker, Mutiny!, pp. 145–6
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Frame & Baker, Mutiny!, p. 146
  11. Frame, No Pleasure Cruise, pp. 149–50
  12. Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, pp. 126–7
  13. Frame, No Pleasure Cruise, p. 160
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 Bastock, Australia's Ships of War, p. 127
  15. 15.0 15.1 Goldrick, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 117
  16. Goldrick, in Stevens, The Royal Australian Navy, p. 118
  17. Frame, No Pleasure Cruise, p. 161
  18. Gill 1957, p. 510.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Gill 1957, p. 580.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 20.7 20.8 20.9 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 94
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Cassells, The Capital Ships, p. 95
  22. Cassells, The Capital Ships, pgs. 95, 103–6
  23. "Navy Marks 109th Birthday With Historic Changes To Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  24. "Royal Australian Navy Ship/Unit Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  25. Nedlands Yacht Club: Making Waves (2008). Retrieved on 20 January 2012.
  26. "A Place with a Past". City of Perth website. City of Perth. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 


  • Bastock, John (1975). Australia's Ships of War. Cremorne, NSW: Angus and Robertson. ISBN 0-207-12927-4. OCLC 2525523. 
  • Cassells, Vic (2000). The Capital Ships: their battles and their badges. East Roseville, NSW: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7318-0941-6. OCLC 48761594. 
  • Frame, Tom (1993). HMAS Sydney: Loss and Controversy. Rydalmere, NSW: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-58468-8. OCLC 32234178. 
  • Frame, Tom (2004). No Pleasure Cruise: the story of the Royal Australian Navy. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-233-4. OCLC 55980812. 
  • Frame, Tom; Baker, Kevin (2000). Mutiny! Naval Insurrections in Australia and New Zealand. St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-351-8. OCLC 46882022. 
  • Gill, G. Hermon (1957). "Ch. 14". Royal Australian Navy 1939–1942. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 2 – Navy. 1. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. 
  • Goldrick, James (2005). "World War II: The war against Germany and Italy"; "World War II: The war against Japan". In Stevens, David & Reeve, John. The Navy and the Nation: the influence of the Navy on modern Australia. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-74114-200-8. OCLC 67872922. 

Further reading[]

  • Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4. 
  • Lenton, H.T. & Colledge, J.J (1968). British and Dominion Warships of World War Two. Doubleday and Company. 
  • Brendan Whiting (1995). Ship of Courage: The Epic Story of HMAS Perth and Her Crew. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86373-653-0. 

External links[]

Coordinates: 05°51′42″S 106°7′52″E / 5.86167°S 106.13111°E / -5.86167; 106.13111

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