75th Anniversary of the loss of HMAS Voyager (1)

HMAS Voyager (I) aground at Betano Bay. (Photo courtesy navy.gov.au).

While attempting a hazardous troop landing in Japanese occupied Betano Bay, Timor, on 23 September 1942, Royal Australian Navy Destroyer HMAS Voyager (1) ran aground.

Attempts to lighten the ship and float her free on the high tide were unsuccessful.  The next day she was spotted by two Japanese aircraft.  The Voyager managed to shoot down one of the aircraft, but the other escaped to report her position.  The Japanese deployed a bomber aircraft, which on arrival inflicted such damage to the ship that she was beyond recovery.

At the conclusion of the attack, the ships company were uninjured, although it is reported that their alcohol supply was destroyed by a bomb.  On 25 September 1942, the ship’s company were successfully evacuated by the Corvette Class HMA Ships Kalgoorlie and Warnambool.

HMAS Voyager’s service during the Second World War is recognised with seven battle honours: “Darwin 1942”, “Calabria 1940”, “Libya 1940–41”, “Greece 1941”, “Crete 1941”, “Mediterranean 1941” and “Pacific 1942”.

The arrival of the Australian Destroyer Flotilla into Second World War operations was initially met with derision in Germany.  The Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels referring to Voyager and her sister ships  Stuart, Vampire, Vendetta and Waterhen,  as “Australia’s Scrap Iron Flotilla”, a moniker the ships quickly adopted with pride.  Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham, in a message read in Australia’s House of Representatives, commented: “Nobody will appreciate the ‘scrap’ better than the officers and men of the Australian destroyers.”  He was right. In the Mediterranean in 1940 and 1941 the Scrap Iron Flotilla pitted their strength against an opponent whose ships were faster, bigger and more modern, and acquitted itself with distinction, including renowned service as part of the Tobruk Ferry, which re-supplied the besieged Rats of Tobruk.