GREECE - CRETE - SYRIA

 


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HMAS PERTH off Crete May 1941

GREECE

            HMAS PERTH escorted convoys and patrolled the Aegean with H.M.S. AJAX and then arrived at Piraeus on 5th April.  The next day the Germans invaded Greece and Piraeus was subject to severe air attack.  The ammunition ship Clan Fraser, moored 200 yards from PERTH, was hit and exploded with such an appalling explosion that it wrecked most of the port.  The explosion lifted PERTH out of the water and snapped several of her mooring lines.    PERTH sailed with a convoy to Suda Bay and then on to Alexandria.

            On the 20th April, PERTH sailed with the battlefleet to bombard Tripoli and then continued on to Suda Bay. The evacuation of troops from Greece was about to begin.

On the 22nd April, PERTH suffered another casualty. Donald HADDOW, a diver, had been working on the wreck of HMS YORK in Suda Bay. He had finished a dive and had removed his helmet but not his lead boots. A bombing raid had started and a bomb landed near the dive tender causing it to capsize. Unfortunately Diver HADDOW was thrown into the water and the weight of his boots caused him to drown.

Leaving Suda Bay on the 23rd April, PERTH patrolled the Aegean  and then evacuated troops at Port Rafti.  She then evacuated troops from Navplion and Tolos before sailing to Alexandria with H.M.S. BARHAM.  On 28/9th she was evacuating troops at Kalamata and while returning to Alexandria was attacked by Italian E-Boats and bombers.

            From the 6th to 10th May she covered convoys before returning to Alexandria.  On the 15th she left with the battlefleet to bombard Derna but ran into such a heavy German air attack that they were forced to return to Alexandria

             

HMAS PERTH at Alexandria May 1941

CRETE

On the 20th May 1941, the Germans invaded Crete.  PERTH was attacked in the Kaso Strait off western Crete by E-Boats and bombers.  The bombing continued without a break from  8am to 3pm and the destroyer H.M.S. JUNO was sunk.  The next night, north of Crete, PERTH sank some small ships carrying invasion troops.  Later patrolling off Heraklion north of Crete she sank a small caique carrying German troops but came under three hours of intense air attack.  This prevented her reaching a German troop convoy which however had already turned back.

         PERTH now joined the battlefleet in Kithera Strait N.W of Crete but despite the additional firepower the air attacks became overwhelming with the cruisers FIJI and GLOUCESTER both being sunk when they ran out of ammunition.  PERTH had only 100 rounds left and was forced to return to Alexandria with the battlefleet.  The allies had lost 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers, sunk and  1 carrier, 3 battleships,6 cruisers, 4 destroyers damaged.

         From the 24th to 28th May, PERTH remained in Alexandria then sailed for Sphakia on Crete to evacuate troops.  Returning on the 30th she was  attacked by a German aircraft. She managed to avoid  the bombs however one bomb released late, striking the ship and killing  4 sailors and 4 soldiers.   This was the only direct hit suffered by PERTH while in the Mediterranean.

The four sailors killed were:

FRASER W.B. 21320 Cook
SMITH H.C. 23735 Cook
SMITH H.C.W/1621 Stoker
STRAKER H. 22535 Stoker.

HMS Gloucester
hit by bombs

 SYRIA

PERTH underwent repairs at Alexandria and on 25th June, sailed for Haifa in Syria.  This area was occupied by Vichy French troops fighting with the Germans.  She patrolled between  Damour and Beirut and shelled a French gun battery at Khalde before returning to Haifa.   On 2nd July she bombarded Damour, destroying four French gun batteries at Abey Ridge and Nth Damour.   PERTH was commended for her accurate gunnery.

          Returning to Haifa to refuel, she was bombed by friendly planes but not hit.  She continued patrols off Damour and on the 7th July was at Haifa when it was attacked by German planes who dropped bombs and mines.  After a few more patrols off the Syrian coast, PERTH returned to Alexandria with HMS's NAIAD and PHOEBE.

          The RAAf crew of the ships aircraft re-embarked on the 17th July. On the 18th July,1941, PERTH  left Alexandria and the Mediterranean for Australia.  On 19th July she re-embarked her catapult at Port Said and then proceeded down the Suez canal, picking up her Walrus aircraft at Lake Timsah*.  She arrived at Fremantle on 6th August and Sydney on 12th August 1941.

During her time in the Mediterranean PERTH had experienced over 250 bombing attacks. This was over one a day. In addition to this there were numerous Air Raid warnings that, although turning out to be false alarms, required the crew to go to Action Stations.

The deployment to the Mediterranean had put a terrific strain on both the men and the ship.

*Ship's Log

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