Allied Warships

HMAS Canberra (D 33)

Heavy cruiser of the Kent class

NavyThe Royal Australian Navy
TypeHeavy cruiser
PennantD 33 
Built byJohn Brown Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Ltd. (Clydebank, Scotland) 
Ordered9 Apr 1925 
Laid down9 Sep 1925 
Launched31 May 1927 
Commissioned10 Jul 1928 
Lost9 Aug 1942 

On 25 January 1929 HMAS Canberra arrived at Fremantle. She remained in Australian waters, visiting New Zealand, Fiji and China.

In September 1939 Canberra spent the first nine months of the war patrolling home waters and the Tasman Sea. During January-February 1940 she escorted convoy US-1, the first New Zealand and Australian contingent comprising 13500 soldiers bound for Suez. Canberra was responsible for the escorting of this convoy from Wellington to Fremantle, where she was relieved of her duties by the British cruiser HMS Kent and the French cruiser Suffren. During May-June 1940, the third New Zealand and Australian troop convoy US-3 set out from Wellington, Lyttelton, Sydney and Melbourne escorted by Canberra. After stopping at Fremantle on 10 May the convoy was diverted to the Cape route while on the way to Colombo, because it was feared that Italy might enter the war. On May 20th Canberra was relieved of her duties by the British cruiser HMS Shropshire. On 30 June 1940, HMAS Canbarra was docked in the Selborne dry dock at Simonstown, South Africa for an underwater inspection of her shafts. On August 4th, she was undocked, and then sailed from Simonstown for Australia, for repairs to a defective propeller tail shaft, and then for a refit at Sydney.

During February-March 1941, Canberra and the New Zealand cruiser HMNZS Leander were operating off the coast of Colombo in search of the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer and her supply ships. On March 4th, the supply ship Coburg was sighted south east of the Seychelles in company with the prize Norwegian tanker Ketty Brovig by the cruiser`s spotter aircraft, both ships were scuttled by the Germans before the cruiser could apprehend them. In December 1941, the cruiser was involved in the escorting of a convoy of 3 transport vessels containing 4,250 Australian troops with 10,000 tons of supplies from Sydney bound for Port Moresby.

During January-March 1942 Canberra was in the South West Pacific, she joined up with the newly arrived Task Force 17 near the New Hebrides, whilst still a member of this force she underwent a refit at Sydney, and was there at the time of the Japanese midget submarine attack, her refit being completed in May. In June, she was now a member of the US Navy Pacific Fleet operating with Task Force 17 controlled by Rear Admiral Mitscher. During July-August, the cruiser was involved in the preparation of the landings on Guadalcanal in the area off the Fiji Islands. During the end of August she was deployed as the Southern Covering Force during the US landings on Guadalcanal in company with the cruiser USS Chicago and two destroyers off Savo Island. The force was taken by surprise by the Japanese and Canberra (Capt. Frank Edmond Getting, RAN) was set on fire and reduced to a wreck. She received over 20 8" and 4,7" shell hits at Savo Island in a space of 3 minutes she was completely disabled. Five hours later on the morning of August 9th, with a list of 30 degrees and fires completely out of control. Whilst she was able to be towed for repairs, the US insisted that her smoking hulk was a beacon to Japanese air attack. She was finally abandoned and was scuttled (torpedoed) by USS Ellet. 84 crewmembers lost their lives.

The ships badge can still be seen painted on the side of the Selborne dry dock wall at Simonstown, South Africa.

The US heavy cruiser USS Canberra was named in honour of HMAS Canberra.


Commands listed for HMAS Canberra (D 33)

Please note that we're still working on this section.

1Capt. Wilfrid Rupert Patterson, RN12 Apr 19385 Jun 1940
2Capt. Harold Bruce Farncomb, RAN6 Jun 194024 Dec 1941
3Capt. George Dunbar Moore, RAN24 Dec 1941May 1942

4Capt. Frank Edmund Getting, RAN17 Jun 19429 Aug 1942 (+)

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Media links

The Shame of Savo

Loxton, Bruce with Coulthard-Clark, Chris

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