Myths About HMAS Armidale in Need of Scuttling

December 1 is both the anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Armidale, a gallant ship of the Royal Australian Navy, and the awarding of the Navy’s only Victoria Cross. It is an opportune time to dispel two myths associated with this battle. The first is that some of the corvette’s survivors were massacred by a Japanese submarine. The other is that the ship’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander David H. Richards, was “shunned by the Navy” in some sort of quiet disapproval of his actions. Both of these stories need putting in their place.

The corvette HMAS Armidale was lost in tragic circumstances in 1942. Strafed, bombed, and torpedoed mercilessly by Japanese aircraft, she went down fighting between Darwin and Timor. One of her young seaman, Teddy Sheean, returned to his 20mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft cannon after the order to “Abandon Ship” had been given, and fired until the vessel sank beneath him. Some 101 of those on board died, and the survivors endured days at sea before some were rescued.

In recent years a claim has been made that a Japanese submarine massacred survivors. This suggestion was first contained in an article published in The Age newspaper in 2005.[1] The impact of this claim on the families of the Armidale men, and the subsequent rewriting of the whole story if it was found to be true, is well worth analysis.

The submarine suggested was I-165 (above). The article summarized research by one of the Armidale survivors, to be later released in the book HMAS Armidale Lives On by Frank Walker. That book is essentially a re-issue of Walker’s first book, The Ship that had to Die, on the Armidale, with updates. The relevant paragraphs from the article are:

New research cited in HMAS Armidale Lives On, by Frank B. Walker, to be published next Saturday, shows the big Japanese submarine I-165 was lurking in the vicinity during the search for the raft in the Timor Sea on December 9 and 10, 1942.

The same submarine played a role in the destruction of the British naval Z Force, including the battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse, off Malaya a year earlier, and on January 28, 1943, fired 10 shells at midnight into the tiny West Australian town of Port Gregory, north of Geraldton. It also sank nine merchant ships during the course of the war.

The research has been collated by one of HMAS Armidale’s seven surviving crew, former Veterans Affairs chief psychologist V.R. “Ray” Leonard, 81, who was on the raft for three days before being chosen to go aboard a whaler lifeboat. The separation was “a very sad memory” for him. He believes the raft’s occupants, poignantly photographed by an RAAF Catalina flying boat, might have been shot by the submarine, either in the water or on board after capture – but says he cannot be certain.

Dr Leonard has turned up details showing the submarine had been ordered from Penang to Surabaya, in east Java, in November 1942, because of an Italian report (which turned out to be false) that Australians and Americans would invade Timor from the south.

It therefore might be thought that the release of Walker’s new book, in the same year, would contain a more enlarged account of the submarine theory. But most strangely, it does not. The new section is an addition of a mere 119 words. The original paragraph from the first book is shown in the left hand column below; the revised paragraph from the second on the right:

Nothing of the fate of the men on the raft has ever been established. The most likely scenario is that one of the Japanese cruisers found the raft party, took the rafts and the pieces of wreckage and the men on board and executed them. This would not have been beyond the Japanese, as evidenced by the execution of 21 army nurses earlier that year on Banka Island, and countless other atrocities that were matters of routine for the Japanese.[2] That is the only theory that would account for…


Nothing definite of the fate of the men on the raft has ever been established. One scenario is that one of the Japanese cruisers found the raft party, took the rafts and the pieces of wreckage and the men on board and executed them. Another scenario is that a Japanese submarine captured the raft survivors and killed them. Research by Ray Leonard, one of the whaler survivors, showed that the Japanese submarine I-65 had been sent from the submarine base at Penang to patrol the Arafura Sea, and intercept any Australian force attempting to retake Timor. It would have reached the Arafura Sea on or about the date of the Armidale’s sinking, December 1, and could have found the raft. Under international law, which the Japanese totally ignored, it is legitimate to fire on an invasion force, but not on survivors of a sinking. The men on the raft could not possibly have been classified as an invasion force, but it [This] would not have been beyond the Japanese, as evidenced by the execution of 21 army nurses earlier that year on Banka Island, and countless other atrocities that were matters of routine for the Japanese. That is the only theory that would account for…[3]


This 119-word insertion is all that the new book contained of the submarine atrocity suggestion. There are no sources given for the claim: indeed the style of Walker’s first and second book is not to use footnotes or endnotes but rather give the source of his research directly in the text. That is fine, but there is nothing recounted at all to show where the information came from, and the book’s “bibliography” (on page 9 in the original, and page 11 in the second work) is six works, ranging from George Hermon Gill’s authoritative history of the RAN in WWII to five Australian accounts – two being first-person diary recountings from the war – of various aspects of the naval conflict. None touch on the Armidale action beyond a few brief mentions.

Indeed, the Age article gives more information than the book. It says: ”the big Japanese submarine I-165 was lurking in the vicinity during the search for the raft in the Timor Sea on December 9 and 10, 1942.”

There were indeed a number of instances of submarine commanders ordering the killing of maritime survivors in WWII, including instances involving the Imperial Japanese Navy, the (British) Royal Navy, the Soviet Navy, the German Kreigsmarine and the United States Navy, despite the fact that all of the major nations had agreed before the war not to take such action.[4]

By virtue of a Treaty which Japan had signed, passengers and crew of ships under submarine attack in WWII should have been safe.[5]  As Lord Russell of Liverpool explains[6] in his seminal work The Knights of Bushido, the personnel of torpedoed ships were not even to be placed in ships’ boats unless those small craft were assured of safety by sea conditions, proximity to land or another vessel. However, an order issued by the Japanese in 1943 stated:

“…Do not stop at the sinking of enemy ships and cargoes.  At the same time carry out the complete destruction of the crews of the enemy’s ships…”[7] 

Russell lists nine instances during the war where merchant ships were torpedoed.  Then the submarine surfaced, a few prisoners were taken for interrogation, and then the lifeboats and rafts were destroyed, and the remaining survivors murdered. The ships were the SS Daisy Moller, SS British Chivalry, MV Sutley, SS Ascot, MV Behar, SS Nancy Moller, SS Tjisalak, SS Jean Nicolet, and the SS John A Johnson.  They were of British, American and Dutch flags.[8] 

On January 26, 1943, the US Navy submarine Wahoo, commanded by Dudley “Mush”  Morton, torpedoed and sank three Japanese ships, one of them a troop transport also carrying many Indian prisoners.  After surfacing the submarine closed the lifeboats.  One report says that the submarine was attacked by machine-gun fire.  Using the deck gun and machine guns the submarine crew killed hundreds of those in the water.  One of the US crew commented to another “…if those troops get rescued, we’re going to lose a lot of American boys’ lives digging them out of foxholes and shooting them out of palm trees”.[9]  It seems the US crew did not know there were Indian prisoners on board the ship, and therefore many of them were killed too. 

The men of the submarine USS Barb had the same attitude when they used their four-inch gun on what they thought was a derelict Japanese patrol boat, only to see “about eight or nine Japs” come running out onto the deck.  But “our four-inch crew, being very bloodthirsty at that time, landed a shot right in their midst, which blew them all apart”.[10]

In the European theatre submarine warfare saw similar incidents.  The German submarine U-37 torpedoed the 5,242 ton Severn Leigh in 1940. The submarine then surfaced and used her machine guns to kill 18 of the survivors, the submarine commander later saying that he thought he was being attacked by them.

U-852, commanded by Kapitanleutnant Heinz Eck, shot up the survivors from the freighter Peleus with machine guns and grenades after the ship had been torpedoed.  He and two of his officers were executed after the war, and another two imprisoned, in the only case of capital punishment being awarded for such crimes committed by submariners.  Some of this sort of action may well have been the result of the infamous Donitz order, the subject of much debate after the War, in which the German naval leader supposedly ordered against picking up survivors, although there is considerable room for doubt as to whether that was indeed the case.[11]

Such actions in the Atlantic submarine warfare included the Allied side.  British naval officer, broadcaster and writer Ludovic Kennedy tells of a British submarine, the crew of which had killed seven survivors of a Greek schooner. The men were trying to escape in a rubber dinghy after their vessel was set for scuttling by the submariners. Kennedy does not name the boat’s captain or the vessel, but he did research the incident, and found the submarine’s report of proceedings confirmed the action, and even listed another, where a small ship flying “the Nazi flag” had been sunk by a surface gun action, with machine guns used “to destroy the boats and personnel”.[12]

So, indeed, there were indeed atrocities carried out against ship survivors, but this was an occasional practice carried out by several forces. Was this the situation in the Armidale case? The raft was sighted on December 7, the Age article suggests (with no cited source), that “the submarine had been ordered from Penang to Surabaya, in east Java, in November 1942.”  There is no date specified in November. Then the article says that: “I-165  (pictured above) was lurking in the vicinity during the search for the raft in the Timor Sea on December 9 and 10, 1942.”

This would certainly place the Japanese submarine in the area. Strangely, though, Walker’s book says: “It would have reached the Arafura Sea on or about the date of the Armidale’s sinking, December 1.” There is no source for this cited either. I-165’s track is however able to be found. The comprehensive website Nihon Kaigun has details on the submarine’s movements.[13] This site, categorizing the movements of Imperial Japanese Navy vessels in WWII, far more heavily researched than any book published to date on the vast subject, advises that:

5 December 1942:

I-165 is in the Southwest Area Fleet’s SubDiv 30 with I-162 and I-166.

I-165 departs Surabaya, Java on her eighth war patrol to raid commerce in the Arafura Sea.

22 December 1942:

I-165 arrives back at Surabaya.

What is of note here is the I-165 departed Surabaya to voyage to the Arafura Sea on the 5th. It is not in the area as Walker says on the 1st of the month, but thousands of kilometres away. It is not even there when the corvette’s boat is sighted and rescued on the same day – the 5th – by Kalgoorlie, because a WWII submarine is slow and especially cautious in wartime. In an area which had seen considerable battle that year, the I-165 would have been submerged in the daylight hours as much as she could; would have travelled with extreme caution on the surface at night – boats travelled fast on the surface, but very slowly submerged; and would have dived and remained still and silent whenever she saw – or her lookouts thought they saw – enemy ships or aircraft.

It is important to underline this: submarines carried several lookouts on their conning tower bridge when surfaced, and their duty – aggressively enforced upon them – was to scout their designated section for aircraft and surface ships. For any reported contact a submarine crash-dived, her bridge team hurling themselves down the conning tower even as the emergency ballast tanks blew and the boat started its descent, with complete submergence being achieved in seconds rather than minutes. It was a fear borne of necessity: a destroyer could sink the submarine very quickly, and there was little chance of survival if the vessel was caught too close to the surface. Aircraft were even worse: they could see the submarine underwater in good conditions, and they were so fast and “on top” of the boat so quickly they rapidly became the primary menace for the underwater warriors in WWII.

What is known in naval terms as the submarine’s “speed of advance” is important here. I-165 was a 75-man vessel known as a KD5.[14] Built in 1932, she was not particularly capable, and was armed with four forward torpedo tubes; two aft tubes, and a 10 centimetre gun. What is of interest is her speed. She was capable of nearly 21 knots on the surface, but only eight submerged. In tropical waters north of Australia, a regular and almost even twelve hours of daylight is the year-round norm. Therefore in twelve hours at night the boat could travel theoretically over two hundred nautical miles, and in the day around 100. We might note in parenthesis however that vessels do not usually travel at maximum speed as it consumes too much fuel. A usual cruise speed on the surface would have been 12 knots, and submerged the vessel would have travelled at around five.

Even if, however, I-165 was proceeding at maximum speed in a straight line she could cover around 300 nautical miles a day, which is 555 kilometres. In two days, she could cover over a thousand kilometres. But this does not put her anywhere near Armidale on the December 5, 1942. It is 2,062 kilometres from Surabaya to Darwin, and submarines, of course, do not proceed as aircraft do, in a straight line. What is now Indonesia is a massive archipelago of 17,508 islands[15] with shallow water all around them, demanding all sorts of course variations. This was a time when Japanese submarine commanders knew full well what dangers could come speedily over the horizon to kill them: long-range Catalinas, short-range fighters on the lookout for a submarine on the surface, or even just below it, for submarines can be seen to some depth by aircraft overhead.

The combination of the speed of an aircraft; its machineguns, cannons and bombs were to be feared, but if the submarine crash-dived and lay quiet, eventually its tormentor might have to leave, low on fuel. But it might have called in a warship, and such an enemy was often prepared to wait around for many hours, and depth charge mercilessly anything that returned an echo, to be replaced by other warships when it left to refuel and re-arm. This was just what had happened to the Japanese  I-124 when it was sunk off Darwin in January 1942, and the I-165’s crew knew full well that their friends lay entombed in their boat.[16]

If I-165 left Surabaya on the 5th , as the records show, she would not have reached the area until December 25 at the earliest. This was two weeks after the corvette survivors had been found, and the search for the raft given up on the 13th.[17]

It should be noted at this point that Japanese records have always been found to be truthful, although in some cases lacking through wartime destruction. The commander of the I-165 survived the war and his advice on that deployment, together with extracts from the naval records, are contained in a letter, from the Japanese historian Professor Teruaki Kawano to Australian author David Jenkins.[18] The letter cites the I-165’s commanding officer at the time as being Lieutenant Commander Tatenosuke Tosu. This was part of investigations being carried out in relation to the sinking of HMAS Sydney in 1941 in its battle with the German raider Kormoran.

Professor Kawano questioned the former commander of submarine I-165. Of interest is:

♦ I-165’s patrol is confirmed as 5-22 December, departing Surabaya for the Arafura Sea and returning to the same port

♦ Lieutenant Commander Tosu advised the boat was not re-supplied in that period

♦ There had been no “memorable encounters” during the deployment

♦ Lieutenant Commander Tosu’s period of command finished on 15 March 1943

But for some, this will not be enough. Perhaps, they may say, the records were simply falsified – who would log such details anyway?  Maybe I-165 left much earlier than she did? However, despite the controversial claim of the Age article and the book there is absolutely no evidence of any enemy submarine being involved in the Armidale loss. Nor has any been found in this author’s writing of a book on the Armidale; and in rsearching several others on WWII operations off northern Australia. There is just this bald assertion, made with no backup material: no archive entries, no interviews, and no physical evidence.

THE CLAIM overall is very odd. The Imperial Japanese Navy’s (IJN) hundreds of submarines were scattered all around the Pacific and associated bodies of water at this time. Just because a submarine was in an area does not mean its commander ordered a massacre. Nor does it mean he ordered a rescue. Just because some Japanese personnel behaved badly in WWII does not mean they all did. Nor do the attacks on Japanese helpless personnel by the USS Wahoo’s commander mean this was how all US submarine commanders behaved.

Frank Walker has hinted at the possibility before. In both books he suggests:

The most likely scenario is that one of the Japanese cruisers found the raft party, took the rafts and the pieces of wreckage and the men on board and executed them. This would not have been beyond the Japanese, as evidenced by the execution of 21 army nurses earlier that year on Banka Island, and countless other atrocities that were matters of routine for the Japanese.[19]

This is not supported with evidence by Walker, and nor is it supported by evidence from the war. Survivors of enemy warships were in general treated well by the Japanese – although those who ended up in prisoner of war camps were often treated abominably. But for cases of being treated well after battle one only has to look at the stories of the sinking of HMAS Yarra and HMAS Perth – both were sunk nearby. One of the survivors of Perth later wrote:

The Japanese sailors were curious as to our nationality but treated the Australian and American sailors kindly with eye drops for oil blindness and water and dry biscuits. Our oil covered clothing was taken away and replaced with new white cotton loin cloths…[20]

In another incident, naval officer Sam Falle gives an account of his rescue after HMS Encounter was sunk along with HMS Exeter and USS Pope on 1st March 1942 in the second Battle of the Java Sea:

It must have been about midday, for the sun was vertical and we were just south of the equator. About 200 yards away we thought we saw a Japanese destroyer. Was she a mirage? We all saw her, so perhaps she was real, but our first emotion was not joy or relief, for we expected to be machine-gunned.

There was a great bustle aboard that ship, but the main armament was trained fore and aft and there was no sign of machine-guns. The ship’s sailors were lowering rope-ladders all along the side of the ship. They were smiling small brown men in their floppy white sun-hats and too-long khaki shorts.

The ship came closer. We caught hold of the rope-ladders and managed to clamber aboard. We were covered with oil and exhausted. The Japanese sailors surrounded us and regarded us with cheerful curiosity. They took cotton waste and spirit and cleaned the oil off us, firmly but gently. It was – extraordinary to relate – a friendly welcome.

I was given a green shirt, a pair of khaki shorts and a pair of gym shoes. Then we were escorted to a large space amidships and politely invited to sit down in comfortable cane chairs. We were served hot milk, bully beef and biscuits.

After a while the captain of the destroyer came down from the bridge, saluted us and addressed us in English: ‘You have fought bravely. Now you are the honoured guests of the Imperial Japanese Navy. I respect the English navy, but your government is very foolish to make war on Japan.’

That fine officer searched for survivors all day, stopping to pick up even single men, until his small ship was overflowing. An awning was spread over the fo’c’s’le to protect us from the sun; lavatories were rigged outboard; cigarettes were handed out; and by a biblical type of miracle, our hosts managed to give all 300 of us food and drink.

The only order we were given was not to smoke after dark lest ‘English submarine’ should see a lighted cigarette. The Japanese did not know, it seems, that there were no English submarines in the Java Sea. Yet they had continually stopped to rescue every survivor they could find.

Thanks to this destroyer and other Japanese ships, Encounter only lost seven men and Exeter a surprisingly small number also. The survivors from Pope were rescued by the Japanese two days later.[21]

Historian Tom Frame has also commented on the allegations contained in the Walker first edition. Beyond taking issue with he called the “extreme virulence, destructiveness and outright cruelty of the author’s criticisms and jibes at the RAN and several officers in particular,” he criticised allegations of Japanese atrocities made without foundation, saying:

The fact of nurses being murdered elsewhere and in different circumstances does not establish any likelihood that it happened in the Timor Sea … It incites further anger about the war when, in this case, these sentiments are not justified by fact. Practically anything could have happened to the men on the raft. This should be the conclusion and the matter left at that.[22]

To summarise, the Japanese Navy was not characterized overall by poor treatment of shipwrecked survivors. Some submarine commanders, and some surface ship personnel, on both sides of WWII were indeed involved in massacres of ship-action survivors. But most commanders were not involved in such actions. There is no evidence any of the Armidale crew were massacred by a Japanese submarine, nor by a surface ship. Anyone who wants to suggest so needs to have evidence for their case rather simple assertion.


THE second myth is a more simple story. An inquiry was held into the Armidale’s sinking, normal practise in such situations. It was a straightforward affair. The conclusion was that “all reasonable steps were taken and that the actions of the Commanding Officers were correct,” referring to the ships present: Armidale, Kuru, Castlemaine and Kalgoorlie.[23]

The tragic aftermath of the warship’s sinking was given especial analysis. The most poignant aspect of it was the frustrating discovery of the liferaft, showing several survivors were still alive when it was spotted from the air, but then this was followed by the unrealised subsequent search for it. The liferaft, or recognisable parts of it, has never been found. 

Frank Walker’s [24] The Ship that Had to Die, and as repeated in various other accounts, it is suggested that Lieutenant Commander Richards was victimised by the Navy for the loss of his ship. The reasoning behind this is unknown: if Richards was found to be correct in his actions – by the Navy – then why would the Navy seek to suggest otherwise by denying him further commands?

It was not only in Walker’s book that the assertion was made that: ”…the Navy refused to give him another command.”[25] Probably leading on from that comment, the allegation has been repeated, not always by those agreeing with Walker, but because it was presumed the allegation was correct. For example, the historian Tom Frame, former naval officer, Bishop of the Defence Forces, and ethicist, acknowledged it in Headmark, the Journal of the Australian Naval Institute, in 1991:

Walker makes three serious allegations about the subsequent handling of the loss of Armidale. First, he asks why no medals were ever awarded to Armidale survivors. Second, why Sheean was only mentioned-in-despatches, and third, why the commanding officer of Armidale, Lieutenant-Commander Richards, did not get another command. His answer to all three questions is that the Navy wanted to cover up the loss.

I cannot answer the questions he raises. For what it is worth, I find what actually happened incomprehensible and very unfortunate. However, to suggest it amounted to a cover-up or that the RAN was actively responsible is unwarranted.[26]

Frame was only reviewing the book, and as such had no duty to check every fact asserted. But the allegation became accepted. As recently as making an

…oral submission to the Tribunal on 14 December 2011…Dr Leonard, a survivor from the whaler…stated that when Kalgoorlie arrived at the wharf, Pope and other senior naval officers met them with ‘formality, distance, coldness and even an implied threat’. Dr Leonard recalled that Pope said that ‘none of you must say a word about the sinking of Armidale to anyone’. Dr Leonard said he was left with the impression that Pope thought the survivors had failed in losing their ship, and he felt that this was a factor in Richards not getting another command. [27]

But Lieutenant Commander Richards was indeed given other sea-going commands. His Service Record is readily available for anyone to see in the National Archives, and lists his appointments, including Armidale and beyond. He was next appointed to the corvette Katoomba as CO, but this was cancelled – the reason has not yet been found. He served at the shore base Moreton as Naval Berthing Officer; and then was posted to Darwin to the base HMAS Melville in the same capacity. Then in 1946 he was appointed in command to another corvette, HMAS Burnie. He then took over command of two identical ships in succession: Landing Ship (Tank) 3022 and LST 3008.

The LSTs were big ships, over 2,000 tons; of 345 feet (105 m) in length, and designed to carry tanks, artillery, and troops for amphibious landings. They were heavily defended from air attack by four 40mm Bofors in two twin mounts and six 20mm Oerlikons in two twin and two single mounts.[28] Richards probably reflected on this comparison with his lost corvette on occasion, with its much lesser armament of three 20mm Oerlikons and an anti-surface four-inch gun.

A year and a half after the end of the war, on December 31, 1946, Richards was promoted to full commander. This is significant for two reasons. Post-war, the Navy was contracting sharply, down from its peak of nearly 40,000 personnel to well under half that number. There was usually no work available for a reserve lieutenant commander, in fact there was a lot less available for Permanent Force members. It is a myth to think that “the Navy” either then and now gazes down from a mountain and bestows favours, god-like, on those it likes, while dispensing thunderbolts to those it doesn’t. More likely Richards’ combination of experience, availability, and abilities placed him into positions.

But there is a significant note in Richards’ naval career at this point: he was promoted commander. This is the equivalent from the step up from army major to army lieutenant colonel. Most naval officers do not rise above lieutenant commander. To gain the coveted “step” upwards brings with it the conferral of a new cap, this one with gold braid on its peak, hence the expression “brass hat.” Again, Navy does not bestow from a pinnacle such favours, but nevertheless the list of promotions was, and is, closely scrutinized by the very senior officers of the force.

If Richards was out of favour generally with the Navy, as Walker implies, it is unlikely he would have been given this promotion. Indeed, this appointment would have been reviewed several times by the most senior figures in the force, and it could have been removed with a pen-stroke, and Richards never told of such an action. That the promotion was indeed promulgated is the reverse of what Walker was suggesting: the Navy wanted to recognize the officer who had lost Armidale in heroic circumstances, and was acknowledging the loss of the corvette, not covering it up.

Commander Richards worked in Navy Office – that is, its headquarters – until 1952, when he was placed at the age of 50 on the retirement list; normal practice in those days. Little is known of his later life. He died in 1967, fifteen years later, at the age of 65, a recognised brave fighting naval officer who had given of his best. [29]

Dr Tom Lewis OAM is the author of Teddy Sheean VC (Big Sky Publications) the story of the loss of the Armidale and the fight for a Victoria Cross for Teddy Sheean. He served as a naval officer for nearly 20 years, seeing war service in Baghdad as an intelligence analyst.


[1] The Age. “Survivor throws light on wartime mystery.” 15 May 2005. http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Survivorthrows-light-on-wartime-mystery/2005/05/14/1116024408468.html?from=moreStories  Accessed June 2012. 

[2] Walker, Frank. HMAS Armidale – The Ship That Had To Die. NSW: Kingfisher Press, 1980. (p. 94-95)

[3] Walker, Frank. HMAS Armidale Lives On. NSW: Kingfisher Press, 2005. (p. 94-95) Walker’s second book is virtually the same as the first, even down to the page numbers, until it gets to the end of where the first one stopped at 179 pages. Then for another 44 pages – to p. 223 – the second work contains a chapter on the then-new RAN Armidale patrol boats; and some discussion of the awarding of the Victoria Cross to Teddy Sheean. He does not cite an interview or materials from Leonard.

[4] See Submarine Atrocities. Website. http://www.oocities.org/pentagon/camp/3166/  Accessed July 2014.

[5] The Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament, often known as the London Treaty, was signed in 1930 by United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy and the United States.  Part IV Article 22, states: “a warship, whether surface vessel or submarine, may not sink or render incapable of navigation a merchant vessel without having first placed passengers, crew and ship’s papers in a place of safety. For this purpose the ship’s boats are not regarded as a place of safety unless the safety of the passengers and crew is assured, in the existing sea and weather conditions, by the proximity of land, or the presence of another vessel which is in a position to take them on board.” Wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Naval_Treaty  14 November 2005.

[6] Russell, Lord, of Liverpool.  The Knights of Bushido: a short history of Japanese War Crimes.  Bath: Chivers Press, 1989. (p. 172)

[7] ibid. (p.173)

[8] The submarine which was in the area of the Armidale sinking – I-165 – was probably involved in the action, but under a different and subsequent CO, Lieutenant-Commander Shimizu, with the sinking of the British steamship Nancy Moller on 18 March 1944.

[9] DeRose, James F.  Unrestricted warfare: how a new breed of officers led the submarine force to victory in World War II.  New York: John Wiley, 2000. (p.84)

[10] DeRose, James F.  Unrestricted warfare: how a new breed of officers led the submarine force to victory in World War II.  New York: John Wiley, 2000. (p. 245)

[11]  Bridgland, Tony.  Waves of Hate. Leo Cooper: South Yorkshire, 2002.  (p.28, pp.85-112)

[12] Kennedy, Ludovic Henry Coverley.  On my Way to the Club: the autobiography of Ludovic Kennedy.  London: Fontana, 1989. (pp. 340-342)  These nine paragraphs have been reproduced before in the same author’s Lethality in Combat.

[13] Nihon Kaigun. Website. http://www.combinedfleet.com/I-165.htm  Accessed June 2014.

[14] Nihon Kaigun. Website. http://www.combinedfleet.com/type_kd5.htm  Accessed June 2014.  The boat’s range is given at 10, 000nm @ 10 knots. Other dimensions of interest are: Displacement: 1,705 tons / 2,330 tons submerged; dimensions 320.5 ft x 26.75 ft x 15.5 ft; machinery: two diesels: 6,000 hp, electric motors: 1,800 h; maximum depth 70 m (230 feet).

[15] CIA Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html  Accessed October 2014.

[16] See the same author’s Darwin’s Submarine I-124 (Avonmore).

[17] The Inquiry was told: “The final search took place on Sunday 13th December and was then reluctantly abandoned.” Walker, Frank. HMAS Armidale – The Ship That Had To Die. NSW: Kingfisher Press, 1980. (p. 94-95)

[18] Department of Defence. HMAS Sydney II Commission of Inquiry. http://www.defence.gov.au/sydneyii/SUBM/SUBM.007.0084_R.pdf  Accessed June 2014. The original letter is from Professor Kawano to David Jenkins, and written on 29 May 1991. It contains answers to many questions raised by Mr Jenkins, who was writing Battle Surface at the time. It should be acknowledged here that author Lewis of this work also was researching with Professor Kawano a few years later for a publication – Darwin’s Submarine I-124 – on the 80-man submarine I-124, sunk outside Darwin, and found him to be a scholar of the highest repute and integrity, who worked assiduously to grant full and unfettered access to Japanese records.

[19] Walker, Frank. HMAS Armidale – The Ship That Had To Die. NSW: Kingfisher Press, 1980. (p. 94-95) Repeated on page 95 in the second book. Mr Walker also suggests that Japanese aircraft could have strafed the raft people; or that NEI soldiers (who were Allies) could have killed the Australians, presumably in a competition to survive.  

[20] Winstanley, Lt. Col. Peter, OAM RFD. Website: Prisoners of war of the Japanese. “Survival – At Sea And On Land. A Wartime Resume Of An Australian Sailor.” http://www.pows-of-japan.net/articles/61.htm  Accessed May 2015.

[21] Extracted from Falle Sam: My Lucky Life: In War, Revolution, Peace and Diplomacy. “Rescued from the sea by the Japanese Navy.“ http://ww2today.com/2nd-march-1942-rescued-from-the-sea-by-the-japanese-navy  Accessed February 2014.

[22] Frame, Tom. Headmark. “The Ship History — Recording or Distorting the Navy’s Past?“ Journal of the Australian Naval Institute. Volume 17, February 1991, Number 1. (pp. 44-48)

[23] National Archives of Australia. “Naval Operations – Report by Naval Board on loss of HMAS “Armidale” 4/12/42 – 12/1/43.” MP138/1, 603/280/945.

[24] Walker, Frank. HMAS Armidale – The Ship that had to Die. NSW: Kingfisher Press, 1980.

[25] See U-Boat Net. Website. http://www.uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/3699.html  Accessed June 2014. Walker’s book says on page 124 that ”…the Navy refused to give him another command.”

[26] Frame, Tom. Headmark. “The Ship History — Recording or Distorting the Navy’s Past?“ Journal of the Australian Naval Institute. Volume 17, February 1991, Number 1. (pp. 44-48)

[27] Australian Government. Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal. Inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour. 6 February 2013.   https://defence-honours-tribunal.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Submission-027-Mr-Howard-Halsted-President-Royal-Australian-Navy-Corvettes-Association-NSW-Inc.pdf

[28] Gillett, Ross. Australian and New Zealand Warships since 1946. Brookvale, New South Wales: Child & Associates, 1988. (p.35)

[29] NSW State Records. David Herbert Richards – Date of Death 11/03/1967, Item Number: Series 4-630982  http://search.records.nsw.gov.au/items/1232911  Accessed September 2014.

5 thoughts on “Myths About HMAS Armidale in Need of Scuttling

  • Claude James says:

    My respect to Dr Tom Lewis for his scholarship and precision therein.
    To me, this article raises the question of the technical effectiveness of current systems for selection, development, assessment and promotion within the ADF officer corps.
    The military is under attack by the marxist-inspired anti-Westernists and open-borderists in the media, the education systems, and the law industry, and elsewhere in the public services. This is seen currently in the marxist attacks on the SASR and the Commando Regiment, which are just the tiny tip of a very large leftist-internationalist anti-ADF iceberg.
    The Affirmation Action Thing and its underlying anti-Westernist ideology has destroyed much of what was once known and practiced in the elevation of persons to responsible office in all institutions, including Big Biz and the police. When the ADF goes full-woke, we will have no proper leadership development -none at all.

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    Thanks for the insight.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good piece Tom, thank you. I have never heard before of the good treatment of any of our navy survivors by the officers and crew of the Imperial Japanese Navy. We were always brought up on the records of very bad treatment of our POW’s, mostly at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army, and sometimes Airforce straffing survivors, and of course even there, there were no doubt some good commanders, and the discipline probably meant it all depended on the commanding officer and just what type of man he was ?

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Claude James. Well said, & my sentiments entirely ; I couldn’t agree more !

  • Brian Boru says:

    Thanks Tom for correcting the record.
    I echo Peter Marriott in his first comment.
    My memory is of my aunt showing us a newspaper photo of the last Japanese POWs being sent back to Japan. I can still remember her saying “look how fat they are!”.

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