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Reproduced courtesy of Lynne Norton

First convoy World War II off Fremantle

Date: 1940
Overall: 260 x 375 mm
Medium: Gouache on card
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Lynne Norton
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00033511
Place Manufactured:Australia

User Terms

    This painting depicts the ships involved in the first convoy of troop transports to leave Australia on 20 January, 1940 after the outbreak of World War II. The convoy left from Fremantle, Western Australia for Egypt via Colombo.
    SignificanceThis painting represents the first mass movement of Australian and New Zealand troops during World War II.
    HistoryThe outbreak of World War II occurred in September 1939 and within two weeks the Australian government decided to form the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and send the troops overseas. It was decided that Australia and New Zealand would send their troops in the same convoys.

    The first convoy was formed from requisitioned ships of several large shipping companies including P&O, Orient Line, Canadian Pacific and New Zealand Shipping Company. The ships underwent hasty conversions into troop transports at Cockatoo Dockyards, Sydney and were ready to depart Australia with a contingent of 13,500 men on 20 January, 1940. Due to the speed of the ship conversions, a large amount of the ships interior remained untouched and consequently the first troops traveled in the relative comfort of passenger line accommodation, compared to the cramped transport that became the norm later in the war.

    The ships in the convoy were P&O ships STRATHAIRD, STRATHNAVER, Orient Line ships ORION, OTRANTO, ORFORD, ORCADES, Polish ship SOBIESKI, British India Line ship DUNERA, Canadian Pacific ships EMPRESS OF JAPAN and EMPRESS OF CANADA, and New Zealand Shipping company ship RANGITARA. The convoy was escorted by HMS RAMILLIES, HMS KENT and a French cruiser SUFFREN. HMAS AUSTRALIA and HMAS CANBERRA accompanied the convoy for the first day of the voyage from Fremantle. ORION was the guide ship and carried the convoy commodore, Captain Blackwood.

    DUNERA was the slowest ship being able to travel at 13 knots at the most, and hence the convoy proceeded at this pace to the Middle East. The convoy sailed through the Indian Ocean, its most dangerous leg of the voyage, and reached Colombo in 10 days without incident. There was a change of escort at this time, with KENT and SUFFERN being replaced by HMAS HOBART and HMS SUSSEX and the addition of HMS EAGLE, an aircraft carrier. The convoy left Colombo on 1st February and reached the Arabian Peninsula a week later. The convoy was divided into two at this stage with half going to Egypt and the other calling into Aden, Yemen. However, all Australian and New Zealand troops had arrived in Egypt by 12th February, marking the start of the Australian involvement in the Second World War.

    Frank Norton was appointed an official war artist by the Australian War Memorial in 1941. He was sent to different theatres of war to document the Australian military presence and was commissioned to produce artworks of his observations. Before his appointment, Norton had an established reputation as a maritime artist and he possessed a strong technical ability that enabled him to faithfully capture the RAN ships.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: First convoy World War II off Fremantle

    Assigned title: First convoy World War II off Fremantle

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