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HMAS WESTRALIA in capture of Tarakan Borneo

Date: c 1945
Dimensions:
240 mm, 660 m (660 mm)
Medium: Felt, fabric paint.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Pennant
Object No: 00007358
Related Place:Borneo,

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    Description
    MV WESTRALIA was requisitioned from the Huddart Parker Line in World War II and was converted firstly into an armed merchant cruiser and then a Landing Ship, Infantry in 1943. In this capacity it was used to land members of the Australian 2/24th Battalion at Tarakan on 1 May 1945.
    SignificanceThis pennant highlights the role of HMAS WESTRALIA as a landing craft at the Battle of Tarakan in the Pacific during World War II.
    HistoryMV WESTRALIA was built by Harland and Wolff, Belfast in 1929 for Huddart Parker Ltd and served on the Sydney-Melbourne-Adelaide-Fremantle passenger service until 1939 when it was requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy.

    As HMAS WESTRALIA it had a distinguished naval career as a merchant cruiser, landing ship and a troopship, serving in the East Indies Station and Nauru area.

    Tarakan is a small island off Borneo and was the site of the first stage of the Allied Borneo campaign. The island possessed plentiful oil supplies and had been occupied by the Japanese since January 1942. By the end of June 1945 the Allies had secured the island and had launched the other offensives of the campaign.

    From The Argus 4 May 1945 comes this report:
    "AUSTRALIANS MAKE FRONT-DOOR LANDING AT TARAKAN
    Jap Defences Overwhelmed By Combined Army, Navy, And Air Force Operation
    from FRANK DEXTER, War Correspondent of THE ARGUS, with the Australians in Borneo.

    For the first time in the Pacific war ground forces of Australian Navy, Army, and Air Force went ashore at Tarakan, Borneo, on Tuesday with an invading force. In addition to the AIF, there is a RAAF constructional unit, to be used for repairing Tarakan aerodrome, and a new unit known as the beach group, comprising Navy commandos and specially trained Army troops.

    As soon as they reached the shore the beach group established the best areas for landing craft. This done, they signalled each craft where to beach. Often they were forced to build roadways of sandbags out into shallow water, over mud flats, where dry landings were impossible. They built roads from the beachhead short distances inland, so that ships' cargoes could be removed as quickly as possible to dump areas, which they had prepared. They unloaded ships with amazing speed in a race against time and tide, so vital on Tarakan beach, where the tidal fall is 9ft.

    Recent air attacks have left the runways of Tarakan airfield so pitted with bomb craters that it is estimated that 47,000 cubic yards of earth will be necessary to fill them. The RAAF construction unit, however, is equipped with 400 different types of machinery for the job.

    Tarakan, a pear-shaped island, 15 by 11 miles, is a mile off Borneo mainland. It has two oilfields, Pamoesian and Djoeata, and an excellent airfield, with a main runway nearly 5,000ft long. Both oilfields and the airfield have been unserviceable to the Japanese in recent weeks.

    NOT GOOD LANDING PLACE
    When the Japanese invaded Tarakan in 1942 they surprised the Dutch by avoiding the main defences at Lingkas and landing at Amal, on the east coast. The Australians, however, have gone in at the front door at Lingkas. It was unavoidable, despite the possibility of intense opposition from the old Dutch defences and those built in the last three years by the Japanese. At Amal there are no landing beaches. The coast shelves out in a mud bank for nearly 20 miles, over which troops would have been forced to wade ashore. The Japanese did just that, but they could carry no more than their packs. We do not make landings that way. We have best of landing equipment. We land tanks and guns, and in consequence the best of beaches must be selected for unloading this equipment. Hence the choice of Lingkas. Compared with most other beaches on which we have landed in the Pacific, Lingkas is not good.

    The Japanese are known to have a fairly strong force on Tarakan, but they have no hope of reinforcement. No large shipping can run our blockade, and our aircraft and patrol-torpedo boats are taking care of the few barges and small craft they might be able to muster. It would take too long for them to come overland from the west coast of Borneo. After preliminary battles some Japanese, as usual, will resist in the rugged country inland on Tarakan, but they have no chance of survival.

    NAVY'S GREAT PART
    The Australian frigates Hawkesbury, Barcoo, and Burdekin operated for the first time in the Borneo landing on Tarakan Island with a task force of Australian and American warships which have become famous in other Pacific landings. Other Australian warships in Borneo operations were cruiser HMAS Hobart, destroyer HMAS Warramunga, survey ship HMAS Lachlan, and transports Manoora and Westralia. Warramunga (Lieutenant-Cdr M. J. Clark, RAN) has been in most of landing operations of the SW Pacific, but Hobart (Captain R. R. Dowling) operated for the first time since she was torpedoed in the Solomons in 1942, when she bombarded Cebu, in the Philippines, late in March. She and Warramunga, in the three days before the Borneo landing, covered, with American ships, our mine- sweeping operations, work of RAAF engineers in breaching under-water defences off shore, and bombarded Japanese defences on shore. They also participated in the bombardment which preceded infantry landing on Tuesday morning.

    Of greatest importance was the task of HMAS Lachlan, in charge of Lieutenant-Cdr D. G. Tancred, RAN, who recently was decorated for his services in New Guinea waters. Her duties were to check soundings, locate wrecks in the channel and anchorages, and lay buoys to mark the intricate passage just before the entrance to Lingkas harbour.

    The frigates Hawkesbury (Lieutenant-Cdr H. J. Weston, RANR), Barcoo (Lieutenant-Cdr C. G. Hill, RANR), and Burdekin (Lieutenant Cdr T. S. Marchington, RNR), were with the cruisers for escort duty. Manoora (Captain A. P. Cousin) and Westralia (Commander E. W. Livingstone, RANR) travelled with a huge convoy to Tarakan, each towing a tank landing craft which could not carry enough fuel for such a long journey. Other craft of this type and several of another type were towed by various larger ships and cast off near Tarakan to continue the journey under their own power. Manoora and Westralia, as at many other Pacific invasions, carried combat troops for chief landing.

    Army members of the beach group are patterned on the British commando group used successfully in Sicily and in Italy at the landings at Salerno and Anzio."


    After undertaking post war troop repatriations, the ship was finally released back to commercial service in 1951, where it rejoined the Fremantle route. In 1958 it was removed to the Sydney-Auckland-Wellington run, but was back on the Fremantle run the following year. In 1960 WESTRALIA was purchased by the Asian and Pacific Shipping Co as a livestock carrier and renamed the DELFINO. In 1961 it was renamed WOOLAMBI but never sailed under this name. It was towed to a Japanese scrap yard in the same year.


    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: HMAS WESTRALIA in capture of Tarakan Borneo

    Collection title: Rice collection

    Web title: HMAS WESTRALIA (I) felt pennant

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