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  HMAS Canberra (D33)
Heavy Cruiser
Kent Sub-Class of County Class Cruiser

10,000 Tons
590' x 630' 1" x 68.25'
8 x 8" (4x2 mounts)
4 x QF 4" single AA guns
2 x quadruple 40 mm
4 x 3 pdr guns,
2 x quadruple 21" torpedo
1 x Walrus amphibian

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AWM c1930s

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AWM c1941

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RAN January 3, 1942

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Daley August 9, 1942

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USN August 9, 1942
Ship History
Built by John Brown and Company in Clydebank, Scotland. Laid down September 9, 1925 as Kent Sub-Class of County Class Cruiser. Launched May 31, 1927 as HMAS Canberra (D33). Commissioned July 9, 1928 in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under the command of Captain George L. Massey, RN. Afterwards, Canberra operated in British waters for five months until the end of 1928 then departed for Australia arriving at Fremantle January 25, 1929.

In September 1931 when she made her first voyage outside of Australia to visit New Caledonia and Fiji. Canberra visited China in 1932 and 1937, and New Zealand three times. In 1934 she served as escort to Sussex during Prince Henry's visit to Australia.

Wartime History
At the start of World War II, Canberra performed escort duty off Australia and the Tasman Sea. In 1940 she was involved in the unsuccessful search for the German raiders Atlantis and Pinguin.

During early 1941 Canberra was involved in the fruitless hunt for the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. In March, Canberra and Leander intercepted the German supply ship Coburg and the ex Norwegian tanker Ketty Brovig, which had been taken the previous month by the raider Atlantis. Canberra spent the rest of 1941 escorting convoys in the Indian Ocean.

On December 27, 1941 Canberra escorted Convoy ZK.5 from Sydney Harbor northward to Port Moresby until January 4, 1942. Afterwards, undergoes a three month refit in Sydney Harbor including a Type 241 surface search radar and A290 air-warning radar. On June 1, 1942 departs Sydney Harbor northward with the ANZAC Squadron. On June 17, 1942 assigned to U.S. Navy (USN) Task Force 44 (TF-44). During July 1942 participated in a sweep of the Coral Sea. During early August 1942 Canberra joined the naval force supporting the American invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.

Battle of Savo Island
On August 8, 1942 Canberra was part of the "Southern Force" with HMAS Australia (D84), USS Chicago (CA-29), USS Patterson (DD-392) and USS Bagley (DD-386) patrolling to the south of Savo Island off the western Guadalcanal. At 8:45pm HMAS Australia (D84) departed to join the Transport Group off Guadalcanal and afterwards Canberra became the lead ship of the "Southern Force".

On August 9, 1942 at 1:00am the "Southern Force" heard the sounds of seaplanes overhead but no warning was issued from the other groups and it was assumed they were friendly planes. In fact, they Japanese floatplanes from cruisers that dropped flares to silhouette both Canberra and USS Chicago as the Japanese cruisers released torpedoes and commenced gunfire at the start of the Battle of Savo Island.

At 1:45am Canberra was able to avoid incoming Japanese torpedoes, but within two minutes hit by at least 24 times by Japanese gunfire and was hit by a torpedo likely released by destroyer USS Bagley (DD-386). The first two salvos of gunfire killed and wounded senior officers and the damage disabled both engine rooms, hit the bridge, 4" gun platform and flooded her 8" magazine and was left listing without power. Afterwards, Rear Admiral R. K. Turner ordered that if Canberra could not steam by 6:30am, she would be abandoned and scuttled.

Fates of the Crew
Aboard, 84 were Killed In Action (KIA) including 10 who died of wounds including Captain Frank Getting. Nine officers and 65 ratings were Missing In Action (MIA). Also 119 crew were injured. Her wounded were transferred aboard destroyers USS Patterson (DD-392) and USS Blue (DD-387).

When the damaged cruiser was abandoned, the remainder of the crew were rescued by USS Buchanan (DD-484) and USS Patterson (DD-392) and transported to Noumea where they were transferred to SS President Grant then transported to Sydney.

Sinking History
At 8:00am scuttled by destroyers USS Ellet (DD-398) and USS Selfridge (DD-357) that fired over 260 rounds of 5" shells and several torpedoes into the damaged cruiser before sinking into Iron Bottom Sound at roughly Lat 9°12′29″S Long 159°54′46″E.

During July 1992 Canberra was rediscovered and documented by Robert Ballard. The shipwreck is upright on the bottom at a depth of roughly 2,500' / 760m with damage visible to her bow and amidships from shells and her superstructure had collapsed off the starboard side. Her "A" turret is pointed to port bow and her "B" turret (roof missing), "X" and "Y" turrets are all point to port in their last positions during the battle.

On August 9, 1981 a memorial to HMAS Canberra was dedicated in Canberra next to Lake Burley Griffin, adjacent to the National Carillon with an anchor and section of anchor chain (not from Canberra) with two plaques created by the Naval Historical Society, with donations from the veterans from the ex-HMAS Canberra and Canberra-Shropshire Association.

A memorial plaque dedicated to the RAN sailors aboard HMAS Canberra is located at the Tasmanian Seafarers' Memorial at Triabunna, Tasmania.

A stained glass window dedicated to Canberra is inside the Garden Island Naval Chapel on Garden Island in Sydney Harbor.

Another memorial to Canberra shaped like the bow of a ship points towards Savo Island at the Police Memorial Park in Rove in Honiara on Guadalcanal. Another memorial was located at the Vilu War Museum but around 2000 was destroyed or stolen during "The Tensions" on Guadalcanal.

Royal Australian Navy - HMAS Canberra (I)

AWM - Sinking of HMAS Canberra in Battle of Savo Island
Office of Naval Intelligence - The Battle of Savo Island 9 August 1942 Chapter 4 Attack on Our Southern Group pages 5 (map), 5-12, footnotes 10, 13, 15
Office of Naval Intelligence - The Battle of Savo Island 9 August 1942 Chapter 5 The Northern Group pages 13-14 (photo), 15 (map), 19

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Last Updated
August 8, 2021


Photo Archive

August 8, 1942

Iron Bottom Sound
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