HMAS Gascoyne (K354, F354, A354)
A Brief History, 1943 to 1972
The Frigate (K354)
HMAS Gascoyne was a River class frigate laid down by Morts Dock and Engineering Company at Balmain, Sydney in New South Wales on 3rd. July 1942. She was launched on 20th. February 1943 by Lady Wakehurst, wife of the Governor of New South Wales, and commissioned on 18th. November 1943.
HMAS Gascoyne was ordered as part of the Australian Shipbuilding Program during the Second World War. Twelve of these Australian built frigates were to enter service with the Royal Australian Navy. A further ten were ordered but cancelled as the war drew to a close.
Gascoyne commissioned at Sydney on 18th. November 1943 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Jack Donovan RAN. She completed her working up trials and exercises in the Sydney area at the close of January 1944. On 5th. February 1944 she sailed for Milne Bay in New Guinea, where she operated as an escort vessel in local waters. From 26th. to 29th. February she was engaged in anti-submarine protection for the United States Transport Ship, President Grant, which was stranded on Suckling Reef. In March, April and May she remained in New Guinea waters serving mainly as an escort vessel for convoys proceeding north from the American base at Manus. On 31st. May 1944 she returned to Sydney for docking.
Quarterdeck with two depth charge racks
Depth charge thrower
Anti-submarine ahead throwing weapon,
On 7th. August 1944 Gascoyne returned to New Guinea where she resumed duty as an escort vessel based at Manus. In early October she relieved HMAS Warrego, at that time attached to the United States Hydrographic Unit of the United States Seventh Fleet. Later that month she sailed for the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines with the advance elements of the American forces assembled for the attack on the central Philippines. Gascoyne operated as a Survey Vessel in the Philippines from 18th. October, two days before the landings at Leyte Gulf, until 17th. November.
As the naval invasion fleet approached Leyte, at its forefront was a hydrographical survey group plotting and marking the approaches to the beaches. It included the RAN frigate HMAS Gascoyne and RAN Fairmile motor launch HDML 1074, laying buoys to mark the approach channels. The ships that followed delivering American troops included the three Australian landing ships, or LSIs (Landing Ships, Infantry), HMA Ships Kanimbla, Manoora and Westralia. As well as the Americans on board, they carried landing craft to ferry the troops ashore. On board also were several Australian soldiers who served in landing craft liaison teams. Protecting the force were many more Allied warships including the Australian cruisers HMA Ships Australia and Shropshire and the destroyers HMA Ships Arunta and Warramunga. The warships bombarded enemy positions on the shore before sailing further out to sea to protect the flanks of the invasion fleet.
During October, 39 air attacks were experienced in close vicinity to the ship and 30 Japanese aircraft were shot down within sight of her complement. Four bombs fell within 100 yards of Gascoyne but she suffered no damage and her only casualty was one man wounded. In November she was again the target of several enemy aircraft but was not hit or damaged.
Gascoyne sailed from Manus to return to Leyte on 16th. December 1944 and arrived in San Pedro Bay on 21st. December and there resumed duty as a Survey Vessel. On Christmas Eve, when anchored at Guiuan, the Dutch vessel Sommelsdijck lying nearby was hit and set on fire by an aerial torpedo. The Australian frigate organised the removal of 1,300 troops from the burning ship and assisted by USS Buttonwood subsequently successfully subdued and finally extinguished the flames.
On 2nd. January 1945 Gascoyne sailed from Leyte as part of the great armada assembled in San Pedro Bay for the second phase of the Philippines campaign which aimed at the prompt extension of the success gained at Leyte by a landing at Lingayen as a preliminary to the seizure of Central Luzon and reoccupation of Manila. En route she experienced her first surface action of the war when in company with HMAS Warrego and USS Bennion she engaged two Japanese destroyers at long range.
Operating as a unit of the United States Minesweeping and Hydrographic Task Group, Gascoyne served in the Lingayen area until 10th. January when she proceeded to Leyte and thence to Manus where she arrived on 23rd. January. On 1st. February she transferred to the control of Rear Admiral Kaufman USN, Commander Philippine Sea Frontier, for service as an escort vessel. On this duty she served as escort for convoys proceeding to the newly conquered areas in the Philippines. In mid April 1945 Gascoyne returned to Sydney and thence to Melbourne for refit.
In June 1945 Gascoyne returned to New Guinea waters where she was engaged on further escort duty. In July she took part in the seizure by Australian forces of the Balikpapan area in Borneo, including bombardment support for the troops ashore. August, the last month of the war, was spent escorting convoys to Borneo. In September she took part in the surrender of Japanese forces in Borneo, being used to transport the Commanding General of the Japanese 2nd Army. The remaining period of 1945 was spent transporting troops and stores, a service which took the frigate into Moluccas, Halmaheras, Borneo, Timor and Japan. Gascoyne was present in Tokyo Bay on Victory over Japan Day (2nd. September 1945), when the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed.
On Sunday the 2nd. of September 1945 in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese formally signed the surrender document onboard the the 45,000 ton US Battleship Missouri. General Douglas MacArthur conducted the formalities, and 450 carrier planes from the Third Fleet passed in massed formation over Missouri. A few minutes later US Army Airforce B-29s thundered by overhead.
Post WW11, Quickmatch, (G92) Platypus and Gascoyne (K354) on the reserve dolphins in Sydney
The Survey Ship (F354)
Following a period of over ten and a half years in Reserve, Gascoyne recommissioned at Sydney on 8th. June 1959, under the command of Lieutenant Commander John M. Nicholas RAN, for survey and oceanographic research duty. She was converted and specially fitted and equipped for this task, including the provision of laboratories on the quarterdeck. Deep sampling "dips" using Nanson bottles with the ship stern to, were carried out on the starboard side of the quarterdeck immediate outside the door to the laboratory, however rough seas were a problem as the Qdeck was low to the sea surface and became very wet from breaking waves. For survey work particularly in the Barrier Reef, the starboard whaler was replaced with a 25 foot motor cutter and an extra 25 foot motor boat was mounted on the port side. The port 27ft. whaler was retained for "recreation". A davit was fitted on the Qdeck for "operation orange peel" which was an exercise to take bottom samples with a mechanical device resembling a quartered orange that could be dropped into the seabed and then closed thus taking a sample of the sediment. The same davit was used to stream and recover plankton nets.
A helicopter landing deck was built on the Qdeck but the chopper had to be lashed down and exposed to the weather, sometimes taking breaking waves during sampling in rough seas. To escape from funnel smoke and fumes and make the task of conning the ship "stern to" easier, a perspex box about the size of a telephone booth was constructed round the starboard compass repeater. It was called the "Royal Box"!
The ship was fitted with two towed bathythermographs (see above), one on the quarterdeck for underway sampling and the other on the forecastle beneath the "royal box" for sampling when the ship was stopped. Without too much detail, the function of the bathythermograph was to decend into the depths which compressed a set of bellows, while recording temperature mechanically caused a needle to scratch a mark accross a slide - older slides were smoked glass but more modern ones were sprayed with gold. A 4" turret and a single bofor were retained fwd. however the 4" was was later removed and a large shelter was built over the laboratory for hydrogen balloon filling.
Following over six years service as a survey and oceanographic research ship, Gascoyne paid off on 1st. February 1966. She had steamed more than 218,930 miles on oceanographic research service. Overall she steamed 301,781 miles.
I joined Gascoyne in December 1964, she was by then a very tired old River Class Frigate, nicknamed the "Gasjet", that had been converted to survey work, but retained the grey paint and one single bofor gun so she was technically still a warship. I was back sleeping in a hammock again and loving it. Gascoyne carried a helicopter sometimes so there was a raised deck on the stern for it to land on. A large shelter called the "giraffe house" was built on the aft superstructure above the laboratory, the purpose was to provide a shelter for filling hydrogen balloons for the meteorological ratings. The ship was engaged in Oceanographic Survey work for the Hydrographic Department of the RAN and I commenced my bridge watchkeeping training in this ship. From December 1964 until March 1965, I experienced oceanographic survey work and the joys of bridge watchkeeping in an open bridge, wet through when it rained and often choking on soot and thick acid smoke from the ships funnel when doing a sampling dip "stern to".
After decommissioning the ship was kept alongside in Williamtown dockyard, Melbourne, the old "Gasjet" being converted to an accommodation ship for ships in refit. Her pennant number was changed to A354. Without being brought forward for further sea going service, Gascoyne was sold as scrap on 15th. February 1972 to the Fujita Salvage Company Limited of Osaka, Japan. On 6th. July 1972 the Japanese tug Sumi Maru left Melbourne for Japan with Gascoyne and the former destroyer/frigate HMAS Quickmatch in tow.
|Type||River Class Frigate / Oceanographic Research Ship.|
|Displacement||1,489 tons (standard), 2,120 tons (full load).|
|Length||301 feet 6 inches (overall).|
|Beam||36 feet 7¾ inches.|
|Draught||12 feet (mean).|
|Builder||Mort's Dock & Engineering Co Ltd, Sydney.|
|Laid Down||3 July 1942|
|Launched||20 February 1943, by Lady Wakehurst, wife of the Governor of New South Wales.|
|Machinery||Triple expansion, 2 shafts|
2 x 4-inch guns.
2 x 40mm Bofors.
6 x 20mm Oerlikons.
1 x Hedgehog.
Depth charge throwers & depth charge roll off rails.
Sonar: A/S 128 Asdic.
4-inch gun, later removed.