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D-Day 6th Of June 1944



Operation Overlord





On 6 June 1944, in the greatest combined operation all time, the Allies assaulted the strongly fortified coast of France, broke through the defences and secured lodgment. This, with the battle for Normandy that followed, must rank among the decisive battles of the world.


The assault was made at a time when the Germans were already fighting for their lives on the Eastern Front and when the Allies had already won mastery both air and sea. Even so the result was far from being a foregone conclusion.


The Allied troops who took part though fairly well trained, were not for the most part very experienced. If the Allied leaders had proved their skill in former campaigns, the same must also be said the German leaders, von Rundstedt and Rommel. However, the Allies had built up a remarkable partnership. Cooperation between the Americans and the British was close and efficient, and if this account emphasizes the part played by the two main Allies, it must be remembered that the Canadians, French. Poles, Belgians, Dutch, Czechs and the Yugoslavs all played valiant parts in the ultimate victory.


The Allies owed their success in large measure to the skills they had developed in the techniques of amphibious warfare. The British Combined Operations Headquarters had set new standards in interservice cooperation, masterminded by Lord Louis Mountbatten.


Allied industrial capacity ensured that their force went into battle well armed and well equipped. Wars are won by fighting men; morale is even more important than weaponry. The campaigns in Sicily and Italy in 1943, allowed the Germans to demonstrate the skill and determination which had won them their great victories of the 1939-41 period. How would the young, Allied warrior measure up to the German soldier in 1944? That was the question.





From the outbreak of the Second World War until the cessation of hostilities in August 1945 the men, women and ships of the Royal Australian Navy served in every theatre of operations, from the tropical Pacific to the frigid Russian convoys. They took part in almost every major naval battle from the hunting of the BISMARCK, the landings on D Day through to the savage kamikaze attacks in the Philippines and Okinawa.


The personnel and ships of the RAN helped the Allied Navies establish and maintain command of the seas. It was this command that allowed the troops, equipment and material of war to flow to the battle fronts in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. Ultimately, it was command at sea that allowed the Allied forces to finally win the war.


At the outbreak of the war HMAS PERTH was the first Australian unit on active service. After the final surrender ships of the Royal Australian Navy were employed in the repatriation of Australian service personnel and the acceptance of Japanese surrenders throughout the southwest Pacific. After the war RAN ships were involved in the dangerous but important task of clearing Australian waters of mines.




The Royal Australian navy paid a heavy price during the Second World War. A total of 2,176 men and women died during the war. This represents 5.5% of the peak wartime strength of the RAN. 1,740 Australians died serving in RAN ships, included in this native crewmen and civilian canteen staff. The peak wartime strength of the Navy, on 30th June 1945, was 39,650 personnel of all ranks. This included the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service and the Nursing Services.




During the Second World War members of the RAN received the following awards:

GC 4*  CB 3 
CMG 1  KCVO 1 
CBE 8  Bar to DSO 3 
DSO 18  OBE 31 
MBE 42  2nd Bar to DSC 2 
Bar to DSC 10  DSC 149 
DFC 1  Albert Medal 1 
CGM 1  Bar to GM 3 
GM 9  Bar to DSM 2 
DSM 157  BEM(Mil) 35 
MID 601  Commendations 12


* The George Cross is equivalent to but ranks behind the Victoria CrossA large number of foreign awards were also bestowed upon members of the RAN.ShipsPrior to the outbreak of war in September 1939 the seagoing strength of the RAN consisted of:


HMAS CANBERRA - Heavy Cruiser

HMAS HOBART - Light Cruiser

HMAS SYDNEY - Light Cruiser

HMAS VOYAGER - Destroyer




The light cruiser HMAS PERTH which had commissioned in June 1939 was overseas at this time.


Other ships were either in reserve or under the orders of non-operational authorities.

On the 30 June 1945 the main combat strength of the RAN consisted of:

1 - Heavy Cruiser

3 - Light Cruisers

11 - Destroyers

6 - Frigates

2 - Sloops

53 - Corvettes

33 - Fairmile Motor Launches

28 - Harbour Defence Motor Launches

3 - Landing Ship Infantry

3 - Anti-submarine Auxiliaries

6 - Auxiliary Minesweepers

1 - Minelayer


These ships were supported by over 200 other vessels ranging from fleet oilers and repair ships through to Auxiliary Patrol vessels and tugs.


Of the ships in commission prior to the outbreak of war all except HOBART and SWAN were sunk. Though HOBART did sustain serious damage as a result of a torpedo hit.


The major losses suffered by the RAN include:

1 - Heavy Cruiser

2 - Light Cruisers

4 - Destroyers

2 - Sloops

3 - Corvettes

1 - Minesweeper

3 - Stores Carriers

1 - Water Carrier

2 - Fairmile Motor Launches

1 - Depot Ship

1 - Small Survey Vessel


In addition to the regular naval vessels over 600 pleasure craft served as part of the Naval Auxiliary Patrol providing protection to Australia's ports. Many of these craft were subsequently used as Air Sea Rescue vessels.


Over 200 other vessels were also requisitioned for naval service in roles ranging from harbour support to Landing Ship Infantry.


Ship Building


The following warships were built in Australia for the RAN during the war:


3 - Tribal Class destroyers

56 - Bathurst Class corvettes, as well
as 4 for India

6 - Frigates

35 - Fairmile Motor Launches

9 - 80 ft Harbour Defence Motor Launches

4 - Boom Defence Vessels


In excess of 30,000 small craft were also built for the RAN as well as the Army, RAAF and Allied forces.


Ship Repair


Throughout the war Australian industry carried out repairs, refits and maintenance on ships of the RAN and allied navies. The number of ship jobs undertaken consisted of:


RAN 4,008 ships 2,150,000 tons

RN 391 ships 1,671,000 tons

USN 513 ships 8000,000 tons

Dutch Navy 171 ships 220,000 tons

French Navy 44 ships 92,000 tons


In addition to this naval tonnage some 51,962,480 tons of merchant shipping under went repair or major maintenance and a further 6,020,240 tons was slipped or dry docked.


Industrial Production


The war placed large demands on Australian manufacturing industry. Items which in the past were imported had to be manufactured in Australia. During the cours of the war Australian industry provided for the RAN:


4 inch guns 266

Naval Mines 12,336

Radar equipment 374 sets

Mk VII Depth Charges 24,000

Type M Depth Charges 3,600


Work also commenced on the construction of a torpedo factory and this facility had commenced production by the end of the war.


In addition to this production, repair and modification work was also carried out. This work included:


Relining of, 4 inch, 4.7 inch and 8 inch naval guns.


Modifying over 280 Army 40mm Bofors guns for mounting on RAN and British pacific Fleet ships.


Designing and modifying twin Orlikinmountings to take 40 mm Bofors (designated Boffin). Over 100 mountings were delivered.


Design and production of a powered Bofors mounting.


Coastal Convoys


During the course of the war in excess of 1,100 coastal convoys were escorted by units of the RAN. This does not include a number of special convoys or troop convoys.


Only six ships were lost in convoys and a further two damaged.


In twenty trips from Trobruk HMA Ships VAMPIRE and VENDETTA evacuated 3391 personnel, including prisoners of war.




Minesweeping groups consisting of requisitioned craft were based on Australian ports as follows:


Sydney - M/S Group 50

Melbourne - M/S Group 54

Hobart - M/S Group 60

Adelaide - M/S Group 63

Fremantle - M/S Group 66

Darwin - M/S Group 70

Brisbane - M/S Group 74

Newcastle - M/S Group 77


After the war RAN vessels were involved in the clearing of all known minefields. This operation resulted in the loss of HMAS WARRNAMBOOL and the deaths of four sailors.


Mine Laying


The minelayer HMAS BUNGAREE layed approximately 10,000 mines in Australian and New Zealand waters during the war.


Additional minefields were also laid to defend the main Australian ports.


Anti-Submarine Measures


In order to protect Australian coastal shipping convoys were introduced early in the war. From December 1941 until August 1945 only six ships were lost whilst travelling in convoys. Over the same period 18 ships travelling independently were sunk by submarines off the east coast.


Some 2,300 personnel were trained in anti-submarine warfare during the war. Of the RAN personnel trained 36% served with the Royal Navy and this number made up approximately 10% of the Royal Navy's anti-submarine warfare specialists.


RAN ships are credited with the destruction of 1 German U Boat, 2 Italian submarines and 3 Japanese submarines. In addition 3 Japanese midget submarines were lost during the attack on Sydney Harbour in May 1942.


RAN personnel serving with the RN are also credited with the destruction of a number of submarines.