Of all the Australians who fought in the Second World War, none saw more action nor endured so much of its hardship and horror as the crew of the cruiser HMAS Perth.
Most were young - many were still teenagers - from cities and towns, villages and farms across the nation. In three tumultuous years they did battle with the forces of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the Vichy French and, finally, the Imperial Japanese Navy.
After the fall of Singapore in 1942, HMAS Perth was hurled into the forlorn campaign to stem the Japanese advance towards Australia. Off the coast of Java in March that year she met an overwhelming enemy naval force. Firing until her ammunition literally ran out, she was sunk with the loss of 353 of her crew, including her much-loved captain and the Royal Australian Navy’s finest fighting sailor, ‘Hardover’ Hec Waller.
Another 328 men were taken into Japanese captivity, most to become slave labourers in the infinite hell of the Burma-Thai railway. Many died there, victims of unspeakable atrocity. Only 218 men, less than a third of her crew, survived to return home at war’s end.
'Cruiser', by journalist and broadcaster Mike Carlton, is their story. And the story of those who loved them and waited for them.
Diagram of HMAS Perth, 1941
Note on Terminology
Part 1. Leaving Home
1. The 'Autolycus' Sails
2. Gathering Clouds
3. To the World Beyond
5. Welcome to New York
6. Rum with Shanghai Lil
7. First Homecoming
Part 2. War in the Mediterranean
8. To the Mediterranean
9. Disaster in Greece
10. Fleet Action
11. Prelude to Crete
12. Aegean Tragedy
13. The Starboard Slaughterhouse
Part 3. To the Sunda Strait
14. Change to Command
15. The Time of Infamy
16. The Fall of Fortress Singapore
17. Defeat in the Jave Sea
18. Abandon Ship
Part 4. Prisoners and Survivors
19. Fight for Survival
20. In Enemy Hands
21. The Railway of Death
22. Miracle in the South China Sea
23. Slaves of Nippon
24. The Day of Liberation
Appendix 1. Report by Commanding Officer, HMAS Perth
Appendix 2. Crew of HMAS Perth at the Date of Her Loss, 1 March 1942