HDML 1321

Purdon & Featherstone, Hobart, Tasmania 11/11/43


Known Crew

  • Lt Norman Grieve RANVR Lt 7/4/41 Commanding Officer HDML 1074 1942 Commanding Officer HDML 1321 8/43 HMAS Rushcutter
  • Lt R B Nancarrow RANVR Lt 14/11/42 HDML 1321 HMAS Moreton (Brisbane) 1944
  • Lt Ambrose Ernie Palmer RANVR Lt(Sp Br) 14/7/43 First Lieutenant HDML 1321 8/43 then Commanding Officer The son of a British District Commissioner in the Solomon Islands, fluent in native languages.
  • Lt M B Reid RANVR Lt 9/10/42 HDML 1321 Commanding Officer HDML 1325 3/45
  • SLt Russel F Smith RANVR. Joined the navy in 1942 as an ordinary seaman and later commissioned as an officer. Served in ML 821 as third officer on convoy duty in the Tasman Sea. First Lieutenant HDML 1321 in New Guinea 1/45. Later promoted to Lt and demobilised early 1946.
  • LSea A B Clayton HDML 1321
  • AB G Aitken HDML 1321
  • Sto Jack Sevenoaks HDML 1321
  • Tel Ron Reynolds HDML 1321

Sapper (Spr) Edgar Thomas ‘Mick’ Dennis, Z Special Unit, the only survivor of the ill-fated raid on Muschu Island with HDML 1321 in May 1945

Russell Smith, former 1st Lt, HDML 1321, Thomas Dennis and Ron Reynolds in 2010

Russell Smith, former 1st Lt, HDML 1321, Thomas Dennis and Ron Reynolds in 2010

Wartime Activities

  • 11/9/43 Commissioned in Royal Australian Navy
  • Deployed to New Guinea Lt Norman Grieve transferred to HDML 1074 in command. SLt Ambrose E Palmer took command and SLt Russel Smith joined as First Lieutenant.
  • Under control of Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) for clandestine operations based at Milne Bay.
  • Vessel was armed with one 40mm Bofors Gun, one 20mm Oerlikon Gun, four .303 MGs, two 37mm automatic cannons and four .5 heavy machine guns. Vessel normally ran at night and hid under thick foliage which grew down to the shore, which was generally steep. The foliage was normally tied down to the guardrails.
  • “HDML #1321, weather permitting, is to carry out the special W/T Intelligence searches in accordance with the instructions contained in SIONEA’s letter 972 of 8th February 1944. This search is to receive priority over other operations, but can be combined with, (a) the transport of personnel to bases on the search route: (b) operational searches etc. required by NOIC New Guinea.”
  • Operation Ferdinand – a roving commission supporting coastwatchers.
  • 11/4/44 Operation Copper – To land the following personnel on Japanese held Muschu for a reconnaissance and to take a prisoner.
    Lt A Gubbay
    Sgt M Weber
    Cpl S Walklate
    Spr E ‘Mick’ Dennis
    Pte R Eagleton
    Pte M Hagger
    Pte J Chandler
    They boarded in Aitepe and were landed on Muschu in four folboats during the night. Three boats hit a submerged reef and overturned with gear being lost. At first light they moved inland and set up a base.
    Several unmanned Japanese positions were found and machine guns were dismantled and thrown into the sea.
    They captured a prisoner who was drowsing on the edge of a camp.
    Returning to the beach they encountered an enemy patrol and took cover whilst they passed. The prisoner managed to slip his gag and shouted before being shot. The patrol attacked and the Australians retreated into the jungle.
    Returning to their boats they found a Japanese ambush party
  • 12/04/44 They built a raft and headed for the mainland but struck a reef where the raft broke up.
    Barnes, Gubbay, Walklate and Eagleton set out on individual logs but were not heard of again. The remainder set out for Cape Samein for a rendezvous with ML1321 which did not happen then back to their base camp to retrieve a radio where they were ambushed. Dennis reached the western end of the island alone and used a plank to reach the mainland and reached friendly forces having escaped three more patrols. Weber, Hagger and Chandler were captured, tortured and beheaded.

Post War History

  • 7/71 Sold
  • 1972 Appears in Janes Fighting Ships
  • 2016 Known as the Rushcutter, sank on her mooring in Darwin. Was raised on 20/11/2016 and ‘efforts by her owners are ongoing to raise the necessary funding required to repair and restore the vessel to her wartime configuration’.

HDML 1321

View the article including photos, on 1321 on RAN website:

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