HMAS Australia vs. the Kamikaze
Commissioned in 1928, HMAS Australia was one of the Kent group of Britain’s interwar “County Class” cruisers. The Kents were “treaty cruisers,” that is, built in accordance with the Washington Naval Arms Limitation Treaty of 1922. Displacing 10,000 tons and armed with eight 8-inch guns, by the Second World War they had been somewhat modernized, but were rather elderly, and not well regarded. Nevertheless, they performed well during the war, serving in every theater.
Although her sister-ship Canberra was lost early in the Pacific War, at Savo Island (August 9, 1942), Australia provided fire support and convoy escort to Allied forces during operations in the Solomons, New Guinea campaign, and New Britain, and then supported the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte.
On October 21, 1944, Australia was crash-dived by an Aichi D3A “Val” dive-bomber, in a foretaste of the kamikaze campaign that would begin four days later. The attack killed 30 of the ship’s company, including her captain, who died of wounds, and caused her to be sent to a rear area for nearly a month’s worth of repairs.
During the invasion of Luzon at Lingayen Gulf in January of 1945, Australia took a remarkable beating, absorbing five kamikaze in four days while providing gunfire support to the landings and operations ashore.
- January 5, 1945: The strike caused some casualties and damage to the ship’s anti-aircraft battery, but she was able to remain in action
- January 6, 1945: Once again some casualties were inflicted and some AA pieces were put out of action, but the ship was otherwise not significantly injured.
- January 8, 1945: Two kamikaze struck the ship in quickly succession, but she remained operational.
- January 9, 1945: Yet another kamikaze, the fifth in four days, inflicted further damage.
The series of four kamikaze attacks over five days killed 44 and wounded 69 of the ship’s company, though she remained on the firing line until relieved. Returning to Australia for repairs, the ship was back in service within about 45 days, and proceeded to the United States and then to Britain, for a major refit and modernization, which was not completed until after the war ended. Few ships had survived more punishment from kamikaze.
Australia remained in service until 1954, primarily as a training ship.
BookNote: The best treatment of the British “County Class” heavy cruisers is in Norman Friedman’s British Cruisers: Two World Wars and Afte
Napoleon III Creates a New Marshal
Whatever his faults as a ruler and commander, Napoleon III did have the knack of doing things with a certain flair, as can be seen in his treatment of Pierre François Joseph Bosquet.
One of the paladins of the Second Empire, Bosquet (1810-1861) entered the prestigious École Polytechnique in 1829, emerging two years later as a sous-lieutenant in the artillery. In 1834, having been promoted to lieutenant, he went to Algeria, where he would serve for nearly nineteen years. Demonstrating great courage under fire, deft diplomacy when dealing with local peoples, and considerable ingenuity in solving problems, Bosquet distinguished himself on numerous occasions, being several times wounded, while rising to captain, then to major with command of a battalion of tirailleurs, and then lieutenant colonel and later colonel of a line regiment. In 1848 Bosquet’s swift action in suppressing an uprising among the Berber tribesmen of the Kabylie, during which he was severely wounded, secured his promotion to general de brigade, an outstanding achievement for a man with just 17 years’ service.
Promoted to general de division, in 1853 Bosquet returned to France, for his first taste of garrison duty in the motherland, having been cited in the General Orders of the Army six times and won three degrees of the Légion d'honneur.
With such an outstanding record, Bosquet was one of the first officers selected for command in the Crimean War (1853-1856). In the Crimea, his division spearheaded the French attack at the Battle of the Alma (September 20, 1854), earning him another degree of the Légion d'honneur and a corps command for the subsequent siege of Sebastopol. Present at the Battle of Balaklava (September 20, 1854), Bosquet witnessed the “Charge of the Light Brigade,” of which he said “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre: c'est de la folie – It’s magnificent, but it’s not war: it’s madness". A few weeks later, his corps played a critical role in the Battle of Inkerman (November 5, 1854), and he later assumed control of the Allied right wing. In September of 1855, Bosquet ‘s corps took part in the final phase of the siege, the capture of the Mamelon and Malakoff bastions. On the 7th, Bosquet personally led his troops as they stormed the Mamelon, and the following day in the capture of the Malakoff, at great cost, he himself being very severely wounded. For this, he received the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur and the coveted Médaille militaire.
Returning home with great honor, Bosquet was invited to a banquet by Napoleon III. It was a very grand affair at the Tuileries Palace, with all the glitterati of the Second Empire present, lavish entertainment, and much outstanding food and drink.
After the tables had been cleared, the Emperor ordered that all present fill their glasses for a toast. When this had been done, he stood, raised his glass, and said, “To the health of Marshal Bosquet,” thereby announcing the award of the coveted baton to his surprised guest.
Alas, Bosquet, who was also named a Senator of the Empire, didn’t enjoy his exalted status for very long. His wound proved quite troublesome, and his health deteriorating rapidly/ The marshal soon had to leave active service, and died in 1861, aged only 50.