Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for HMAS Una (oh allright and Uniforms too)

U is for HMAS Una (oh allright and Uniforms too)

There is a picture which sits on my bookshelf and as you can see there is a bit of story written underneath it.  Written by my father, it says:

This is the former German steamship the Komet which was built in Hamburg in 1911 and captured by the Nusa of the R.A.N. on 9 October 1913 along the coast of Papua New Guinea.  (CPO Conner was part of the crew that captured this ship - the first German ship captured by the R.A.N. in the war) She was brought to Sydney and re-commissioned as the HMAS Una and saw further service in WWI in the Pacifice and SE Asian region.  After the war she was decommissioned and re-named the Akuna and became the pilot vessel for Port Philip Bay, Victoria where she served until 1953.

The date is a bit was actually 1914 not 1913 and I think probably the 11th October rather than the 9th.  You can read an account here  from Charles Bean's Official History of WWI.  If you search the NAA catalogue for "Komet" you will find 45 items.  There are 90 results for "HMAS Una".

In Volume 3 of Log of Logs I found an entry for Komet 1940-41 which tells me that she was captained by R. Eyssen.  If you can read German, you could read his account in Kriegstagebuch Komet.  Google translate tells me that Kriegstagebuch means War Diary.  Or there is Adventure on the German Raider Komet, 1940-41.  Mystery Ships - demystified by Charles H. Noack.

If you search the Australian War Memorial collection, you will find another primary source here - letters from Chief Petty Officer William Collins.  

Here is an Anzac Day commemorative blog post from the Maritime Museum from a couple of years ago. It appeals to me enormously because it features a teapot - just itching for a cosy ;)  Here's a great photo of her at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.

I don't think I really realized what a feat it was capturing the Komet until I read this article on the AWM site.  Just check out the size of the Nusa!  It's positively a tub!  Apparently it was referred to as "Tom Thumb".  Here's a newspaper article describing the capture:

1915 'HOW AUSTRALIA CAPTURED THE "KOMET."', Bendigonian (Bendigo, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), 6 April, p. 28. , viewed 24 Apr 2016,

So let's just go back a bit.  Where are Edwin Conner's details of service?  Well they can be found on The National Archives or TNA (UK) catalogue (ADM 188/222) for his UK Service and also the National Archives Australia or NAA site here for service in the Royal Australian Navy.  Edwin wasn't on the Nusa when she captured the Komet.  He was then serving on the Cerberus.  He served on HMAS Una from 21 September 1915 until 10 March 1919.

My father found this site last week which we were both very excited about because it actually has a diary entry featuring my great-grandfather Edwin Conner.  If you scroll down on this page to Monday 6 May 1918, you will find it. Here is a link to the real journal and entry.  Of course now we want to know why he was in the military hospital at the age of 49. Where would I find those records I wonder?

I checked Bean's official history again - this time Chapter VII Medical Service with the Royal Navy and found this illuminating advice:

In 1918 in the Islands malaria was again the chief cause of disability in the Una, though of the benign type.   

Other observations included:
In 1915 the sloop Una, with a complement averaging 113, had 124 cases of illness.  In October and November 1916 she was in the hurricane belt with a temperature of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, humidity of 80-90 per cent and rain falling most of the time.  Her sick list for the year had been very low, but the medical officer who joined her in January 1917 noted that conditions of respiratory catarrh were apt to become chronic and refractory to treatment. (p.384)

The Una in the year October 1916-17 was almost completely free from venereal disease, only two cases of gonorrhoea appearing in December, when the ship was refitting in Sydney; but after leaving that port there was very little opportunity of infection. (p396) and 
In 1918, after a refit in Sydney in February, the Una returned to the Bismarcks and German New Guinea, and remained in the Islands until December.  Though the general health of the men again remained comparatively good, the moist heat and confinement to the ship teneded to cause neurasthenia. (a bit like our Chronic Fatigue Syndrome today I think)
I found some beautiful photos on the AWM site.  I hope you like them.

Informal group of convalescent patients with Sister Ethel Macquarie Cook, of Bathurst, NSW, on duty at the Military Hospital at Namanula, Rabaul. Copyright expired Public Domain.

Namanula, Rabaul. Exterior view of the Military Hospital. (Donor A. Bazley).  Copyright expired Public Domain

Convalescent soldiers taking it easy at the Military Hospital at Namanula, after an attack of malaria fever. Copyright expired Public Domain.

Sisters' quarters at the Military Hospital at Namanula, Rabaul. Identified from left to right:- Sister Catherine Elizabeth Lethbridge, of Mitchell, Qld; Sister Agnes Bissett Nelson, of Glen Innes NSW; Sister Marian Adelaide MacLean, of Maytown Qld; and Matron Flora Robertson, of Bathurst NSW. Copyright expired. Public Domain.

There's a whole lot more I could tell you about the HMAS Una's exploits but I will save that for another post.

Uniforms...what is it about uniforms?

Here are some pictures I took at the RAN Heritage Centre on Garden Island last week.

Sennit Hat c1913 - sennit is the type of weave

I do like a good hat and a hat box to match its shape!

Khaki shirt and blouse WRANS c1943 and WRANS Summer Uniform c1941.  Supplies of navy blue cotton became depleted in WW2 hence the change to khaki.

Oh and have you heard all the fuss about Boaty McBoatface?  My son just told me.  Thanks Cas.  Ah Democracy. 


diane b said...

You are ploughing through the alphabet at a great rate. I was interested in the Rabaul part of the story because I lived in PNG for a while and read lots of books about the war there.

Fran Kitto said...

You were right. These sea stories are interesting. I hunted for a diary too but no luck. Only a few days to go.

Wendy said...

That little paragraph sent you on quite the journey. One of the things I enjoy is uncovering a story just because I noticed some insignificant detail. You rocked the "U."

I.L. Wolf said...

Thanks, this was so interesting! The photos are amazing. I have to admit I was stumped at HMAS...I wondered what kind of word that was. What can I say, I'm having a slow morning?!

A Bit to Read

Jill Ball said...

That's a bumper contribution and another example of your excellent research. I imagine you were pleased to have an extra day for your research.

Suzanne McClendon said...

This was a very interesting article. I think the hospital building in Namanula, Rabaul is beautiful. I think something like that would make a great country house.

Regarding the naming of the ship/boat/vessel, I think if the people want Boaty McBoatface, what is it going to hurt, really? Nothing so far as I can see. If they had the power to name the new little prince or princes-to-be and they chose something like that, then yes, by all means, override it to something sensible. But, it is just a vessel. What difference does its name make in the grand scheme of things? It isn't going to change the operation of it or its mission.

Just the thoughts of an American that is often overruled. :)

Have a blessed day!

Alex Daw said...

Diane..isn't it fascinating? So many people I know have spent time in PNG...but not me.

Alex Daw said...

We're nearly done!

Alex Daw said...

Thank you dear Wendy! I will miss this when it's all over red rover.

Alex Daw said...

Ha ha. Did you figure it out? His or her Majesty's Australian Ship. I'm so pleased you liked the photos. I wrote the post and wasn't really happy with it...and then I found the photos and went 'Yes!'. The story was brought to life!

Alex Daw said...

Indeed Jill...boy did I need that day!

Alex Daw said...

I'm with you Suzanne. I laughed when Cas told me. It brought a smile to my face. I know the ship will be doing serious work but Lord knows we need a laugh now and then!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, with a lot of research put in! Visit from A to Z- almost there!
[Renée] from SpokenFingers
Spoken Fingers ~ Life, Understood
Quotes and Thought Provoking Words

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Love the photos. That's a very impressive building being used as the hospital.