Yarra explores the history of her newly awarded battle honour

Published on LEUT Kara Wansbury (author), ABIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Location(s): Coral Sea

HMAS Yarra IV makes her way towards East New Britain in Papua New Guinea to commemorate a number of historically significant events that took place at the start of World War I.  (photo: )
HMAS Yarra IV makes her way towards East New Britain in Papua New Guinea to commemorate a number of historically significant events that took place at the start of World War I.

HMAS Yarra and her crew are making their way to East New Britain in Papua New Guinea to commemorate a number of historically significant events that took place at the start of World War I.

One hundred years ago, soldiers and sailors sailed the same route in the Coral Sea in the converted liner HMAS Berrima, which was accompanied by supply ships, an oiler, submarines and warship escorts, including HMAS Yarra I. Today, Yarra IV and her ship’s company are making the trip alone.

“Despite operating independently, we are making the same speed as the task group all those years ago. The submarines that were in company with that group slowed them down,” said Yarra’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Brendan O’Hara. 

The crew of HMAS Yarra IV conduct firing practice on the way to East New Britain in Papua New Guinea.

The crew of HMAS Yarra IV conduct firing practice on the way to East New Britain in Papua New Guinea.

The harbour and nearby township of Bita Paka in East New Britain is Yarra’s destination. It was the site of Australia’s first joint force operation between the Navy and Army, the neutralization of the German wireless station and capture of German New Guinea.  Once there, the crew of Yarra IV will commemorate the centenary anniversary of this action with a march through Rabaul and a number of commemorative services. 

“On their passage, the original task group conducted landing rehearsals and honed their musketry and field skills to prepare them for battle. In a different political climate, we have also carried out collective training in seamanship, navigation, damage control and small arms,” Lieutenant Commander O’Hara said.

What is particularly poignant for Yarra’s 47-strong crew is that they will be in the same location that their namesake, Yarra I, was awarded battle honours.

“Being able to see the harbour, smell the air and imagine the troop ships sailing in under the protection of the warship escorts will really give the ship’s company of Yarra IV an appreciation of how the first battle honour, displayed on our honour board, was earned,” Lieutenant Commander O’Hara said.

The crew of HMAS Yarra IV conducts a man overboard exercise on the way to East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

The crew of HMAS Yarra IV conducts a man overboard exercise on the way to East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.