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HMAS Yarra defends her convoy

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4 March 1942  

The RAN sloop HMAS Yarra LCDR Robert Rankin, and the merchant ships Anking and Franco, were overwhelmed and sunk in the Indian Ocean by a Japanese flotilla of three cruisers: Atago, Takao and Maya, with attendant destroyers, commanded by VADM Kondo.

Yarra was the only warship in the convoy and engaged the enemy fleet after ordering her charges to scatter.

Yarra then opened fire with her four inch guns to draw the fire of the Japanese cruisers away from her convoy. It was an heroic but doomed effort to save the ships by LCDR Rankin who deliberately closed the range on the enemy vessels and attempted to screen the convoy with smoke. He was killed on his bridge by an incoming shell. Leading Seamn Buck Taylor, in charge of the last remaining gun, continued to fire alone after the abandon ship order, until he too was killed.

Of the ship's complement of 151, 138 lost their lives either onboard Yarra, or on rafts waiting for rescue. Thirteen survivors were later picked up by a Dutch submarine.

The Unit Citation awarded to HMAS Yarra by the Governor General in March 2013 was given for: Acts of extraordinary gallantry in the Indian Ocean on the 4th March 1942. 

The gallant last stand of HMAS Yarra (Painting by David Marshall - HMAS Creswell). Image courtesy of Royal Australian Navy.