Battle of Diego Garcia 09/Feb/1940


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HMAS Australis (BC) intercepts the Battle raider KM Friedrich der Grosse (BBR) in the Indian Ocean in 1940.

The Friedrich der Grosse had been operating in the Pacific during September to December of 1939. With the hornets nest the Argentinians had stirred up around the Falkand Islands, it was felt by the Friedrich der Grosse's Kommander that trying to get back to Germany by rounding Cape Horn would be a mistake. He decided that going across the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope might be a better bet. Also the chances of running into an Allied convoy heading for the Red Sea or the Cape of Good Hope would finish off the Friedrich der Grosse's raiding nicely.

Threading through the East Indies at night in a high speed run to get the ship out of Allied air search range by daylight, the Friedrich der Grosse was heading to cross the Perth to Red Sea shipping lane when an aircraft was spotted coming toward their position. Had they been spotted? Certainly they had, the aircraft was a Supermarine Walrus. Friedrich der Grosse's officers had to hope it was from a ship that would keep clear of an engagement with their ship. Their hopes were dashed when the spotting tops of a capital ship were sighted. They still had a chance of success but even these slim hopes were dashed as the ship coming toward them was identified as the battlecruiser Australis. The Australis was heading for the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Fleet. Where the Friedrich der Grosse had hoped to fall in with a pod of whales like a hungry shark, it had some how managed to uncover a Killer Whale instead. The Friedrich der Grosse was outclassed. It would just be a matter of time.

After a two hour stern chase the Australis came within range of her 14" guns and tried out her new radar ranging system which started producing hits almost immediately. 

Once the Friedrich der Grosse had been hit twice, the Friedrich der Grosse turned to get within range of her own guns, with the Australis trying to keep the range to her own advantage.

A short sharp engagement took place where Australis was heavily hit by two salvoes but weight of arms held out and a 14" shell hit Friedrich der Grosse and penetrated her aft shell handling rooms causing an explosion that blew the stern part of the Friedrich der Grosse off. A half hour later the Friedrich der Grosse sank by the stern her flags still flying with Australis and other arriving vessels picking over 400 German survivors out of the Indian Ocean. Many were lost to sharks before they could be rescued.

Australis had to go back into dock to repair the battle damage incurred and was there through to the beginning of 1941.

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