Courtesy of Peter Sinfield (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On the outbreak of war, the exact position of the German Pacific Squadron was unknown but recently intercepted wireless traffic indicated the armoured cruisers (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) were within 1,500 miles of Australia. Considering the waters of German New Guinea (the north-east mainland, the Bismarck Archipelago, and Buka and Bougainville in the western Solomons) as the most obvious location, the ships of the new Australian Fleet steamed northwards.
On 9 August, HMA Ships Australia, Sydney, Encounter, Parramatta, Yarra and Warrego rendezvoused south-west of New Guinea’s eastern tip for an attack on Rabaul, capital of the German colony. Two days earlier on the way north, Rear Admiral Sir George Patey RN (the Commander-in-Chief) issued the RAN’s Operation Order No. 1 aboard his flagship HMAS Australia. The text of this historic document is reproduced below.
1. All indications pointing to the probability of German ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and Nurnberg, and perhaps Komet and Planet being in the neighbourhood of Simpsonhafen, New Britain, and to their being found either in that place or in Matupi Harbour, I intend to make an attack on those ports with the object of torpedoing any ships which are there and destroying the Wireless Station.
2. To effect this I intend to proceed with Australia, Sydney and destroyers to rendezvous 3, arriving there at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, August 11th.
3. Sydney will take charge of the destroyers and proceed as ordered in para. 4 and 5. Australia will move up to a position Lat. 4.38S, Long. 32E. (Rendezvous No. 4) to support the above.
ATTACK ON SIMPSONHAFEN
4. Sydney and destroyers will be ordered to proceed at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, and will proceed to Simpsonhafen at 20 knots.
Should the enemy’s heavy ships be met under way outside, the destroyers are to attack at once, Sydney informing me as soon as the attack develops, and retire on Australia with the destroyers.
The moon rises at 10.17 p.m.; the attack should therefore be delivered at about 9 p.m.
It is probable there may be a patrol in St. George’s Channel; this ship should be avoided if possible, otherwise Sydney should attack her, sending the destroyers on at the same time.
Having reached the Harbour Entrance, Sydney will remain there to support; the destroyers will proceed into Simpsonhafen and attack any men-of-war found there, rejoining Sydney after delivering their attack.
5. Should no men-of-war be found in Simpsonhafen, or should only the small ships (Planet and Komet) be there, the destroyers, after sinking the latter, are to proceed into Matupi Harbour and attack any ships found there, and rejoin Sydney.
The attack on Planet and Komet is left to Commander D’s judgment, bearing in mind that the main objective is the enemy’s heavy ships.
ATTACK ON WIRELESS STATION, RABAUL
6. Should no men-of-war be found in either harbours, the destroyers are to land a party and destroy the W.T. Station reported to be at Rabaul.
7. Having carried out the above, Sydney and destroyers are to rejoin me. Sydney is to inform me of the result of the attack as soon as possible.
8. If in action and being chased, Sydney on rejoining Flag is to burn her bow lights fixed before the Chart House vertically red above green 6 feet apart to show from right ahead to 5 points on each bow.
9. No signals are to be made by W.T. before attacking the enemy.
GEORGE E. PATEY
The Respective Officers
Commanding H.M.A. Ships
of the Seagoing Fleet concerned.
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