Royal Australian Navy in the Korean War

When North Korea invaded South Korea the RAN had two destroyers, Bataan and Warramunga attached to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan...

On 29 June they were allocated to UN forces and on 1 July HMAS Shoalhaven began patrol and escort operations in the Yellow Sea with Commonwealth forces under Rear Admiral Andrewes RN. They first engaged the enemy when Bataan bombarded a shore battery northwest of Inchon on 1 August. Over the next three years, and into the tense post-Armistice period, the RAN maintained two ships on station as well as deploying an aircraft carrier. Some 4500 RAN personnel saw service in Korea. Five were killed and six wounded.

Australian warships operated right around the Korean coast. There were no traditional naval battles – control of the seas was firmly held by the UN forces which exploited that control. The RAN destroyers and frigates blockaded the coast, landed and supported raiding parties, supplied isolated UN forces, bombarded coastal targets and escorted larger ships. There was a constant threat from North Korean sea mines, especially during the evacuations of Hungnam and Wonsan in December 1950.

Warramunga and Bataan took part in the Inchon landing and later returned there to harass advancing Chinese forces after their intervention in the war. On 5 February 1951 she ambushed a North Korean force that, by deception, attempted to lure her inshore.

In September 1951 the frigate Murchison operated in the restricted, fast-flowing tidal waters of the Han River, engaging enemy batteries at close range and taking several hits. The operational highlight for the RAN was undoubtedly the deployment of the carrier Sydney, which replaced HMS Glory in October 1951. To January 1952 she carried out seven patrols, each of nine flying days, punctuated by replenishment periods. She operated on both east and west coasts, alternating with American carriers. Her air group of 22 Sea Fury and 12 Firefly fighter bombers flew 2366 sorties, attacking enemy road and rail communications, as well as conducting armed reconnaissance, gunfire spotting and army cooperation missions. Combat air patrols were uneventful. Sydney's peak effort, on 11 October saw 89 sorties flown. Rough weather and snow often made for poor flying conditions. During Typhoon Ruth, on 14–15 October, the ship was damaged, one aircraft was lost overboard and seven more written off.

Postwar, the RAN continued Armistice patrols until 1955, including a second tour by Sydney.

RAN ships in the Korean War

HMA Ship Type Dates Captain
Sydney Aircraft Carrier 31 August 1951 – 22 February 1952 Capt D. H. Harries
ANZAC Destroyer 06 August 1951 – 17 October 1951
06 September 1952 – 26 June 1953
Cmdr J. Plunkett-Cole
Capt G. G. O. Gatacre
Bataan Destroyer 10 June 1950 – 06 June 1951
17 January – 25 September 1952
Cmdr W. B. M. Marks
Cmdr W. S. Bracegirdle
Tobruk Destroyer 31 August 1951 – 23 February 1952
03 June 1953 – 12 February 1954
Cmdr R. I. Peek
Cmdr I. H. McDonald
Warramunga Destroyer 14 August 1950 – 29 August 1951
17 January 1952 – 08 August 1952
Cmdr O. H. Becher
Cmdr J. H. Ramsay
Culgoa Frigate 14 March 1953 – 26 June 1953 Lcdr R. Clarke
Condamine Frigate 04 July 1952 – 10 April 1953 Lcdr R. C. Savage
Murchison Frigate 09 May 1951 – 17 February 1952 Lcdr A. N. Dollard
Shoalhaven Frigate 27 June 1950 – 22 September 1950 Cmdr I. H. McDonald

RAN squadrons in the Korean War

805 Squadron Sea Fury
808 Squadron Sea Fury
817 Squadron Firefly
Sydney also embarked a Dragonfly helicopter of the United States Navy for sea rescue duties.
Operational Sorties Flown: 2,366
Aircraft Lost: 11
Aircraft Damaged: 77
Number of Flying Days: 42.8
Daily Sortie Rate: 55.2

Last updated: 13 February 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Royal Australian Navy in the Korean War, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 25 September 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/korean-war-1950-1953/korean-war/armed-forces-korean-war/royal-australian-navy-korean-war
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