HMAS Lolita continued her patrol work following the Battle.


Three weeks after the Battle on 28 June 1942, Small received payment for his Lolita. (136)


Anderson left Lolita and his crew on 1 October 1942.  He was posted to HMAS Baralaba, a merchant steamship requisitioned to carry freight between North Queensland and New Guinea.  When she was subsequently ‘paid off’, Anderson was posted to the survey vessel John Oxley, and later to command HMAS Kangaroo and Kookaburra at the Boom Depot in Darwin.


Three weeks before Anderson left her, Leading Seaman Coxswain Ken Brown was posted to Lolita.  Brown recounted his three enjoyable weeks working under Anderson. (137)  The new commander to replace Anderson was Sub-Lieutenant Norman K Cox.  Brown recalled the new commander gave no orders and left the running of the vessel to him.  He described the situation as a most unsatisfactory arrangement which abruptly came to an end when Cox disappeared, just six weeks after his appointment.  Reg Andrew who was to be Lolita’s new commander, stepped aboard on 17 November 1942.  He was to be her commander for the next 17½ months.


Lolita crew in November 1942.  The commander in the centre is most probably Reg Andrew. (138)


Lolita was posted to the port of Newcastle and remained there until her recall in 1944 for refit.  Ken Brown recounted he worked well with the new commander and how Andrew respected his crew and gave them ‘every’ assistance and guidance.


Brown finished his stint with Lolita and Reg Andrew on 17 February 1943, and was posted to HMAS Platypus at Cairns.


The following month, on 13 March 1943, Lolita would have been destroyed if it was not for the quick actions of Andrew and his crew.  That evening the two burner ‘blue flame (139) stove blew up causing the galley and crews quarters to be engulfed in flame.  Extinguishers were used and the fire was kept under control until the local fire brigades arrived and took charge of the operation.  Andrew described the considerable loss of clothing and bedding and expressed his view, that much of the loss could have been avoided had a ‘smoke helmet’ over the stove with an automatic fire extinguisher system, been fitted to the galley.  He also advised the subsequent Board of Inquiry, the pyrene fire extinguishers had caused the personnel to vomit which kept the crew away from the seat of the fire.


The Board found the fire was accidently caused and that no blame was attributable to any officer or man.  They also found that fire drills were regularly conducted on Lolita, in accordance with the Port Orders, and had been conducted the previous day.  They also found the two seamen on board at the time made every endeavor to cope with the fire and acted in a prompt and efficient manner.


Lolita returned to Sydney on 13 April 1943 for repairs before returning to duties.  A new commander, Sub-Lieutenant Keith A Ross was appointed on 1 May 1944.  Reg Andrew was appointed to administrative duties at the shore stations of HMAS Kuranda at Cairns, and later to HMAS Madang on the north-east coast of New Guinea.  He was entirely unsuited to administrative duties having received no elementary naval training, and was more suited to his capacity as a yachtsman, (140) a skill he readily demonstrated during the Battle of Sydney Harbour and his later command of HMAS Lolita.


*             *             *


In early 1939, before the commencement of the war, my father – John Miller Blunt was appointed to the Navy’s armaments and stores supply section at Spectacle Island. (141)  At the time of his appointment, he was 18 years of age.  His position was a designated essential war role.  On every occasion from early 1941 when he first applied for permission to be released to enlist, permission was refused.  Whilst continuing his work, he joined the Volunteer Coastal Patrol (VCP) and was offered berths on Sydney based boats where he was fortunate to be allocated to the sailing yacht Wayfarer, and so began a great friendship with the owner Peter Luke.  The friendship lasted decades and both were foundation members of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia formed in 1944.  After the war, both sailed together in many of the early Sydney to Hobart yacht races.  My father wanted to sail in the very first race that departed on 26 December 1945, but defence officials refused to grant him leave for the inaugural event.


Further applications to enlist in mid 1942 were fruitless.


Through the VCP, he was offered a position to command one of the small tugs of the US Small Ships Section.  The task was to tow lighters with stores and to operate very near the front lines in New Guinea and Solomon Islands areas.  The pay offered was about four times what he was receiving at Spectacle Island.  But once again the manpower authorities refused permission for him to accept the offer and ‘that was that’ as he said.


Finally, in December 1942, the defence officials relented and he was advised he would be allowed to enlist.  He ‘rushed around’ putting his affairs in order, arranged leave from the VCP and sold Spray, his 30 foot gaff yawl sailing boat.  By March 1943, clearance to enlist looked no closer and he purchased a small 24 foot sailing vessel so he could continue his work with the VCP.


He finally reported for duty on 10 September 1943, and was duly appointed as a Seaman on HMAS Marynong.  He spent nearly a year on her patrolling at Newcastle and Wollongong, before being appointed to HMAS Miramar for a week, and onto Lolita on 23 August 1944.


136 NAA: MP138/1, 603/246/6400: Lolita - Sinking due to explosion in engine room 13/6/45., p.24.  Commonwealth Government Gazette No. 177 of 25 June 1942

137 Interview of Ken Brown by author - 27 November 2018

138 Carruthers Collection, RAN Sea Power Centre - Australia.  Carruthers initially understood the photo was the crew of Seamist, however Reg Andrew, commander of Seamist confirmed the photo was the crew of Lolita.  The photo is also included in Ken Brown’s personal memoir.

139 The stoves used kerosene which when ignited burnt with a blue flame, hence the name.

140 NAA: A3978, 2009/00992645:  Service record of Andrew R T.  Carruthers makes no mention of Andrew’s appointment to HMAS Lolita.

141 In this and the following sections, details of my father’s work and service including aboard Lolita have been drawn from his unpublished personal memoir.  Spectacle Island is located in the upper reaches of Sydney Harbour between Drummoyne and Woolwich.