Vampire file photo [8158]


Ship ClassV and W-class Destroyer
BuilderJ. Samuel White & Co Ltd, Cowes, England, UK
Laid Down10 Oct 1916
Launched21 May 1917
Commissioned22 Sep 1917
Sunk9 Apr 1942
Displacement1,090 tons standard; 1,470 tons full
Length312 feet
Beam30 feet
Draft10 feet
MachineryBrown-Curtis steam turbines, two screws
Power Output27,000 shaft horsepower
Speed34 knots
Armament4x101.6mm QF 4in Mk V guns, 1x40mm QF 2pdr gun, 1x7.7mm Vickers gun, 4x7.7mm Lewis guns, 3x3x21in torpedo tubes, 1x12pdr gun (after Apr 1941), 2x2pdr guns (after 5 Jan 1942), 50 depth charges
Commissioned by RAN11 May 1938


ww2dbaseHMAS Vampire was one of the five destroyers possessed by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1939, which was part of the Scrap Iron Flotilla that served the British Commonwealth cause during the Second World War. Her motto was "Let us be daring", a phrase that proved appropriately attached to a vessel of this name, as the name HMAS Vampire was also given to a Daring class destroyer that served in the RAN from 1959 to 1986, having been built on Cockatoo Island in the years immediately following the war. This later Vampire had steamed a total of 808,026 nautical miles during her 27 years of service. After she was decommissioned, she was given to the Australian National Maritime Museum, and became Australia's largest museum exhibit.

ww2dbaseA powerful Japanese force, consisting of five fast carriers, under the command of Vice Admiral Nagumo set out from the Celebes on 26 March 1942, bound for Columbo, from where Vampire was escorting the light carrier, HMS Hermes, bound for Madagascar via Trincomalee. The first RAN ship bearing the name "Vampire" was sunk by Japanese bombers off Ceylon on 9 April while escorting the British light aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes, which was also sunk. A British hospital ship, HMS Vita, rescued the members of Vampire's crew that survived the assault. The survivors were taken to Columbo. Vita rescued some six hundred seamen from both ships. This, however, was not the first encounter in which Vampire faced Japanese aerial bombardment. She was part of Force Z, the British Commonwealth naval force in the waters surrounding Malaya which consisted of two British battlecruisers, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, and four destroyers, including HMAS Vampire. The Australian destroyer survived this earlier attack, as the Japanese torpedo bombers focused their torpedos on the larger, more powerful warships. The Allied aircraft assigned to Malaya at the time was totally inadequate to oppose the Japanese bombers. Vampire had some low calibre anti-aircraft guns, but she found that her 4-inch high angle guns were ineffective. All her crew could do was watch in horror as the British battlecruisers succumbed to the deadly stings of the swarm of Japanese bombers. Vampire performed a rescue of the survivors floating among the flotsam of HMS Repulse, sparing two hundred that escaped the sinking warship of a total crew of eight hundred aboard, an action foreshadowed by the service HMS Vita performed in 1942 for the crew of Vampire herself.

ww2dbaseHMAS Vampire was the first Australian destroyer to leave the Mediterranean during the Second World War. She passed through the Suez Canal on 29 May 1941, after tiring Mediterranean service. On 17 April, while escorting an Allied convoy transporting troops and equipment to Greece for Lustre Force, HMAS Vampire came under bombardment by four German Junkers aircraft, and one of the port engines was hit. Near the conclusion of her service in that theatre, she began displaying engine problems. When she achieved speeds in excess of sixteen knots, Vampire would shake violently. This problem meant she was unable to gain the speeds necessary for the Tobruk Ferry runs, a shuttle service to which she had been assigned. It was decided that she would leave the Mediterranean, and travel to Malaya for an extensive refit. She entered Singapore dockyard on 20 June. The refit was complete by 15 November, but a collision with the steamer, Perak, in Keppel Harbour delayed Vampire's operational readiness. Commander W. T. A. Moran, RAN took command of Vampire on 16 November. Final trials concluded on 26 November. Force Z: consisting of the battlecruisers, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse; and the destroyers HMS Electra, HMS Express, HMS Tenedos, and HMAS Vampire; slunk out of Keppel Harbour on 8 December and came under attack by a large force of Japanese aircraft, flying from airfields in Saigon, before the day was over. Soon the powerful British warships had been sunk, the torpedo bombers effectively ignoring the screening destroyers.

ww2dbaseSources: Royal Australian Navy, L. J. Lind and A. Payne, Scrap Iron Destroyers: The Story of HMA Ships Stuart, Waterhen, Vendetta, Vampire, and Voyager, The Australian War Memorial, P. Thompson, Pacific Fury.

Last Major Revision: Jun 2009

Vampire Operational Timeline

22 Sep 1917 Vampire was commissioned into service.


Starboard side view of destroyer HMAS Vampire, circa 1940

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Shannon says:
9 Jul 2009 06:43:56 AM

My Grandad was on board the Vampire in WWII. I havent heard him speak much about his time in the navy, however tonight he shared his stories with me. It is unimaginable and I am intrigued to know more.
Thank you.

2. brian mortimore says:
10 Sep 2009 06:28:25 PM

My Maternal Grandfather was a first class petty officer his name was Lawrence Martin.
He said when the Vampire sunk some crew were burnt alive from the bombs...he said he was rescued and was only 6 stone when discharged
from the navy and went farming to Narembeen.
Regards Brian.
3. Shannon says:
10 Nov 2009 02:04:20 AM

Incredible. I will speak to Grandad and ask him if he knew your maternal grandfather, I know that he'll be amazed to hear this.
Thanks Brian.

4. Jan says:
25 Nov 2009 07:22:15 PM

My second cousin Petty Officer RAH Macdonald was on board the Vampire when it was attacked. Family story is that he died of wounds while in the water. In recent years a report I read gives Ronnie as actually dying in hospital a few days later. I have been unable to verify that. Can anyone help? Regards. Jan.
5. Alexandra says:
24 Apr 2010 11:23:47 PM

My Grandfather, Ronald Gregg, was on board the Vampire when it was attacked off Ceylon. He was one of the 12 who survived. He has some heartbreaking memories of it all. I shall ask him about your relatives. Please let me know if you find out any thing more of the Vampire. Regards, Alexandra
6. Dave Roberts says:
13 May 2010 09:14:41 PM

My Grandfather David Roberts served on the Vampire as a Able Seaman A.A Gunner. He was serving when it was sunk in this action. He died after the war but the family always spoke about how he said a number of sailors died in the water after she went down. He went on to serve on the Kiama for the rest of the war.
7. Kevin says:
12 May 2011 10:06:49 PM

My grandfather was also on the Vampire when it went down. His name is Eric J Ahern and was one of the survivors. If anyone has any more info I would be interested to hear.
8. kim says:
23 Apr 2012 04:53:03 PM

my grandfather was on the vampire when it went down petty officer francis charles greenshields and i am looking for photos if any of the whole crew can anybody help
9. Peter Horrocks POWTR says:
29 May 2012 09:07:15 PM

My father was a cook on the Vampire when it was sunk. He did not speak much about it but the info I have received he was a swimmer and assisted three sailors in the water untill they were picked up by the hospital ship. I would like more info if its available. His name was James Horrocks known as Jim
10. toni Munday says:
11 Oct 2012 02:24:19 AM

to Jan - your second cousin Ronald Macdonald - died in hospital - please conttact me at the HMAS Cerberus Museum - - we are looking for a picture - while we found one one trove - we are after a better image -anyone who read and knows Jan please let her know
11. Doris Green says:
23 Jan 2013 04:37:59 AM

My mother Doris Borg was Married to P. O engineer Louis Anton Gyss, he died on the Vampire he was 21 years old, Doris was 16 years old. She was married and widowed in 1942. She later remarried my father. I can only imagine the shock when she received a letter a week or so after being informed of his death. She did not know what to think and went down to the docks where he said in his letter that he would meet her.
12. Shannon P. (Black) says:
18 Feb 2013 07:09:25 AM

There's so much to learn. I will find out more and hope to share my grandads stories with those interested.

I must take time off to talk to grandad as he won't be around forever and I'm very lucky to be able too.

Jan, grandad can remember Ronnie! He shared a story about him. I hope you've seen these responses.

I will be back again soon to share what I learn.

Please keep posting.

Thank you.

13. Jan says:
25 Feb 2013 03:18:01 PM

To Shannon.
Hadn't checked the site for sometime, then for some unexplained reason did so last night and found your post. Great news. I would love to have any information you might have regarding Ronny.
looking forward to hearing more.
14. toni says:
1 May 2013 02:09:25 PM

francis charles greenshields it seems was also on the vampire he is the nephew of my great grandmother maria theresa greenshields,i think that makes me 3rd cousin as he is my grandmothers first cousin,i have a photo of him with his brothers who also served in the navy.
15. Leah says:
25 May 2013 09:42:24 PM

My father was on the Vampire when it went down and survived. He never spoke of this at all. His name was William Johnston Batt. He passed away a number of years ago. Would dearly love any stories of him and the Vampire's men.
16. Jan says:
22 Aug 2013 04:18:38 AM

A message for Shannon.
Been wondering if there was anything further re a story about Ronnie MacDonald. Just thought I'd check.
17. Anonymous says:
31 Aug 2013 04:04:49 AM

i have a lage photo album of the hmas vampire 1939 which has lots of photos of crew members and more .
18. Robyn Saltmarsh says:
2 Apr 2014 08:46:52 PM

My father, Lloyd Saltmarsh, was on the bridge as a gunner when the Vampire was shot down. Just before he died in 2005, he took part in a documentary that explored the story of the Vampire and the search to find the ship's remains. The divers calculated that the wreck has slipped down a trench one kilometre below the surface and will never be retrieved. The documentary was broadcast on the ABC and recorded on DVD. My Dad said that the captain of the ship, Commander Moran was a well-respected leader who directed as many of the ship's crew as possible to lifeboats, and went down with the ship himself. I would really like to see the photo album that "Anonymous" refers to.
19. Michael Thomson says:
21 Apr 2014 08:03:35 PM

My father, P (Jock) N. Thomson served on HMAS Vampire in the Mediterranean, saw the Repulse go down, and was on board when it met its end off Ceylon on 9/4/1942. He was 20 years old. I believe he was a gunnery officer or midshipman. Interestingly as many here report, he too spoke very little of the incident during his lifetime, although I do recall him speaking very highly of Captain Moran who it would appear sacrificed his own life in the course of upholding his duty. My father was quite badly injured in the leg and buttock and was hospitalised in Columbo before returning to Freemantle. He later served in Darwin.

Regards to all relatives of the brave crew of HMAS Vampire.

20. Anonymous says:
25 Apr 2014 12:43:20 AM

to robyn saltmarsh you can email me if you like if they pass it on to you
21. Shannon P (Black) says:
16 Sep 2014 02:01:59 AM

Hi all,
I have a lot to share with you after asking my Granddad (who was on-board HMAS Vampire (I) April 1942); I will have to share the stories another day (sooner rather than later) as I am unable to stay online for long now.

I wanted to share this radio-interview with those interested; I'm sorry it's taken me this long to post. My Granddad speaks of his time during the Battle of Ceylon.

NOTE - Historian Sergei De Silva-Ranasinghe's research into HMAS Vampire is part of his Masters thesis at Curtin University in W.A. The link below should take you to the radio interview. Please let me know if there's an issue with this and i will do what i can to help.

22. Jan says:
18 Sep 2014 06:50:38 AM

For some unknown reason I checked this site tonight and there - it has happened again. An interesting posting from you. I have just finished listening to the podcast which I had not been aware of at the time although I think it was somewhere around then that I had some contact with Sergie He was very helpful and I recall him saying that there should be far more made of that battle and it's significance.

I am wondering if your Grandad was referring to my 2nd cousin when he referred to Ping Macdonald.

Anyway thank you for sharing the link. It was great.
Much appreciated.
23. Des Honess says:
14 Jan 2015 12:06:15 AM

My father Allan Honess was onboard during the sinking and apparently firing an Oerlikon gun during the action. He never spoke about the action but did mention that the Vampire had taken onboard a lot of tea and it was floating on the surface.
He is no longer with us but would like to hear if anyone can remember him.


24. Shannon P (Black) says:
10 Feb 2015 11:33:41 PM

Hi des,
I was talking to grandad yesterday about his time in WWII and said I had questions to ask him but I couldn't log on to internet so wasn't able to ask him the questions for Jan (Jan, I haven't forgotten and I hope to respond with answers for you in the next couple of days).
Des, I'll mention this to grandad, he remembers a lot and I'd love to tell him your story!
Thanks, will keep posting!
25. Jan says:
10 Mar 2015 11:01:52 PM

Hi Shannon,
Just read your post. I'm still around and look forward to learning more about Ronnie when appropriate.

26. Leah says:
24 Apr 2015 06:47:09 PM

Please keep the stories and links coming.
27. Shannon P (Black) says:
23 Sep 2015 09:39:44 AM

I hope those interested continue to check this and share..

I will do my best to be more regular with my posts and hope to get more written down for those asking/requests..

I too would really like to see the album, I'd love to show grandad.

He's not always in the right-frame-of-mind to hear me ask about the vampire I, it may be modesty but I don't know what he's feeling towards my care/desire to seek more, or what he may want now, I don't think he knows or he doesn't believe how much respect and honour and interest there is for what he's experienced, his crew mates, and all, .. He recently said it didn't matter because they've all past and he doesn't expect any one or any thing more..
I'm sorry, this really doesn't make a lot of sense, I'm thinking how to say what I'm trying to say and I hope I don't regret posting this! I will be a lot clearer next time.

Grandad gave me a list of the names he knew from WA (Western Australia), I'd love to know if there's anyone that recognises the names, it'd mean a lot to grandad..

My email address is, please may you send me the album or any memorabilia from the vampire I 1942, or Repulse, or/and DVD link, thank you so much.

Grandad turned 98 years of age yesterday. So I'm feeling particularly sensitive and hope those reading this post excuse any vagueness..

Jan, I must tell you a story about a pet galah/cockatoo the crew/sailors adopted, a real personality and particularly cheeky to a chap, whom I think was ronnie (I'll double check but either way it's a great picture/story ..) . The galah gave him a 'hard time', apparently very entertaining for the blokes to have a laugh at.

I'll sign off now.

Kind regards,
28. Shannon P (Black) says:
23 Sep 2015 09:54:49 AM

Please also note that there is an 'HMAS Vampire Association';
Members from HMAS Vampire I don't require payments - a monthly newsletter is sent via post.

I have two copies to read, grandad's received his first copy plus previous months newsletters; holding on to the copies for me.
I'm sure the association would appreciate stories etc., everyone should, particularly those that have since been onboard the Vampire, since WWII, respect.

29. Rebekah Moore-Hart says:
21 Jul 2016 05:55:42 PM

Hi there,

My great grandfather was Taffy (or Evan Morgan) and was crew on the HMAS Vampire I. I have become very interested in our family history of late and came across this amazing site. I was wondering if anyone has a relative who may have know Taffy? I really know nothing of his character, only that when he came home after the sinking her was a much troubled man. Any information would be hugely appreciated. Thanks so much in advance.

30. Shannon P. Black says:
3 Dec 2016 05:12:09 PM

Hi Bek,

I'll ask grandad if he knew your grandfather.

Get back to you soon.

9 Jan 2017 05:33:34 AM

I have posted a comment before. I have just subscribed to the 75th Aniversary of the sinking it will be conducted at the NAVY HERITAGE CENTRE GARDEN ISLAND on the 1st April 2017. contact
32. Anonymous says:
10 Jan 2017 07:39:26 PM


Navy Events is currently trying to find survivors and family members from HMAS Vampire for the 75th Anniversary commemoration in Sydney this year.
If you are interested, please get in touch with

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Event(s) Participated:
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Destroyer Vampire Photo Gallery
Starboard side view of destroyer HMAS Vampire, circa 1940

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