Canberra file photo [1208]

Canberra (County-class)

Ship ClassCounty-class Heavy Cruiser
Sunk9 Aug 1942
Displacement9,850 tons standard


ww2dbaseHMAS Canberra, a 9850-ton heavy cruiser of the British Kent class, was built at Glasgow, Scotland. She was commissioned in July 1928 and soon steamed to Australia. Following the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Canberra mainly operated in Australian and Indian Ocean waters, but also served in the South Atlantic in 1940. In March 1941, she helped to sink the German support ship Ketty Brovig in the Indian Ocean.

ww2dbaseIn early August 1942, the cruiser participated in Operation "Watchtower", the invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the southern Solomon Islands. During the early hours of 9 August, while on patrol off Guadalcanal, she was badly damaged in combat with a force of Japanese cruisers. HMAS Canberra was scuttled several hours later, becoming one of the first ships sunk in what would soon be called "Iron Bottom Sound".

ww2dbaseCanberra's wreck was discovered and examined in July-August 1992, almost exactly fifty years after her loss. She lies upright on the sea floor, some 2500 feet deep, with visible signs of shell hits and fire damage amidships. Her turrets are still trained out to the port side, as they were during her brief and fatal engagement with the Japanese.

ww2dbaseSource: Naval Historical Center

Last Major Revision: Jan 2005

Heavy Cruiser Canberra (County-class) Interactive Map


HMAS Canberra leaving Wellington, New Zealand, en route for the invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, 22 Jul 1942Canberra off Tulagi during landings, 7-8 Aug 1942USS Blue and USS Patternson removing the crew from the fatally damaged Canberra 9 Aug 1942


Track of the cruiser night action of 9 Aug 1942 off Savo Island, Solomon Islands where three United States cruisers and one Australian cruiser were lost. Track is taken from the USS Astoria damage report.

Canberra (County-class) Operational Timeline

10 Nov 1940 German armed merchant cruiser Atlantis, disguised as British auxiliary cruiser HMS Antenor in the darkness before dawn, closed in on Norwegian tanker Ole Jacob in the Bay of Bengal. After a tense stand-off, the Norwegian captain decided to surrender, fearing that a gunfight might ignite the cargo of 11,000 barrels of high-octane aviation fuel. Ole Jacob was captured as a prize ship and sent first to Japan and then to France, carrying a cargo of aviation fuel and the captured prisoners from Ole Jacob and Teddy. Ole Jacob's distress signal would resulted in the dispatching of Australian cruisers Canberra, Capetown, and Durban, but they would fail to catch Atlantis.
4 Mar 1941 Australian Walrus seaplane of HMAS Canberra spotted German ship Coburg and captured Norwegian tanker Ketty Brøvig, which was being used to supply German armed merchant cruisers. The German ships escaped HMAS Canberra's interception attempt.
8 Aug 1942 In the pre-dawn morning, 7 Japanese cruisers and 1 destroyer under Gunichi Mikawa departed Kavieng, New Ireland and Rabaul, New Britain, sailing south without being detected; after sundown, the force caught Allied warships by surprise off Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands; in the Battle of Savo Island, Japanese cruisers Chōkai, Aoba, Kako, Kinugasa, and Furutaka used Type 93 torpedoes and gunfire to sink US cruisers USS Quincy, Vincennes, and Astoria and Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra; 1,077 US personnel were killed in this battle (Canberra was badly damaged and was ultimately scuttled by a US destroyer).

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Murray says:
23 Aug 2013 08:12:21 AM

My uncle Gordon Hassall went down with Canberra. I have a few photos he took on his travels with the ship. Are these of any interest?

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» Farncomb, Harold

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» Guadalcanal Campaign

Heavy Cruiser Canberra (County-class) Photo Gallery
HMAS Canberra leaving Wellington, New Zealand, en route for the invasion of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, 22 Jul 1942
See all 3 photographs of Heavy Cruiser Canberra (County-class)

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