HMAS Norman (I)
N Class
Thornycroft & Co, Southhampton, England
Laid Down
27 July 1939
30 October 1940
15 September 1941
October 1945
Dimensions & Displacement
  • 1760 tons (standard)
  • 2550 tons (full load)
Length 356 feet 6 inches
Beam 35 feet 8 inches
Draught 16 feet 4 inches
Speed 36 knots
Crew 226
Machinery Parsons geared turbines
Horsepower 40,000
  • 6 x 4.7-inch guns
  • 1 x 2-pounder 4 barrel Pom Pom
  • 2 x .303 Lewis machine guns
Torpedoes 10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes (2 pentad mounts)
Other Armament
  • 6 x 20mm Oerlikons
  • Depth charges
Battle Honours
HMAS Norman (I) Badge

HMAS Norman (I) was one of eight N Class destroyers laid down in British yards during 1939 to the order of the Royal Navy. Five (Napier, Nestor, Nepal, Nizam and Norman (I)) were transferred to the Royal Australian Navy, two to the Royal Netherlands Navy and one to the Polish Navy. The only one to become a war loss, HMAS Nestor, was sunk by air attack in the Mediterranean on 16 June 1942.

Norman (I) commissioned on 15 September 1941 under the command of Commander Henry M Burrell RAN.

Following trials in the English Channel, Norman (I) proceeded to Scapa Flow. On 7 October 1941 she proceeded to Iceland to embark Sir Walter Citrine and a Trade Union Delegation for passage to Russia. After four days at Archangel, Norman (I) sailed for Scapa Flow but was recalled off Bear Island, to return and await the British delegation. After some delay the party eventually were safely evacuated on 27 October.

HMAS Norman was one of five N Class Destroyers commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy during World War II.
HMAS Norman was one of five N Class Destroyers commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy during World War II.

A brief period of escort duties with the Home Fleet followed, including operations on the screen of the battleship HMS Duke of York. In December she returned to the Thornycroft yards at Southampton for minor modifications.

In January 1942 Norman (I) was allocated to the Eastern Fleet and proceeded for the Indian Ocean as Senior Officer Escorting Destroyers protecting the troop convoy WS 15. HMS Resolution flying the flag of Vice Admiral WE Campbell-Tait covered the convoy to Freetown. After detaching to proceed to Durban, Norman (I) subsequently escorted WS 15 on its northward passage through the Mozambique Channel.

In February and March 1942, Norman (I) was mainly engaged on Indian Ocean escort duties and screening heavy units of the Eastern Fleet. On 26 March Admiral Sir James Somerville assumed command of the Eastern Fleet at Colombo. Two days later in anticipation of a sea borne attack on Ceylon, he formed two groups; Force A under his immediate command, comprising HM Ships Warspite (Flag), Indomitable and Formidable, three cruisers and six destroyers including and; and Force B under Vice Admiral AV Willis, comprising HM Ships Resolution (Flag), Ramillies, Royal Sovereign, Revenge and Hermes, three cruisers and eight destroyers including Norman (I) and HMAS Vampire (I).

Force B sailed from Addu Atoll and joined forces with Force A some eighty miles south of Ceylon on 31 March. For three days and two nights the Eastern Fleet cruised south of Ceylon without sighting enemy units. On 4 April the fleet, less HM Ships Dorsetshire, Cornwall and Hermes, and HMAS Vampire (I), arrived at Addu Atoll. Shortly afterwards Admiral Somerville received intelligence indicating the sighting of a Japanese force some 360 miles off the Ceylon coast. This was the carrier task force under the command of Vice Admiral Nagumo, comprising six aircraft carriers, four battleships, three cruisers and twelve destroyers. Substantially the same force that had carried out the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Darwin, it had sailed from Kendari on 26 March.

On 5 April the Eastern Fleet sortied from Addu Atoll, Norman (I) operating on the screen of Force B. It remained at sea between the Maldives and Ceylon, avoiding the superior enemy forces by day and seeking opportunities to attack by air at night, until 8 April, when it returned to Addu Atoll.

On 8 April, with the Japanese in complete naval control of the Bay of Bengal and able to assert superiority in waters south of Ceylon, it was decided to withdraw the Eastern Fleet from Addu Atoll. Force B went to Kilindini on the African coast to protect Middle East and Persian Gulf communications. Force A went to Bombay. On 14 April Admiral Somerville established his headquarters at Kilindini. Norman (I) assumed escort duties, arriving in Bombay at the close of April 1942.

During May 1942 Norman (I) continued to operate in the Indian Ocean, as part of the Eastern Fleet.

On 22 May it was decided to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet from forces available in the Indian Ocean for the passage of two Malta convoys, one from Gibraltar, the other from Egypt. The forces sent from Kilindini to cover the eastern convoy (westbound) of Operation VIGOROUS including the four Australian N Class destroyers Norman (I), Napier, Nestor and Nizam.

The eastern convoy under the command of Rear Admiral Philip Vian assembled at Port Said and Haifa, sailing on 12 June for Malta, escorted by eight cruisers and twenty six destroyers. The presence at sea of a large portion of the Italian fleet, lack of fuel caused by diversionary tactics and repeated air attack, finally forced the entire convoy to return to Egypt. One cruiser, HMS Hermione; three destroyers, HM Ships Airedale and Hasty, and HMAS Nestor; and two merchant ships were sunk and several ships including three cruisers were damaged. Counter attack in the air sank the Italian cruiser Trento and severely damaged other units of the enemy fleet.

Returning to the Indian Ocean, Norman (I) resumed escort and patrol duties. In September 1942, operating under the command of Rear Admiral WG Tennant (4th Cruiser Squadron), she took part in the second Madagascar campaign (10-29 September), which ended with the British occupation of the entire island.

In the period of October to December 1942, Norman (I) was engaged in routine Indian Ocean escort and fleet screening duties.

In January 1943 Norman (I) was engaged escorting convoys between Kilindini and Madagascar. The following month she was one of the escorts for the convoys returning 30,000 AIF troops from the Middle East to Australia. In March and April she was alongside for refitting at Simonstown.

From May to December 1943, Norman (I) was almost constantly occupied escorting Indian Ocean convoys. On 23 June 1943 Commander HJ Buchanan DSO RAN assumed command from Commander Burrell. At this stage of her service the ship had steamed 124,000 miles and had been underway for some 7500 hours.

HMAS Norman wearing her wartime disruptive pattern camouflage paint.
HMAS Norman wearing her wartime disruptive pattern camouflage paint.

In June she was engaged in escorting duties northwards through the Mozambique Channel. July was spent in dock at Durban and in August she escorted the United Kingdom to India convoy, WS 32, from the Congo River on the African west coast to Durban and thence northwards.

In October she arrived in Bombay remaining in Indian waters, patrolling, escorting and exercising until 14 December, when she departed Colombo to return to Kilindini. The last day of 1943 found Norman (I) escorting the battleship HMS Ramillies to Aden.

In January 1944 Norman (I) joined Force A, Eastern Fleet, at Aden, under the command of Vice Admiral AJ Power, flying his flag in HMS Renown. On 27 January Force A arrived at Colombo. The next two months were spent exercising with the fleet, interspersed with convoy escort duties. In March the fleet joined forces with an American task force comprising USS Saratoga and three destroyers, the combined force entering Trincomalee on 31 March.

In April 1944 Norman (I) arrived in Australian waters for the first time, arriving in Sydney on 24 April for a two month refit. In July she returned to the Eastern Fleet at Trincomalee to resume escort and patrol duties in the Indian Ocean, including screening the French battleship Richelieu from Colombo to Aden.

In mid-October a striking force of the Eastern Fleet was formed for an attack on the Nicobar Islands, to coincide with the American landings at Leyte in the Philippines. The force, commanded by Vice Admiral Sir Arthur Power, comprised Renown (Flag), the carriers Indomitable and Victorious, four cruisers and nine destroyers, including Norman (I). Phase one began with an air attack on 17 October and was followed by night bombardment carried out by the cruiser HMS London, Norman (I) and the Dutch destroyer Van Galen. On completion of their task the bombardment group detached for Trincomalee. The remainder of the month was spent by Norman (I) in the waters off Ceylon, exercising and escorting.

Norman (I) spent November and December 1944 on escort duty, including screening the carrier Victorious. On 2 November Lieutenant Commander J Plunkett-Cole RAN assumed command.

On 1 January 1945 Norman (I) sailed from Durban screening HMS Unicorn, bound for Colombo, bringing to a close her war time service in the west Indian Ocean areas.

On 18 January Norman (I) sailed from Trincomalee for operations on the Burmese Arakan Coast. Sister ships Napier and Nepal were already engaged in the area having taken part in the capture of Akyab, the main Japanese base. Norman (I) was in company with HM Ships Pathfinder and Raider, escorting the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth and the escort carrier HMS Ameer.

On 21 January the above named group plus the carrier HMS Phoebe and the destroyers HMS Rapid and HMAS Napier, covered the landing of Indian troops on Ramree Island, Operation MATADOR. There was little opposition shore following the heavy shelling and the bombing of the Japanese defences. Attempted counter attack in the air was driven off without loss to the allied forces. On 23 January Norman (I) withdrew to Akyab.

On 26 January Norman (I) sailed from Akyab as one of the escorts to Ameer. The following day Task Force 65 (Rear Admiral AD Read) joined company. It comprised the cruisers HM Ships Newcastle, Nigeria and Kenya, and the destroyer HMS Paladin, plus the cruiser HMS Phoebe already operating in the Burma theatre. The objective of this force was the seizure of Cheduba Island by Royal Marines borne in the cruisers.

HMAS Norman departing Sydney.
HMAS Norman departing Sydney.

Naval bombardment began early on 26 January, Norman (I) adding her quota of 214 rounds of 4.7-inch ammunition to the shellfire. The succeeding landings, following strafing by aircraft from Ameer, met with little opposition. Admiral Sir Arthur Power, Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Fleet, witnessed the operations flying his flag in HMAS Nepal.

Norman (I) continued her operations in the Burma theatre until the close of the month. On 30 January she and the destroyer Raider successfully silenced Japanese field guns on Sagu Island which had repulsed at attempted landing the previous day.

Norman (I) spent most of February 1945 on exercises from Trincomalee and escorting the carrier Formidable. On 1 March she sailed for Fremantle, arriving on 10 March and reaching Sydney on 16 March.

On 1 April 1945 Norman (I) sailed from Sydney in company with Napier (Captain (D) 7th Flotilla) en route for the Philippines to commence operations as units of the British Pacific Fleet. In mid April Norman (I) joined Task Force 57 and between 14 and 20 April operation on the screen during the daily carrier air strikes against Okinawa as part of Operation ICEBERG. On 24 April Task Force 57, the main units being the 1st Battle Squadron, HM Ships King George V (Flag) and Howe; and the 1st Carrier Squadron, HM Ships Indomitable, Victorious, Illustrious and Indefatigable, returned to Leyte.

The British Task Force sailed from Leyte to resume the attacks against the Sakishima Gunto area on 1 May. In the initial stages of the second phase of Operation ICEBERG, the 7th Destroyer Flotilla of Napier, Norman (I), Nizam and Nepal, acted as escorts to the Fleet Train, replenishing the fleet at sea.

On 19 May Norman (I) joined Task Force 57 to become one of a carrier screening force of seventeen destroyers. She remained with the fleet until 22 May when she detached to escort the destroyer HMS Quilliam, which had been damaged in a collision with Formidable) to Leyte. Operation ICEBERG ended on 25 May.

The British Pacific Fleet operating as a part of the United States Navy 5th Fleet was at sea, except for eight days at Leyte, for 62 days. During these operations, in addition to the fleet bombardments, 4852 sorties were flown from the carriers, for the loss of 125 aircraft.

On 6 June 1945 Norman (I) returned to Sydney and remained in port until the end of the month. On 4 July she arrived in Manus with the 7th Destroyer Flotilla where she assumed the role of general duty and escort destroyer. In one period in July she visited 82 ships, carrying mail and stores and transferring 221 officers and ratings by jackstay.

Hostilities ceased on 15 August 1945. In September Norman (I) proceeded to Japan but arrived in Tokyo too late for the surrender ceremony.

HMAS Norman decommissioned in October 1945 after steaming 270,000 miles for the Royal Australian Navy.

In October 1945 she returned to Sydney, reverting to the Royal Navy before the close of the month. During her service with the Royal Australian Navy, Norman (I) steamed some 270,000 miles and was underway for over 17,000 hours.

Further reading

'N-Class: The Story of HMA Ships Napier, Nizam, Nestor, Norman & Nepal' by LJ Lind and MA Payne - published by the Naval Historical Society of Australia, Garden Island, 1974.