Author Topic: just a bit of fun -- the Tasmanian War of Independence  (Read 2970 times)

Offline raafif

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just a bit of fun -- the Tasmanian War of Independence
« on: March 23, 2012, 07:30:47 AM »
      for a better idea of the general area of operations mentioned in this story, open this link in a seperate window
http://www.webookaustralia.com/images/maps/tas-large.gif

1950 -- fed up with being fobbed off & derided by Australia as Hill-billies, Tasmanians decided to opt for Independence.  This being denied by the Commonwealth (backed by UN rules), war was declared between Independent Tasmania & Australia.

Being small with a limited population, Tasmania was by no means limited in their ideas or ability to put a "Defence Force" together.  A small Navy was formed, mainly of ex-WW2 Motor Torpedo Boats of the British Fairmile "D" types but also several ex-Kreigsmarine Lürssen Schnell-Boots which had surrendered intact on capitulation in 1945 -- these last types were well-built, in good condition, and free, only costing transport from the UK & Germany to Tasmania.

The main naval base was built at Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania's west coast.  It is a very large inlet with very small entrance that is easy to defend against even medium-size warships.  The nearby town of Strahan is linked to the north & central areas of the state by numerous snaking narrow-gauge mining & logging railways.  These various independent lines, through commercial agreement, had become a network web, inter-linked for convenience making re-supply easy, though slow.  They run through uninhabited deep-forest so in the event of a blockade, they are impossible to cut by conventional means.

The Commonwealth of Australia was content to let things lie ... unless Tasmania caused a ruckus .... which of course it did.
The MTBs patrolled northern Tasmanian waters & Bass Straight, easily harassing shipping in fine weather while only requiring re-supply at King island on the odd occasion.  In the sometimes rough seas of the Straight, the Fairmiles & ex-German Schnell-boats proved better able to weather the big waves than the RAN's light Vosper craft and still remain intact so they were detailed with penetrating Port Phillip Bay / Port of Melbourne itself on raids to generally shake up the local Victorian population.  It was thought that they weren't actually armed with torpedos as no firings took place but, at this stage, they were under orders to "just shake the "Commies" (Commonwealth-ers) up" in the hope that independence would then soon be granted without having to sink anyone.  These aggressive nuisance raids quickly earned them the name of Tiger-Sharks and several crews painted shark-jaws or yellow&black tiger-stripes on their bows.  Dummy attacks by these boats against freighters entering & leaving Port Melbourne were a scary time with the ship's crews genuinely wondering if they would have to swim.  Tales of heart-stopping moments spread far & wide through the world's ports warning sailors to be careful in these parts.

Fairmile D "Dog-boats" of 2nd Squadron, Tasmanian Navy
These boats were equipped with heavier guns like twin-Bofors for engaging larger ships & shore bombardment.


ex-KM Lürssen MTBs of 1st Squadron, Tasmanian Navy



A small Army was also formed from local citizens, professional soldiers bored with Peace after WW2 and a few cashiered French Foreign Legion men - a fort & training grounds were built just 20miles north of Hobart and named Dromedary by the Chief of the Army, an ex-FFL Captain with plenty of desert-warfare experience.  The fort no longer exists as its walls were later torn down for building material by locals but the new village retains the name.
The Tasmanian Army would see no real action in the war, Tasmania failing to project its force onto the Australian mainland, but it would provide AA crews for protection of air-bases & other military installations.

Naturally aircraft would also form a major part of Tasmania's strike units.  Fairey Battles of a RAAF training unit had been stationed in Tasmania during WW2 and had been left there as obsolete -- several Battles had crashed into the high peaks of the south-west of the state on calamitous navigation exercises but the remainder, re-fitted with surplus Bristol Taurus engines from the UK, formed the 1st Strike Squadron of the Tassie Tiger Air Force.
These Fairey Battles were re-named "Penguins" -- Tasmania's Premier lived in the local town of Penguin on the nort coast and he enjoyed building those new plastic model aircraft kits put out by a new English company also by that name.

Fairey Penguin of Strike Squadron 1, Tassie Tiger Air Force with practice "torpedo".


To maximise their limited range, the TTAF based its Fairey Penguins on King Island to the north of Tasmania. The easiest location for the airfield was in the south-eastern part of that island just west of the town of Grassy, thus giving said town two Penguin rookeries - one for the aircraft & one for the bird.  The ammo dump was built halfway between the airfield & the town of Pearshape -- and things certainly would go pear-shaped if the enemy bombed it, containing the entire Tasmanian stocks of ammunition, torpedo & bombs -- but being at the base of Mt Stanley, approach-lanes by enemy aircraft were limited & well covered by the Army's AA guns.  An emergency landing-ground was prepared at Egg Lagoon on the north-western tip for returning damaged aircraft.



First live air-strike in the war was against the nearest port - Melbourne, Victoria.  Launching from Grassy Airfield with torpedoes in the dim morning light, ten Penguins flew across Bass Straight and attacked ships entering the Port of Melbourne, sinking "two" (one was an old dredge that had, of it's own accord, sunk while on its way to the scrapyard the day before & was just sitting on a shallow sandbank) and damaging one more - all with the loss of no lives on either side.

As the war dragged on the Penguins wore out and were replaced with ex-RAAF Bristol Beauforts that had escaped being chopped up after WW2.  Designed as a Torpedo-Bomber from the start, these survivors were mainly the "freighter" version ie the Mk.IX with the turret removed & faired over and used to spray insects in the great Victorian locust plague of 1946.  These were again modified by the TTAF by removing most of the freighter's upper-fuselage fairing, installing manually-trained twin .50cal guns & opening up the old torpedo-tunnel again - becoming the Mk.X.

The "new" bomber had much longer range than the Penguin and was capable of carrying the fight further inland against Australia but it needed a longer runway so a spacious new airbase was built on the central-eastern part of King Island.
During the winter of '52 many storms raged, making re-supply of the island from the Tasmanian mainland impossible even by sea.  Luckily King Island has always had a solid farming heritage & a hardy population.  The citizens of the small town of Sea Elephant shared their harvest with the military and made the aircrews very welcome in their homes when the TTAF mess collapsed in the biggest storm of the year.  In recognition of their invaluable help, the Fairey Penguin's replacement was officially named the Bristol "Sea Elephant".
Now, at first, this many seem like a strange name for a torpedo-bomber but it was known that elephants were used for moving large logs in Asia and it had earlier been considered to import some to Tasmania, but rejected as too cold an environment for them.  As torpedos were in short supply & expensive, in training the TTAF had substituted the plentiful wooden logs - leading to the bombardiers cry of "Log away" - and this same cry was carried over in actual combat ... as well as a bawdy cry often heard in the "other ranks" latrines each morning.
So it was a sort-of fitting name and, with a heavy torpedo, they did tend to wallow around a bit like the sea mammal too.  In recognition of this, several aircraft sported cartoon-characters of this & other related marine beasts on their noses.

Bristol Sea-Elephant of Strike Squadron 3, Tassie Tiger Air Force.


As these aircraft were already old & tired when purchased, the engines soon needed replacement and surplus Merlins from Lancaster bombers (along with bearer conversion kits from un-built Beaufighter Mk.II production) were supplied cheap from the same source.  The UK Air Ministry actually proposed this engine-swap back in 1942 (the proposed Mk.III version) but Merlins were needed for other aircraft, so the Beaufort missed out at that time.  These Tasmanian Air Force Mk.10s with the Mk.III engine-mod. became the MK.13 -- this was perhaps a bad omen as, though slightly faster with the new engines, they would later prove to still be no match to evade the CA-15 Kangaroo fighters from RAAF Point Cook that intercepted them ....
« Last Edit: March 24, 2012, 06:25:42 AM by raafif »

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Re: just a bit of fun -- the Tasmanian War of Independence
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2012, 06:53:50 AM »
Great stuff raafif  :) I especially like the Sea-Elephant conversion.

I'm not sure, though, that I'd place a major ammo dump close to a town named "Pearshape"!  :o
"She always found it peculiar to encounter a time she had actually lived through rendered as a period." William Gibson, Zero History