John Crace RN

April 4, 2013


I am sitting in my living room in Ohio, wondering why there is little info on a man whom my uncle (who served w/ MacArthur in Brisbane) always told me was a sailor of great importance in his role as commander of the Australian task force in the Battle of Coral Seas.  I read in the archives of your War Memorial that he was frustrated at the secondary role assigned to Aussie ships and he resigned his commission and served the rest of the war in Chelsea, UK.

Can you add any meat to this man’s story and why he gets little or no mention of his role in the war. I will look for possible posts on this. My Dad (USS Fletcher, DD445) and uncles really enjoyed their time in Oz during WWII...as did a friend (U Army..wounded @ Lae... praised your Diggers no end!)

Also curious as to how Adm Crutchley escaped censure for his absence during Savo Island!

Bob Gerdeman
Mount Sterling, OH


Some detail about John Crace: 


About RA Crutchley,

He was requested by Admiral Turner to meet him off Guadalcanal with the Marine General Vandergrift, the  distance some 22 miles, so he decided to pull HMAS Australia out of the line off Savo to take him to meet Turner.

In hindsight he should have left Australia leading the Canberra and Chicago, and made alternate means of getting over to Guadalcanal.

But his action in taking Australia was not censured by Turner.

Had Australia been present at Savo we might well have had a different outcome.

Nice to hear from you.



Thanks for the quick reply! A bit of background...I was anticipating heading to your fair country last month w/ a high school classmate and his sister. I have email friends in Wishart and Wynnum, whom I have never met, face to face. Also have friends in Gisborne, near Melbourne; and Gympie whom I have met when they stayed at my house in Ohio.

My daughter, subsequently, decided to get married this July, effectively reducing me to wishing my friend well...he substantially increased the coffers of the various vineyards and restaurants of Victoria. He returned to the US anxious to return to Oz. 

When I mentioned Crace to my friends in Oz...one of whom has a degree in history...none of them had ever heard of him. I was incredulous! I had heard so much praise of the man from my uncle that I figured that there would be accounts of him walking on water for having helped save Australia during a time of great crisis. My friend w/ the degree in history suggested the problem existed because Crace had been RN, instead of RAN...that he had "chosen" to be trained in England, instead of Oz.

Given that he started training in 1899 and you Aussies did not have a school until a dozen years later, he did not have the option. 

My uncle also had a problem w/ Crutchley being able to skate after what can only be described as deplorable behavior.  The conversation spiced up by the fact that my best friend's last name was Crutchley.

I always figured that the good admiral was given the benefit of the doubt b/c he was the godson of Queen Victoria and someone in the RN put a bug in Turner's ear. Wouldn't be the first time that I was wrong!

Anyway, thank you for the information and your time. I will check on your site periodically to see if any  information pops up on Crace..perhaps a subordinate might share a vignette or three.

Incidentally, I looked up Doveton Sturdee after reading your column on the capture of the German code by Richardson...it stated that Sturdee was surprised by appearance of Graf Spee...how could he be surprised if he had the code?

Luckily, he was fortunate enough to have gathered a vastly superior force before he was "surprised"!  For his "luck", Sturdee was dubbed a baronet. I found this rather like Monty, with his Ultra advantage, being vastly
superior to Rommel

I find it ironic that men from Australia, like Richardson and Crace (and Blamey, who must have rubbed my uncle the wrong way as he seemed to have a similar reaction to him as he did MacArthur).

I do appreciate your efforts...I never talk about the war w/ my father (91). As I said, he was aboard the USS Fletcher ... the only ship to escape unscathed ("The Lucky 13" DD445) from "Ironbottom Sound")

My uncle who mentioned Crace to me said that several of Dad's friends were lost on the USS Laffey.

I will close this long-winded affair (I am mostly of German descent, but, also Irish!) w/ a funny story about the war.  My Dad served in both Theaters of the war...on the Fletcher and on an LST...as a machinist mate. I asked him why he went from one type of ship to another. He told me that he was working on a project once in the shop and encountered a problem. He let out an expletive, "Son of a ____!"  unbeknownst to him, an admiral was passing nearby and figured that the comment was meant for him. My Dad was transferred to the other ocean...via a ship carrying heavy explosives through the Panama Canal. Coincidence?  I think not!

Regards to you and keep up the good work


My thanks for your interesting mail, like your Father I too am 91.

Best wishes.
Here are some details of USS Laffey:



My thanks for your interesting mail, like your Father I
too am 91.

Best wishes.

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