Warren Gregory (Greg) DELLER

DELLER, Warren Gregory

Service Number: B2389
Enlisted: 2 September 1939
Last Rank: Able Seaman
Last Unit: HMAS Gascoyne
Born: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia , 4 May 1921
Home Town: Mitchelton, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Stanthorpe District, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Truck driver
Died: Cancer, Caloundra, Queensland, Australia, 5 January 2002, aged 80 years
Cemetery: Nambour Garden Cemetery, Qld
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World War 2 Service

2 Sep 1939: Enlisted Royal Australian Navy, Ordinary Seaman, SN B2389, HMAS Westralia (I)
16 Jan 1940: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, Ordinary Seaman, SN B2389, HMAS Westralia (I)
1 Mar 1940: Promoted Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, HMAS Westralia (I)
25 Jul 1940: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, SN B2389, HMAS Adelaide (I)
10 Nov 1940: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, SN B2389, HMAS Adelaide (I)
29 Oct 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, SN B2389, HMAS Vampire I, Malaya/Singapore
24 Apr 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, SN B2389
31 Jul 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, SN B2389, HMAS Adelaide (I), RAN Operations - 'SW Pacific / Indian Ocean 1941-43'
17 Jul 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, SN B2389, HMAS Shropshire
17 Oct 1945: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, SN B2389, HMAS Manoora (1)
9 Nov 1945: Involvement Royal Australian Navy, SN B2389
22 Jan 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, SN B2389, HMAS Gascoyne, Unit was HMAS Gascoyne
Date unknown: Involvement Able Seaman, SN B2389

Help us honour Warren Gregory Deller's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Sue Smith

Warren Gregory Deller was born on the 4th May 1921 at the Lady Bowen Hospital, Brisbane, QLD, the 3rd child of William and Leah Deller.  He was known as “Greg” to everyone and had a brother and 2 sisters…Roy, Mavis and Marge.  His early years were spent in the Stanthorpe, Applethorpe District.  The family moved several times including some time at Dalkeith where his father did tin mining.  In 1932 the family moved back to Brisbane to the suburb of Windsor initially then finally settling at Mitchelton.  It was while he was living at Mitchelton that Greg enlisted for World War 2 in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve on the 2nd September 1939 aged 19.

His service number was B2389, his rank was Ordinary Seaman and in his service records he’s described as being 5ft 6inches tall, fair hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.  Upon enlistment he was allocated to HMAS Penguin 4, the Naval Depot in Brisbane, which became HMAS Moreton in August 1940.  He was there for a month then went to HMAS Cerberus, the naval training base in Melbourne, Victoria, arriving there on the 5th October 1939.  He was there until the 15th January 1940 then was assigned to serve on his first ship, HMAS Westralia, an armed merchant cruiser and landing ship infantry.  While serving on Westralia Greg was promoted to Able Seaman.  In June 1940 the ship arrived at HMAS Cerberus 5, the Naval Reserve depot at Fremantle, Western Australia.  This depot later became known as HMAS Leeuwin.  Greg was there for a month then was assigned to serve on HMAS Adelaide, a Modified Town Class Cruiser. 

Greg served on the Adelaide for 2 months till the beginning of September 1940 then was posted to HMAS Rushcutter in NSW, the anti-submarine, radar and gunnery instruction school where he trained as a gunner.  A month later he was posted to HMAS Penguin, the Naval training base in Sydney NSW where he completed his training.  In early November 1940 he was assigned to serve back on the HMAS Adelaide.  The Adelaide carried out patrols, convoy escort and shipping protection duties on the Australian station. 

In mid October 1941 Greg was assigned to serve on the HMAS Vampire, a V and W Class Destroyer which was docked in Singapore for repairs at the time.  He was one of the many newly arrived crew from Australia at HMS Sultan, the British Naval shore base in Singapore. The new Commander of the ship was William Moran. 

For me to tell the story of Greg’s life in detail aboard the ships he served on, particularly when he was involved in action, I have enlisted the help of the naval website on the histories of naval ships.  While these extracts are lengthy, they are worth the read because it gives a detailed account of the action that Greg was involved in and the impact that it would have had on him.  The following is an extract.

           “The refit was completed on 15 November 1941 but a collision in Keppel Harbour with the steamer Perak delayed operational readiness until late November; with her final trials ending on the 26th. On this day Vampire sailed for Sarawak in Borneo, transporting the General Officer Commanding Malaya, General Percival, and some of his staff. On 1 December she was back in Singapore. The battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse arrived in Singapore on 2 December and when the latter sailed for Darwin, Vampire sailed as her escort but after 24 hours at sea the ships were recalled. In the afternoon of 8 December 1941 Vampire sailed from Singapore escorting Prince of Wales and Repulse on their ill fated attempt to disrupt the Japanese invasion of Malaya. Following the sinking of both capital ships by Japanese torpedo aircraft, Vampire and HM Ships Express an Electra, three of the escorting destroyers, rescued 132 officers and 1949 ratings out of a total complement of 2921 in both ships, Vampire landed nine officers, 215 ratings and one civilian war correspondent at Singapore.

            Throughout the remainder of December Vampire was kept busy escorting inward and outward convoys to Singapore and giving protection to HMS Teviot Bank during mine laying operations in the South China Sea.

            The first three weeks of January 1942 saw Vampire continuing to escort shipping in and out of Singapore and Batavia. On 24 January she arrived at Singapore as part of the escort of a troop convoy of six ships. The next two days were spent at the naval base. On 26 January she was ordered to proceed with the destroyer HMS Thanet to attack Japanese transports reported to be lying off Endau some 80 miles north of Singapore.

            Vampire and Thanet sailed on the afternoon of 26 January and arrived off Endau after moonset shortly before 2:00am the following morning. With Vampire leading, at 15 knots, the two ships steamed into what was a veritable hornet's nest. In addition to the Japanese cruiser Sendai, there were six destroyers covering the transports. At 2:37am the dim shape of what Commander Moran took to be a destroyer appeared on Vampire's starboard bow. Seeking the transports he continued in towards Endau and soon sighted a second 'destroyer' 'right ahead and close.' Vampire swung to port and fired two torpedoes without result. This ship, which was in fact a minesweeper patrolling outside the anchorage, sighted Vampire and gave the alarm. The two Allied destroyers continued their course towards Endau until shortly after 3:00am and when not sighting the expected concentration they turned south east and increased to best speed. At 3:18am their luck ran out. A destroyer appeared on Vampire's port bow and she fired her remaining torpedo. Again she missed while Thanet altering course to starboard fired all her torpedoes but they too sped harmlessly past the target. The Japanese destroyer opened fire and the cruiser Sendai joined in the confused melee that followed. Hopelessly outnumbered Vampire and Thanet retired south east by east at top speed, returning the Japanese fire in the unequal engagement. Thanet was hit and at about 4:00am and great clouds of black smoke were soon emanating from the stricken vessel. Moran tried to cover her withdrawal under a smoke screen but she was doomed and was last seen from Vampire stopped and listing heavily to starboard. She sank shortly afterwards at about 4:15am on 27 January. Vampire, unscathed, made good her escape and entered Singapore Harbour at 10:00am that morning. The night action off Endau brought Vampire's service in the Malayan theatre almost to a close.

           On 28 January 1942 she sailed in company with HMAS Yarra (II), escorting a convoy to Sunda Strait. On 30 January her position as escort was taken over by HMS Sutlej and she proceeded to Batavia. She sailed on 1 February as part of the escort to the American transports Westpoint and Manhattan through Sunda Strait, returning to Batavia on 3 February. Two days later on 5 February she sailed escorting two merchant ships for Colombo where on 11 February Vampire joined the East Indies Station. The remainder of February was spent on escort duties and screening the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes. At the close of the month her War Diary recorded that Vampire had been underway on 69 out of 83 days since the outbreak of the Pacific War. In March 1942 Vampire continued operating from Ceylon as a part of the British Eastern Fleet.”

The next entry is Greg’s service record has him at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria, Australia, from early March till late April 1942 when he then arrives at HMAS Leeuwin in Fremantle WA.  Here he becomes part of the crew serving on the V and W Class Destroyer HMAS Voyager.  She had commenced her first operational duty of the Pacific War on 19 April 1942 when she escorted HMT Queen Elizabeth on the east coast. Further coastal escort duties followed before post refit defects required her to dock in Sydney. This occupied most of May. Voyager arrived in Fremantle on 6 June 1942 and was based there for a short period as an escort destroyer. 


At the end of July 1942 Greg once again served on the HMAS Adelaide.  The following is an extract from the naval website on the histories of naval ships.  

            “The ship was under refit at Garden Island, VIC, from May to July 1942. Work carried out during the refit included the fitting of six 20mm Oerlikon guns. After completion of the refit Adelaide(I) was based at Fremantle for convoy and escort duty in the Indian Ocean. On 28 November 1942 Adelaide(I), together with the Netherlands cruiser Jacob van Heemskerck and the minesweepers HMA Ships Cessnock (I) and Toowoomba (I), was escorting a convoy in position 23° 30´ S, 99° 21´ E (southern Indian Ocean). Early in the afternoon, Adelaide (I) sighted a strange ship and, with Heemskerck, closed in to investigate. The ship made distress messages claiming to be Taiyang, a name that Adelaide (I) could not accept, so 'Action Stations' was ordered at a range of 15,000 yards, pending identification.

The navigating officer of Adelaide (I), a reserve officer with great experience of constructional details of merchant ships, quickly identified her as the German blockade runner Ramses. She was wearing a Norwegian ensign and had not replied to Adelaide (I)'s challenge, but had hoisted signal letters which could not be distinguished. At 15:33 two boats were seen being lowered on the port side, and at 15:43 an explosion was observed aft. Adelaide (I) opened fire and hits were obtained on the third salvo. Fire was opened at 15:44 and ceased at 15:52 when Ramses suddenly sank.  Heemskerk, who had been firing from the starboard quarter, was then ordered to rejoin the convoy and Adelaide (I) picked up the survivors. It was learned later that all hands had abandoned ship except the Captain, one officer and the W/T Operator, who completed the scuttling arrangements and sank the ship.”

After all this excitement on the seas Greg was posted to HMAS Moreton, the naval depot in Brisbane.  He was there from mid July 1943 till the end of September 1943.  What he did then for the next 10 months is unclear as there are no entries in service record until mid July 1944 when he became part of the crew serving on HMAS Shropshire, a Country Class Heavy Cruiser.  While serving on the Shropshire he spent some time at HMAS Ladava, the shore naval base in New Guinea.  Shropshire was a British naval ship but an extract from the naval website on the histories of naval ships explains how she came to be part of the Australian naval fleet. 

                “Following the loss of the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (I) on 9 August 1942 in the Battle of Savo Island, the British Government approved the transfer of Shropshire to the Royal Australian Navy as a replacement. The transfer was announced in the House of Commons on 8 September 1942 by the Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill. In August 1943 Shropshire began her voyage to Australia escorting a Gibraltar bound convoy. She arrived at Capetown on 4 September, Fremantle three weeks later and finally Sydney on 2 October 1943. On 30 October at Brisbane the cruiser joined the Australian Squadron (Task Force 74).

            On 12 July Shropshire proceeded to the New Guinea area operating in support of the 6th Army. On 14 July Japanese forces were bombarded in positions east of Aitape after mounting a major attack against the American garrison on the Driniumor River line. On completion of that operation Shropshire joined the bombardment group covering the last landing in New Guinea at Cape Sansapor on the Vogelkop Peninsula.

            On 20 October 1944, General MacArthur’s Philippines invasion force, comprising some 550 ships, arrived off Leyte Island in the central Philippines. Australia’s contribution to this famous amphibious operation was Task Force 74, including HMA Ships Australia, Shropshire, Warramunga and Arunta attached to the US Seventh Fleet. Also present were the Landing Ships Infantry HMAS Westralia, Manoora and Kanimbla carrying troops of the US 21st Regimental Combat Team, the frigate Gascoyne, HDML 1074 and auxiliary ships.  Australia and Shropshire passed through the battle line and opened fire on assigned targets. At 10:00am, after the landing, Shopshire, Arunta and Warramunga shelled set targets and carried out intermittent bombardments throughout the day.  The following morning at 6:05am HMAS Australia was hit by a Japanese suicide aircraft. Australia’s Commanding Officer, Captain Dechaineux and 29 other officers and ratings were killed or died of wounds and Commodore Collins and a further 64 were injured. 

            By 24 October some 144,800 Americans were ashore and fanning out when reports were received of the approach of a Japanese fleet through the Sulu Sea. The Japanese Navy’s plan was to bring three fleets from different locations to converge on the American transports in Leyte Gulf and defeat the seaborne invasion.  At approximately 3:00am on 25 October, American destroyers opened fire with torpedos on the Japanese force, sinking the battleship Fuso and two destroyers. At 3:56am Shropshire opened fire to starboard with her 8-inch guns on the battleship Yamashiro, as did the US cruisers Boise, Phoenix and five of the American battleships.  At 4.19 Yamashiro capsized and sank, taking most of her ship's company with her. Japanese losses in the Battle of Leyte Gulf were so heavy that the Imperial Navy virtually ceased to exist as an offensive force and the Allies gained sea control.

            The next major Allied advance towards Japan was to Lingayen Gulf in the northern Philippines, and the island of Luzon. On 9 January 1945 Shropshire, in company with HMA Ships Australia, Arunta and Warramunga, formed part of the bombardment and fire support group.  The Lingayen invasion force was subjected to a fierce onslaught by Japanese kamikaze suicide pilots who swarmed over the fleet extracting a heavy toll on Australian sailors in this extraordinary form of attack. The suicide missions were launched well before the assault convoys reached Lingayen and again Australia became a victim when on 5 January, some 140km west of Subic Bay, kamikaze aircraft penetrated the defensive screen damaging seven ships. The kamikazes came in just above the water defying heavy anti-aircraft fire. At 4:35pm one executed a steep turn and ended in a vertical dive hitting Australia on the port side of the upper deck amidships and inflicting heavy casualties. Arunta had her side holed and lost two men killed in a separate incident.

In spite of the damage sustained, Australia and Shropshire entered Lingayen Gulf on 6 January to carry out shore bombardments. At 5:34pm Australia was hit by another kamikaze and she sustained two more direct hits on 8 January. A further hit followed on 9 January, the day of the landing, which cut off the top of her third funnel. With her bombardment duties complete Australia was withdrawn from the intense battle and returned to Australia for repairs and a welcome respite from the action.

            Following Australia’s departure, Shropshire the following month took part in the bombardment of the Corregidor Beach area before the successful assault on the fortress which fell on 26 February 1945. On 16 March 1945 Shropshire returned to Sydney for maintenance and a period of R&R for her crew.”

Some time after the Shropshire arrived back in Australia, Greg did something that was completely out of character for him according to the reports in his service record regarding his conduct.  He’s reported as going absent without leave on 19th May 1945.  It’s unclear as to the length of this period but it’s also recorded that he made his way back to the family home in Mitchelton, QLD.  He obviously needed some time out.  The next entry is his records is that he was admitted to the 126 Australian Special Hospital in Brisbane.  He was there for 2 weeks then went to HMAS Penguin in NSW briefly before spending the next 60 days at the camp at Holdsworthy in NSW. 

Upon completion of his time at Holdsworthy in mid October 1945, he was briefly assigned to the crew of the HMAS Manoora, an armed merchant cruiser and landing ship infantry.  The Manoora began post war operations in September 1945, repatriating troops from New Guinea, New Britain, Morotai and Borneo.  Following that he served on the HMAS Gascoyne, a River Class Frigate that was a mine hunter.  The Gascoyne spent the last 3 months of 1945 transporting troops and stores, a service which took the frigate into the Moluccas, Halmaheras, Borneo and Timor. 

On the 22nd January 1946, Greg reported to the Naval Depot HMAS Moreton in Brisbane and was discharged on the 12th February 1946.  He returned to the family home at Mitchelton.  Two months later on the 6th April, Greg 24, married Mona Babarovich 19, at the Wesley Methodist Church, Kangaroo Point.  He met Mona at a dance at the Upadeam Dance Hall in Brisbane.  When first married Greg worked for Addis Bros driving trucks of fruit and vegetables to the Roma Street markets.  In 1948 their first child was born, Karen, but sadly the following year they lost a stillborn baby.  In 1950, while still living at Mitchelton, Greg retrained as a house painter.  At one point the family went to Stradbroke Island for a holiday and ended up staying 9 months where Greg worked as a fisherman. 

Upon returning from Stradbroke Island the family lived at Kangaroo Point, Mona’s family home.  Around 1953/54 the family moved to Chinchilla where Greg worked for the Forestry Department in the sawmill.  For some time, the family moved back and forth to Brisbane, living at Carina for a few years at one point.  By 1957 the family had moved to Wandoan and 6 children had been born.  After leaving Wandoan the family returned to the family home Mitchelton, Brisbane.  During all this time Greg was still suffering terrible effects from the war.

In 1964 the family settled at Keperra in Brisbane to raise their family that had now grown to 9 children… Karen, Cheryl, Gregory, Patrick, Stephen, Lisa, Frances, Peter and Suzanne.  In 1965 Greg was working for the Main Roads Department and became the first person in Queensland to gain a licence to drive an Articulated Line Marking Machine.  After 17 years at Keperra, Greg and Mona retired to Stradbroke Island.  In the mid 1980s they moved back to the mainland, settling at Nambour to be near their grown children and grandchildren. 

Mona passed away in July 1988 aged 60.  Greg moved to Caloundra where he lived his remaining days until his passing on the 5th January 2002 aged 80.  Greg was buried in the Nambour Garden Cemetery alongside his beloved Mona. 

My deepest thanks to my friend Karen, Greg’s eldest child, who provided me with much of the personal information in this biography. 

Warren Gregory Deller was awarded:

Australia Service Medal                                                        Australia Defence Medal                                                                  British War Medal                                                                  1939-1945 Pacific Star

Respectfully submitted                                                              Sue Smith June 2020