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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Menlove, Desmond Aubrey (1906–1990)

by Tom Lewis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Desmond Aubrey Menlove (1906-1990), naval officer, was born on 24 August 1906 at Temora, New South Wales, youngest of three children of Australian-born parents Edward John Menlove, bank clerk, and his wife Elsie Bertha, née Smith.  Desmond entered the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay, Federal Capital Territory, on 1 January 1920 in the rank of cadet midshipman.  As a result of defence cuts, he transferred to the RAN Reserve and joined the Merchant Navy where he served with several shipping lines.  Described by his colleague William Craike as 'a keen and efficient officer' who 'did not suffer fools gladly', Menlove rose steadily through the ranks of the merchant service.  His RAN Reserve training continued and he was promoted to midshipman in 1924 and lieutenant in 1932.  He married Hilda Marion Stevens on 2 July 1936 at St Michael’s Church of England, Vaucluse, Sydney.

Following a general mobilisation of the RAN Reserve, Menlove joined the light cruiser, HMAS Adelaide, as a watch-keeping officer on 1 September.  He was promoted to lieutenant commander on 1 August 1940, and became navigator.  On 22 August 1941 Menlove took command of the minesweeper, HMAS Deloraine, which was commissioned in Sydney on 22 November.  After sea trials she departed for Darwin on 26 December and arrived on 7 January 1942.  The vessel was immediately engaged in escort duties, anti-submarine patrols and minesweeping in the Arafura Sea.

On 20 January Deloraine was ordered to a location 60 miles (97 km) west of Darwin where the Japanese submarine I-124 and three sister submarines had been laying mines and attempting to torpedo Allied shipping.  On arrival Deloraine’s starboard lookout sighted a torpedo approaching the ship but by a combination of decisive commands and an alert and effective ship’s company it was avoided and Deloraine dropped a pattern of six depth charges.  I-124 half-surfaced, perhaps to engage with her deck gun, but was despatched by a depth charge dropped at point blank range.  She was the first Japanese submarine sunk by the RAN.  Menlove was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Menlove relinquished command of Deloraine on 5 May 1942 and, after shore appointments at HMAS Rushcutter, Sydney, and HMAS Cerberus, Westernport, Victoria, he took command of HMAS Kapunda on 10 October.  He served as executive officer in HMA ships Kanimbla and Westralia between 15 February and 26 September 1943, and in HMAS Manoora during the Tanamerah Bay and Wadke Island landings in April-May 1944.  In August 1944 he assumed command of HMAS Platypus.  Demobilised on 5 October 1945, Menlove rejoined the merchant service and later became a life assurance consultant with the Australian Mutual Provident Society in Sydney.  He was known as a witty raconteur who nominated work as his major hobby.

Divorced in 1961, Menlove married Jean Ruth Culliford, a secretary, on 15 December that year at the registrar general’s office, Sydney.  He died at Elizabeth Bay on 1 September 1990 and was cremated.  His wife and the two sons of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • F. B. Eldridge, A History of the Royal Australian Naval College (1949)
  • T. Lewis, Sensuikan I-124 (1997)
  • A6769, item Menlove D A (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Tom Lewis, 'Menlove, Desmond Aubrey (1906–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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