Wa­ter­less grave for for­mer wartime hero

Townsville Bulletin - - News - by John An­der­sen john. an­der­sen@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

CY­CLONE Yasi has sent a 1 2 0 - t o nne f o r mer Royal Aus­tralian Navy ship to a m u d d y g r a v e y a r d i n sand­fly-rid­den man­groves north of Card­well.

The Townsville Bul­letin t r a v e l l e d b y d i n g h y t o where the stricken ves­sel rests in the man­groves this week with Card­well mar­itime en­thu­si­ast Ge­of­frey Crow. Mr Crow said the 34m Fair­mile-type ship named The Com­mis­sioner had been moored in the creek for 10 years and the owner was thought to be from Tully.

Mr Crow said that to his knowl­edge no-one had vis­ited the area to claim own­er­ship or sal­vage rights over the ship af­ter the cy­clone. The as­sump­tion is the two-and-a-half-me­tre tidal surge that swept up Me­unga Creek cour­tesy of Yasi tore the boat from its anchorage.

Mr Crow said the 1am surge on Fe­bru­ary 3 car­ried the ship up­stream for about 800m to a point where the creek took a sharp bend around a man­grove penin­sula on its north­ern edges. He said the wall of wa­ter car­ried the ship over­land, leav­ing be­hind a trail of smashed man­groves. The ves­sel now rests on its keel about 10m from wa­ter.

W e l l - k n o w n N o r t h Queens­land ship­ping in­dus­try iden­tity Cocky Watkins said he had sailed The Com­mis­sioner up from Syd­ney to Townsville in 1957. He was not cer­tain of its wartime role, but records re­veal that the Fair­mile ves­sels were

REST IN PEACE: Mar­itime en­thu­si­ast Ge­of­frey Crow with the aban­doned ship at Me­unga Creek used in a va­ri­ety of du­ties in­clud­ing the drop­ping off and re­trieval of com­man­dos en­gaged i n hos­tile acts against the en­emy, pa­trolling coast­lines, as es­corts, couri­ers and hos­pi­tal ships. He said The Com­mis­sioner led a che­quered life af­ter ar­riv­ing in the North.

It spent a sea­son as a bar­ra­mundi boat in the Gulf of Car­pen­taria and in the 1970s, when it lay dis­abled in Cairns’ Trin­ity Har­bour, ‘‘ hip­pies’’ used it as liv­ing quar­ters.

Mr Watkins said the last owner of the ship had left it moored in Me­unga Creek.

‘‘ It just sat there for 12 years. Where it is now will be its grave­yard,’’ he said.

World Naval Ships For u m s s t a t e t h a t t h e Fai r mil e s were heavi l y armed for their size.

The records show they were staffed by 16 men and two of­fi­cers and that a num­ber of Ja­panese sur­ren­der cer­e­monies were con­ducted on their decks.

The ships were mostly known by num­bers when in the em­ploy of the Royal Aus­tralian Navy.

The Com­mis­sioner was given its name by the Mel­bourne Port Au­thor­ity af­ter be­ing sold out of the Navy in 1947. BACK IN THE DAY: Cocky Watkins, who once sailed the stricken ves­sel, with a photo of a wartime Fair­mile

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.