- Sullivan, John
- Ship histories and stories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Kalgoorlie, HMAS Armidale I, HMAS Kuru, HMAS Castlemaine, HMAS Vigilant
- September 1983 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
About 1700 we saw a ship steaming towards us and by 1735 we were safe on board HMAS Kalgoorlie. When our boat was hoisted on board, the stern fell off. After the manner of seamen, Lieutenant Commander Litchfield and his ship’s company treated us like kings, with every comfort they could devise.
We learned that the Captain had been sighted on Saturday, just about the time we were leaving the raft. He had made good about 165 miles in the motor boat. They had eventually got the engine to start, and gone 70 or 80 miles under power – for the rest, they paddled with paddles taken from the Carley float.
Although only 17’6″ long, the motor boat had carried 21 men, 15 of them more or less severely wounded. We learned that two had died – Able Seaman Fred Smith, and one Dutch native soldier. Ordinary Seaman Morley, most of whose jaw had been shot away by a Jap. bullet, had sat in the bottom of the boat for five days, baling and making himself useful, despite his injuries.
The raft also had been sighted on Monday, but the plane had been unable to land because of the heavy swell. Returning to Darwin, the plane took supplies of food and again sighted the raft on Wednesday. The food was dropped, but the plane was again unable to land. However, HMAS Vigilant (Sub-Lieut. Bennet RANR (S)), was carrying out a search in conjunction with the aircraft, and we were confident that the men on the raft and Carley float would soon be rescued.
The ship was headed for Darwin, and we turned in, in a very contented state of mind.
At 1100 on Thursday, we were landed at Darwin and placed in hospital. We had so much to talk over with the Captain and the crew of the motor boat that I’m afraid that we weren’t very good patients. We were very disappointed to learn that nothing more had been seen of the raft and Carley float. Instead, although an intensive air and sea search was carried out, they were never again sighted. After a few days in hospital, we were sent south by ship, except for a few whose injuries made it preferable that they should remain.
We arrived in Melbourne on Christmas Eve, in the highest spirits. We had made good 165 miles in three days of rowing in the whaler, and felt ourselves to be the luckiest men alive. We could not foresee how many of the boys were to crack up from the strain of those eight days, the sleepless nights ahead of us, when the true reaction made itself felt, or the number whose health was so impaired as to force them to leave the Service.
All we knew was that we were home and lucky to be there.