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HMAS GOORANGAI

Location

South Channel, Port Phillip Bay

VHR Number

S294

Date lost

20/11/1940

Year of construction

1919

Official number

151982

Statement of Significance

The HMAS Goorangai is historically significant as the first Royal Australian Navy surface vessel lost with all hands, Australia's first naval loss of World War II, and the first Royal Australian Navy surface vessel lost in a war.

Physical Description  
Construction Material Steel
Rig Other
Propulsion Steam - Screw
Engine Builder Triple expansion single screw; 3 cy. 12", 19", 32"; 78 HP; speed 1-1/2 knots
Length / Breadth / Depth 117.0 Feet / 22.1 Feet / 13.8 Feet
History  
Builder NSW Government Dockyard
Built Date 1919
Built Port / Country Newcastle, NSW / Australia
Registration Number 13 of 1923
Registration Port / Country Sydney / Australia
Former Details of Registration REquisitioned by Royal Australian Navyon 08/09/1939 from Cam & Sons Pty Ltd
Details
Originally built as a 'Castle' type steam trawler based on a North Sea design. It was intended to assist develop a trawl fishing industry to create jobs in NSW in Depression years, then was requisitioned by the RAN in WWII. Following the sinking of the SS Cambridge and MV City of Rayville in Bass Strait by German mines on 7 and 8 November 1940 respectively, three minesweepers including the HMAS Goorangai were ordered to the sweep the shipping lanes and approaches to Port Phillip, and within a fortnight were able to locate and destroy forty mines. Prime Minister Menzies also called for Australian war vessels in the Mediterranean to be returned to Australian waters, and the fated HMAS Sydney (to be later sunk by the German raider Kormoran off Western Australia with the loss of all 645 crew) was one of these vessels, returning in April 1941. Sunk in a collision with the loss of the entire crew of 24, the 223 ton gross minesweeper HMAS Goorangai (1919-20 November 1940) has the tragic distinction of being all at once Australia's first naval loss of World War II, the first Royal Australian Navy surface vessel lost in a war, and the first Royal Australian Navy surface vessel lost with all hands. It had just returned from its minesweeping operations in Bass Strait including recovering wreck debris from the City of Rayville with Lieut-Commander Gordon Boyle on board as minesweeping adviser, and was enjoying a respite from bad weather while reprovisioning in Port Phillip. At night in wartime 'brownn-out' (minimal lights exhibited) conditions the HMAS Goorangai was bound from Queenscliff to anchor at Portsea, while steaming outwards at full speed through the South Channel was the dark silhouette of the 10,400 ton outward bound passenger liner Duntroon bound from Melbourne to Sydney. The HMAS Goorangai was seen at the last minute by those on the bridge of the Duntroon, but it was too late to avert a collision. At 8.45pm the diminutive HMAS Goorangai had no chance as it was struck almost amidships by the huge bow of the fast moving liner, and sank immediately. Rescue efforts were hampered as searchlights were forbidden, and the Queenscliff lifeboat stuck on a bank in attempting to attend the rescue. Lifejackets were thrown in the direction of cries of men by those on board the Duntroon, but in the strong ebb tide no survivors were ever found. Numerous calls were made over the years by relatives of the deceased servicemen to protect the wreck in 15 metres depth as a war grave and a national memorial. Items such as gas masks were known to have been found by divers, and there were distressing rumours that human bones and a skull had been removed from the site by divers in the 1970s and 1980s. However the Commonwealth Veterans Affairs Department and Australian Office for War Graves have no power to declare sunken vessels as war graves. There was no protection of the site until the Victorian Historic Shipwrecks Act (1981) was introduced. The HMAS Goorangai is now protected under the Victorian Heritage Act (1995) and it is an offence to disturb or remove any material from the site. The Court of Marine Inquiry initially blamed both vessels with Capt.Lloyd of the Duntroon found guilty of misconduct. However he was later exonerated by the Court with faulty positioning of lights on the Goorangai cited as the prime cause of the accident. A censorship ban was invoked by Naval Board until next-of-kin informed, setting a precedent for similar cases and for casualties in action. Registration Certificate cancelled 2 Nov. 1942. Reportedly demolished by explosives Jan. 1941 but still buoyed until March 1942. Only six bodies were recovered at the time.
Voyage Details  
Date Lost 20/11/1940
Voyage from Queenscliff to Portsea
Cargo
Minesweeping gear
Owner Cam & Sons Ltd Pty Ltd, requisitioned by RAN 8/9/1939
Master of Vessel Warrant Officer David McGregor, RANR
Weather conditions
Night, brownout conditions
Cause of Loss
Collision with Duntroon in South Channel . Struck amidships, the Goorangai sank in less than 1 minute. Had been showing a minimum of lights. The Duntroon was completely blacked out
Further Details  
Number of Passengers 0
Number of Crew Members 24
Comments on Crew Members
Lost with all hands. G. Boyle, A. Carter, J. Dungey, H. Gilroy, F. Hack, W. Johnston, A. Ladlow, D. McGregor, M. Madden, K. Matheson, R. Redman, F. Wadds, B. Buchanan, C. Cox, N. Farquharson, C. Green, H. Johnson, A. Kemp, A. MacDonell, E. McLaughlan, L. Mainsbridge, J. Moxey, J. Sanders, R. Wardrop