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341.9' x 51.2' x 22.1'
Burns Philp 1931
RAN April 12, 1942
Parer June 18, 1942
5th AF Dec 5, 1942
8th PRS 1943
Frances Lasker 1947
Andrew Wright 1994
Justin Taylan 2000
Justin Taylan 2005
Google Earth Jan 6, 2021
Built by Clydeside shipbuilders Barclay Curle & Company in Glasgow, Scotland. Laid down as yard number 644. Launched December 23, 1930 as MV Macdhui owned by Burns Philp Company, Ltd. During March 1931 departs Glasgow loaded with coat on her maiden voyage and steams via the Azores and Jamaica then transits the Panama Canal to the Pacific via Suva before reaching Sydney Harbor. Afterwards, used for passenger and cargo service between Sydney Harbor and New Guinea. The vessel had 167 first class passenger accommodations.
On June 20, 1931 a fire broke out between Madang and Lae and the passengers were safely taken ashore in lifeboats. Afterwards, towed by MV Neptuna to Salamaua for temporary repairs then returned to Sydney Harbor for six weeks of additional repairs.
Commandeered by the Australian Navy, MV Macdhui was placed under the command of Captain J. Campbell. At the start of World War II, Macdhui steamed to Manila to evacuate civilians to Port Moresby. Also, to evacuate woman and children from Rabaul and outlying areas to Port Moresby and then to Townsville. Those evacuated included four hundred survivors from RMS Rangitane sunk by German Raiders them left on Emirau Island.
Operating as a military transport, Macdhui operated between Sydney Harbor and northern Australia transporting supplies and personnel to Port Moresby. On April 12, 1942 Australian personnel evacuated from New Britain aboard HMAS Laurabada were embarked aboard Macdhui at Port Moresby then transported to Townsville.
During May 31, 1942 to June 1, 1942 delayed at Sydney Harbor due to the Japanese Midget submarines attack. On June 6, 1942 joined a convoy bound with a cargo of aviation fuel. At Townsville, embarks 154 Australian Army 39th Battalion soldiers then departs bound for Port Moresby and enters Fairfax Harbor on June 15, 1942 at 5:00pm.
On June 17, 1942 docked in Fairfax Harbor off Port Moresby unloading her cargo of 44 gallon drums of aviation fuel when a Japanese air raid commenced by G4M1 Bettys escorted by A6M2 Zeros. Getting underway, Macdhui maneuvered inside the confines of Fairfax Harbor to avoid the bombs but sustained damage when a bomb exploded in the stateroom and results in ten crew killed and wounded. That night, the vessel docked again at Port Moresby.
The bombing and sinking results in four Killed In Action (KIA):
1st Steward Herbert Christopher Smith
Surgeon Charles Augustus Tunstall
Steward 1st Class William John Barritt
T/Capt Murdoch Ross Macleod, VX129334 39th Battalion
On June 18, 1942 twenty-seven G4M1 Bettys from the 4th Kokutai (4th Air Group) led by Lt Renpei Egawa took off from Vunakanau Airfield near Rabaul on a bombing mission against Port Moresby. Spotting Macdhui, they released their bombs at the vessel and bracketed the ship and scored hits amidships. The bombs set the ship ablaze and resulted in a loss of rudder control and began to drift inside Fairfax Harbor.
During the attack, four went Missing In Action (MIA), one was Killed In Action (KIA) and six were Wounded In Action (WIA), three later died of their wounds:
Able Seaman William Fiddes (MIA June 18, 1942)
Steward Bowman James Lawson (MIA June 18, 1942)
Second Officer David Hamilton Rawson (MIA June 18, 1942)
Butcher Arthur Thomas Richards (MIA June 18, 1942)
Waiter Henry Rosen (KIA June 18, 1942)
Steward 1st Class Wilfred George Drury (WIA June 18, 1942 died June 20, 1942)
Lt Edward Bassett Money, VX129330 39th Battalion (WIA June 18, 1942 died June 21, 1942)
Steward 1st Class Richard Herbert Saville (WIA June 18, 1942 died June 22, 1942)
A/Sgt Ronald Malcolm Stewart, VX129390 39th Battalion (WIA June 18, 1942)
Pte Donald Gilbert Tucker, VX129391 39th Battalion (WIA June 18, 1942)
T/Cpl Stanley Arthur Watson, VX129392 39th Battalion (WIA June 18, 1942)
Meanwhile, Australian correspondent Damien Parer recorded 16mm cine film and photographs from a nearby hill documenting the bombing and sinking. The bombing and sinking was visible to many Allied personnel stationed in the vicinity or anyone in the Port Moresby area. Captain J. Campbell ordered the crew to abandon ship using life rafts.
Fates of the Crew
The surviving crew used life boats to reach shore and were aided by Allied personnel including three Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) medical officers assisted the surviving crew as they reached shore.
The four crew Killed In Action (KIA) June 17, 1942 are buried at Bomana War Cemetery: Smith at B1.A.13. Tunstall at B1.A.13. Barritt at B1.A.12. Macleod at A1. A. 9.
The four Missing In Action (MIA) and four Killed In Action (KIA) and Wounded In Action (WIA) June 18, 1942 and later died of wounds are buried and memorialized at Bomana War Cemetery. Fiddeson, Lawson, Rawson and Richards are memorialized on the Port Moresby Memorial, panel 10. Rosen at B1. A. 23. Drury at B1. A. 16. Money at B1. A. 15. Saville at B1. A. 17.
The shipwreck of the MV Macdhui remains in Fairfax Harbor with her port side submerged with the starboard side above the surface at the edge of a coral reef.
After the sinking, the ship's bell inscribed "MACDHUI" was recovered from the shipwreck and displayed on a post at RAAF Air Sea Rescue marine section at Port Moresby. Postwar, the bell was donated to St. John's Church at Ela Beach.
In 1950, most of the bunker oil was removed from the shipwreck. In the 1960s, the main mast was salvaged and in 1971 installed as a flag pole outside the Royal Papuan Yacht Club (Port Moresby Yacht Club).
In 1970, Dave May and Barry May acquired the salvage rights to the shipwreck and attempted to blast off the propeller, causing an oil leak. For years into the colonial era, there was the false rumor that the ship was transporting beer for the Australian troops in the town.
Today, the shipwreck is a well known landmark clearly visible from the coastal road between Hanubada and Tatana Island. During the late 2010s, a small barge grounded near the bow and sank.
Also spelled "MacDhui" in some sources.
Wings Official Magazine of the RAAF "RAAF 'Fleet' Rescues" by P/O C. A. Burley page 10-11
"All calls to action are sounded at the Marine section on the bell of the SS [MV] Macdhui, whose flame-seared, rusted hull in Moresby Harbor is a grim reminder of the big 'DO.' "
Macdhui : Lloyd's Register of Ships
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1930) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1931) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1933-1934) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1934-1935) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1935-1936) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1937-1938) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1938-1939) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1939-1940) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1940-1941) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1941-1942) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1942-1943) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1943-1944) [PDF]
Lloyd’s Register of Ships - Macdhui (1944-1945) [PDF]
MV Macdhui Killed In Action & Wounded In Action June 17, 1942 and June 18, 1942
CWGC - Herbert Christopher Smith
CWGC - Charles Augustus Tunstall
CWGC - William John Barritt
CWGC - Murdoch Ross Macleod
CWGC - William Fiddes
CWGC - Bowman James Lawson
CWGC - David Hamilton Rawson
CWGC - Arthur Thomas Richards
CWGC - Henry Rosen
CWGC - Richard Herbert Saville
CWGC - Wilfred George Drury
CWGC - Edward Bassett Money
Shipping Times - MV Macdhui via Wayback Machine December 6, 2015
Passengers In History - Macdhui
Artwork "The bombing of the Macdhui" (AWM ART23685)
Artwork "The sunken 'Macdhui'" (AWM ART23636)
War Diary 1942 (1984) page 63
"18 Thursday [June 1942] 62nd raid: Macdhui sunk - Eighteen Japanese bombers raided again today and this time they made sure of the Macdhui. She suffered free direct hits and was ablaze from stem to stern when she drifted on to a reef near Fairfax Harbour and rolled over. She will be a total loss. Airacobras tackled the formation some distance from Moresby although outnumbered by more than two to one. One pilot got his cannon sights on to one Zero and saw it go down in flames. He later tackled a second Zero and saw it go down pouring smoke. Two other Zeros were hit, but when lost three fighters (the pilots of two bailed out) and another pilot was wounded."
New Guinea Salvage Pirate (2006) page 94
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