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  MV Mamutu

300 Tons
113' x 25

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Martin Clemens c1939

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RAN c1942
Ship History
Built in Hong Kong during 1938. Owned by Burns Philp & Company as an inter island trader operating in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Wartime History
During the war, impressed into service under the command of Captain J. McEachern. During 1941 operated as a stores issuing Ship for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Used as a transport operating from northern Australia and southern New Guinea during 1942.

On August 6, 1942 departs Port Moresby bound for Daru with a crew of 32 transporting 82 passengers (included 28 children and ten Europeans.

Sinking History
On August 7, 1942 at 10:34am local time this vessel was spotted by Japanese submarine RO-33 and chased. By 11:00am, halfway across the Gulf of Papua at roughly 9° 11' S, 144° 12'E the submarine was spotted and the ship's wireless operator R. J. Furbank sent a Morse code message to Port Moresby to advise of the enemy threat.

RO-33 closed at about 19 knots and began shelling with the deck gun. The first shot hit the radio room and killed Furbank. The second shot hit the bridge killing Captain J. McEachern and others hit the hull, killing and wounding the passengers and leaving the ship sinking.

Wartime accounts claim RO-33's captain Kuriyama ordered his crew to machine gun the survivors. Yet, the account of the sole survivor and Japanese sources dispute this claim, rather the submarine used only the deck gun.

MV Oliver Tomkins under the command of Lt. A. L. Ethell departed Daru at 1:45pm to search for survivors of the sinking off Bramble Bay, but encountered rough seas and bad weather over 36 hours and covered roughly 250 miles. Also, MV Reliance searched from Murray Island to search for survivors, but found nothing.

A B-17 Flying Fortress located survivors and dropped life rafts to them. On August 8, 1942 in the morning S23 "Calypso" A18-11 attempted to rescue survivors but was damaged landing in heavy seas and sank, killing one of the crew.

Fates of the Crew
Only 28 survived the sinking. One survivor was Bill Griffin. Twenty-seven survived by drifting to the coast of New Guinea on the life rafts and were rescued. One was rescued by a RAAF aircraft.

ANGAU Diary "Search for Survivors from MV Mamutu" pages 97 - 98
AWM "In the matter of the loss of the M.V. "Mamutu" Before G.C. O'Donnell Lieut. Assistant District Officer"
Wrecks & Reefs page 199 - 207
Oz @ War - Mamutu sunk by Japanese submarine RO-33 north of Murray Island 7 August 1942
Combined Fleet: HIJMS Submarine RO-33: Tabular Record of Movement (via Wayback)
"Authors' Notes: Author and historian Kimata Jiro dismisses any notion about the gunning of the survivors as wartime propaganda. Once the MAMUTU was seen to go down, the sub immediately left the area because an SOS had been sent and planes could arrive at any minute."
Passengers In History - Mamutu
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional research and analysis

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Last Updated
August 4, 2021


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August 8-11, 1942
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