HMAS AIR MERCY
63 FOOT AIR SEA RESCUE BOAT
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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Air-Sea Rescue Boats (63 Foot)

 

HMAS Air Mercy (925) was built by Fellows & Stewart Inc, USA. It was commissioned on 28 February 1945.

Frank O'Brien operated as the Coxswain on the Fuel Barge at Madang that provided the fuel for Martin Mariners, Catalinas and Sunderlands, as well a RAN Air Sea Rescue vessel No.925, "Air Mercy" (Lt. Bill David as Skipper) for this boat used aviation fuel.

The following is from Leslie R. Jubbs' book "Marine Section - The Forgotten Era of Men & Vessels":-

Royal Australian Navy

 Air Sea Rescue Boat No.925

 "Air Boat"

Lieutenant W.E. (Bill) David was posted to Sydney from Fremantle as Skipper of "Air Mercy" No.925, a 63 foot U.S.A. built Air Sea Rescue Boat. His Crew included Petty Officer Jack Bosanko Royal Navy, who had been Coxswain for Louis Mountbattern, seven RAN seamen and two RAAF Wireless Air Gunners, who had recently returned from training in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS).

The boat was 63 foot long with two 600Hp Hall Scott engines and having a cruising range of 14.5 hours, but capable of speeds up to 33 knots.

A great deal of work had to be done to prepare "Air Mercy" for a long voyage for she had been on a mooring for a considerable length of time. Once stores and supplies were safely stowed onboard together with all the navigation charts and gear Bill made ready to depart.

"Air Mercy" and her new Crew, with a temporary Skipper, left Sydney in April 1945 while Lt. Bill David attended a special course in Sydney. On competition of the course Bill rejoined Air Mercy in Brisbane and took over command on 29 April 1945, and proceeded up the east coast calling into a number of Ports and Marine Section Bases until they reached Thursday Island. From here they set sail for Port Moresby where Air Mercy joined several Air Boats on 11 June 1945.

After reporting to the Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) Lt Commander Williams he indicated that all Air Boats should depart as soon as possible to take up their respective duties. Air Mercy departed Port Moresby after A.B. Fuller and Stoker Hammil had visited the Base Sick Bay.

After refuelling in Milne Bay their next port was Oro Bay, a busy United States supply distribution centre. From there Air Mercy sailed up the East Coast of New Guinea only calling into ports to take on fuel and needed supplies and collect sailing orders. Arrival in Madang was on 24 June 1945 after a rough voyage.

Bill visited AOR SQNLDR Allison in charge of No.42 OBU Marine Section and there made contact with SQNLDR Moir and PLTOFF Baker regarding a mooring.

Bill then proceeded to Alexshaven where Air Mercy entered a small floating dock where the port propeller was replaced. While these repairs were being completed the Crew had an opportunity to visit the RAAF Air Strip some 10 miles inland to see a picture show. Both Air Boats 916 and 920 were also in port being fitted out. The Crew repainted the bottom of the hull of Air Mercy then returned to Madang where they had to paint the boat with the new yellow paint.

The sudden arrival of two months of personal mail brought a temporary halt to painting so that serious reading could be accomplished.

A general clean up of the ship was ordered followed by a "rounds" (inspection) with the Coxswain Petty Officer Bosanko found everything in good order. Bill was hopeful that the RAAF Marine Section would install a refrigerator. One evening the Navy entertained every one after the Madang Sailing Club had conducted a race.

The following morning after stores and supplies were taken on board Air Mercy sailed for Alexshaven with Commander Reid and McLean, BEO Lt Kershall and party for the "Lolita" Enquiry. A few days later Air Boat 910 finally arrives from Milne Bay. Lt Bill David  made a visit to RAAF No.111 Flight Air Sea Rescue Catalinas and saw a Cat. being brought up the new slipway. A dinner with the Cat. Crew followed, but was interrupted by a signal that a Kittyhawk had come down in the sea to the north/east. FLTLT Miller immediately took off for the search.

Bill moved Air Mercy to the RAAF Marine Section to have a new Radio Compass fitted which was followed by a trip to Rimu with a party and the Adjutant to swing the compass. On 1 August Bill flew to Wewak in the ASR Catalina "Gibson Girl" with the Skipper Gordon Straits, which gave Bill an excellent introduction to the coastline, the smoking volcano on Manuum Island, and the Ramu and Sepick Rivers. A bumpy landing in a cross swell at Wewak was an introduction to Catalina flying for Bill. At the Stores Depot Bill was issued with new jungle green before reporting to Headquarters. Roads and facilities were being constructed to make Wewak an important Stores Centre.

Japanese were still active in the hills overlooking Wewak as well as several hundred still occupying two islands a few miles up the coast. "Gibson Girl's" arrival back was greeted by a band and special Parade but it was not for Bill and the Catalina Crew but for General Robinson whose arrival had been delayed by an hour. The Catalina, with Bill on board took off for Annauling Lake where he again was most impressed by the two great river systems.

Next morning a signal arrived directing Bill to take the NOIC of New Guinea to Alexishafen at 0900 hours but an electrical fault prevented this so 910 "Air Speed" was given the job. Bill David was given a "blast" from the Port Director for not having the electrical fault corrected the day before.

Bill went to meet the new CO, FLTLT Hoare at the AOR where he was given the job of taking a bomb disposal party to Karkar. Major Moyes, ANGAU Headquarters had a very pretty place set out like a park. On 5 August with water tanks filled, a Naval Party Delegation joined the RAAF Group for the delousing of bombs and departed Madang for Alexishafen. From there they moved onto Dogowan plantation where four bombs were set off. Bill experienced some problem with the starboard rudderpost binding but this was rectified. Stores were then delivered to Mr Cameron and Mr Carpenter at Marangi Plantation and then followed by a visit to Kallili Plantation. Although some slept ashore there was hardly any room on board. More bombs were destroyed the day following. Just before arriving back at Alexishaven Air Mercy struck a log that set up heavy vibrations, which was attended, to once back in port.

Great News, the Atom Bombs.

A radio news programme announced the dropping of the Atom bombs and the subsequent Japanese surrender, which was greeted with cheers and rockets, flares and guns. A big party was organized at No.111 ASR Flight and a sports day kept many occupied. Bill visited the Base Hospital to see Brian Ryan, who was being sent home on HMAS Diamantina, then spent the evening at HMAS Madang with Lt. Arnold, RMS.

Air Mercy was ordered to Alexishafen to have both propellers replaced. While there news was received that Japan accepted the Surrender Treaty so the Crew had a day and a half off so most went to a picture show at No.42 OBU.

A game of softball was organized between No.42 OBU Marine Section and the Crew of No.925 Air Mercy and the Navy won both games 6 to 3 and 5 to 2.

The arrival of the English singer Gracie Fields resulted in a Concert for all the surrounding Units. Bill David orders to relieve Sub Lt.Madderson and No.916 Air Trail at Middleburg Island. On 19 August the Ship's Crew visited a native "sing sing" at Goom the ANGAU Village and witnessed a very colourful spectacle. Every village had its own contribution to make and that evening was spent at the Navy picture venue with the ASR Officers.

Next day Air Mercy refuelled and took on supplies and departed Madang and sailed for Wewak calling into Alexishaven to see the Engineer to have the ship's telegraph controls repaired. The following morning was bright and crisp with the mainland covered in mist for their departure. Three hours later Manum Island was abeam to starboard. A great deal of driftwood was encountered off the Sepik River mouth and by 1400 hours anchored off Cape Moem and made a request for fuel. A Landing Barge carrying carrying a tanker truck came along side and commenced refueling Air Mercy.

Next day all the Crew were issued with new clothing from the "Q" Store before sailing onto Aitape Cove. Gracie Fields was giving a Concert that night but the Air Mercy Crew stayed onboard and listened to the concert through the radio while the rain poured down.

Departed next morning for Hollandia arriving there at 1240 hours and Dave met the Officer in Charge Lt. Commander Gaskin, who had been the "Jimmy the One" at Leeuwin when the NAP was formed. Four hours later set sail for Tanah Merah Bay and covered 188 miles that day. The trip to Mios Waendi ended in running aground on a large mud bank where they remained until high tide rose. Floating trees and debris was everywhere so caution was required but later speed was increased to 20 knots. By early afternoon they were moored to the U.S. Base, P.T. Boat Jetty where Dave met Lt. Nimrod Sharol and taken to a very posh Officers' Club. While there the Crew entertained the Crew of an American ASR Boat, who traded a new propeller for six bottle of beer. The U.S. Boat were waiting to leave for the Philippines and by travelling light could make 35 knots and have a range of 500 miles.

Meos Woendi proved to be an excellent harbour enclosed by a ring of reefs. There was a hive of industry and had every sort of repair workshop and a vast array of recreational facilities. Electric light was provided for night tennis and horseshoe pitching. On 26 August Air Mercy departed and two hours later moored along side 916 Air Trail in Sorido Harbour (Biak) where SQNLDR Allenson and Lt. Tissdale were waiting on No.5 wharf to take Bill to the Port Director. After dining with the Dutch Officers Bill David flew in a Beaufort Bomber to Middleburg Island and stayed with No.46 OBU.

Bill's task was to find suitable anchorages and finally settled for a small coral reef in 5 fathoms of water. Because of the boisterous winds that come off the 9000 foot mountains could cause mooring problems. The day following Bill again departed in the Beaufort and the Pilot gave Bill a good look at the shores of the Dutch New Guinea and Noemfoor Island before landing back on Biak's Mokmer Aerodrome. After reporting his findings to SQNLDR Allenson Bill discovered his Crewman Stoker Hammil had been taken to the 17 U.S. General Hospital with Malaria. Two hours later 925 Air Mercy departed for Mios Woendi to make contact with a Catalina that had flown up from Madang to search for an aircraft down some where between there and Morotai. Bill then returned to Sorido Harbour.

A signal from the Navy instructed Bill David to take his ship to Middleburg and Amsterdam Islands to make a detailed survey for aircraft moorings but none were found. During the following months Lt. Bill David and his Crew took Air Mercy back and forwards from Biak to Manus Base calling into the intermediate places and ports under the instruction of the Naval Officer in Charge of the Area.

Japanese Officers

On 11 September 1945 Lt.Bill David received instructions to return a group of Japanese Officers from Biak to their Base at Manokowari.

 

                 Allied Passengers were:

                Major Patrick            U.S. Forces

               Major Simons           N.E.I.

               SQNLDR Allenson   RAAF

               Captain Dixon          RAN

               Lt. Tisdale                RAN

 

Posting Home

On the 7 February 1946 Bill took the replacement Crew and new Skipper, Lt R. Trimble for a shake down trip to introduce them to 925 Air Mercy.

The following day found Bill David with his sea chest and personal luggage packed left his quarters on Air Mercy having spent an interesting ten months visiting a great many places, meeting many personnel from different Services and visiting different countries.

Lt.Bill David had a close association with the RAAF Air Sea Rescue Flights and the RAAF Marine Section Units which all played a very important role in his Tour of Duty.

The Skipper of 925 Air Mercy departed for Australia and Discharge.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

Royal Australian Navy A - Z, Ships, Aircraft and Shore Establishments
by J.H. Straczek

 

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This page first produced 24 February 2008

This page last updated 24 February 2008