SS BANTAM
IN AUSTRALIAN WATERS
DURING WWII

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SS Bantam (3322 tons), a former Dutch cargo ship, was requisitioned by the Allies during WWII. Defensive machine guns and anti-aircraft guns were installed. SS Bantam was used to deliver supplies to Milne Bay, including a cargo of fuel drums during late July 1942. SS Bantam participated in Operation Lilliput delivering supplies from Milne Bay to Oro Bay.

 


AWM ID Number: 302971

Dutch vessel SS Bantam. Note there were two Dutch
vessels named SS Bantam in Australian waters during WWII

 

On 28 March 1943, nine D3A Val dive bombers attacked Oro Bay while SS Bantam was alongside the liberty ship wharf unloading supplies. Seven bombs fell on or near SS Bantam. The forward of the bridge, No.3 hold and engine room suffered direct bomb hits, while two bombs that hit the liberty wharf tore a hole in the ship’s side on the waterline and began taking water rapidly. The ship caught fire as well as the liberty wharf which was burning out of control. The two pontoons of the wharf sank. SS Masaya was also sunk during this Japanese attack.

The Bantam was sinking and it was decided to beach her and a couple of large motor boats assisted in pulling the ship away from the wharf. HMAS Bowen went alongside and began to fight the fires. SS Bantam was beached at the head of Oro Bay.

 


AWM ID Number: 002018

SS Bantam on fire after being bombed by Japanese aircraft in an air
raid at Oro Bay during Operation Lilliput on 28 March 1943.

 

Later, the wreck of SS Bantam was raised and towed to Sydney. On 24 September 1946, the holds of SS Bantam were filled with 27,500 chemical rockets, 8,000 4.2 inch chemical mortars and High Explosive shells and scuttled 36 miles off Sydney. The SS Bantam may have also contained Smoke Curtain Installation (SCI) bombs from the RAAF CW stores at Picton.

RAAF CW Armourers were involved with the loading of the SS Bantam. According to the No. 1 CR Commanding Officer’s report of March 1946 all SCI stocks from Picton had been moved to the wharf for dumping. From March to July the RAAF gas weapons were loaded onto SS Bantam.

The SS Bantam had been towed to the position by the tug Tancred where an Australian Army scuttling party placed scuttling charge fuzes. Once these charges went off HMAS Condamine and HMAS Arunta were to carryout Fire Control firings at the sinking vessel. SS Bantam sank within 10 minutes of the scuttling charges going off and HMAS Murchison was not able to fire on the hulk before it disappeared below the ocean.

HMAS Condamine was however able to make some direct hits.  The following is reputedly detailed in ‘HMAS Condamine: Reports of Proceedings’ – “…..at 1705 when we engaged the Bantam, our first salvo was reported 100 yards over and Murchison observed 3 direct hits on Bantam. Due to the heavy swell firing conditions were most difficult” (From the notes of Major Chris Hely).

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Justin Taylan / Pacific Wrecks for his assistance with this web page.     Pacific Wrecks

 

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This page first produced 3 October 2009

This page last updated 04 October 2009