HMAS Goorangai chopped in two by M.V. Duntroon. Small Mine Sweeper first RAN ship lost in WW2

Goorangai in her role as a fishing trawler.
Goorangai in her role as a fishing trawler.
HMAS Goorangai, of only 223 tons, fitted out as an auxiliary mine sweeper, on the night of the 20th. of November 1940, in a southerly gale, was chopped in two by the Motor Vessel Duntroon, and quickly sank with her entire crew of 24.

Early life.
Goorangai was built in 1919 at the New South Wales State Dockyard in Newcastle.

A small ship, 112 feet long, with a beam a shade over 22 feet, was sold in 1926 to Cam and Sons Pty Limited of Sydney, and was refitted for her role as a fishing trawler.

War comes in September 1939.
In September 1939, Australia joined Canada and New Zealand to go to war with Britain against Germany.

SS Cambridge sunk by German laid mines off Cape Otway November 1940.
SS Cambridge sunk by German laid mines
The Royal Australian Navy was deficient of ships capable of mine sweeping, and 30 small privately owned vessels were requisitioned by the Australian Government to be fitted out for a mine sweeping role.

Cam and Sons P/L, who ran a number of fishing trawlers out of Sydney Harbour, were to provide the greatest number of ships for this project, as 8 of their trawlers were taken up, Goorangai amongst them.

These mine sweepers were in the main, crewed by officers and sailors from the Royal Australian Navy Reserve, and Goorangai was no exception, she carried three officers and twenty one sailors, all reservists, except for David McGregor, a Scot, who had been skipper of Goorangai in her trawling capacity. He was signed on by the RAN as skipper with the rank of Commissioned Warrant Officer.

German contact mine from WW2. These mines were moored at a depth where a ship would strike one of the mine's horns which would then explode the mine under the ship, ripping open her hull.
German contact mine from WW2
German mine laying operations in Bass Strait.
The German Armed Merchant Raider Pinguin, had captured the Norwegian tanker Storstad, renamed her Passat, which in German, means Trade Wind, and she was turned into an Auxiliary Mine Layer.

Passat now sowed her deadly load of mines off Wilson’s Promontory and Cape Otway, on the southern coast of Victoria, over the nights of the 29th. 30th. and 31st. of October 1940.

These fields soon claimed two victims over the 7th. and 8th. of November 1940, the steamer Cambridge off Wilson’s Promontory, and the City of Rayville, an American freighter off Cape Otway, the latter ship, the first US ship to be sunk in WW2.

Goorangai among sweepers ordered to locate and clean up Bass Strait minefields.
Three mine sweepers, Goorangai, Orana, and Durraween, were ordered to get out into Bass Strait, locate and sweep up these mine fields before they claimed any futher ships.

Cape Otway lighthouse.
Cape Otway lighthouse.
Goorangai chopped up by Duntroon.
On the night of the 20th. of November 1940, a southerly gale was in full cry in Port Phillip Bay, Goorangai was enroute from Queenscliff crossing the bay to Portsea, a distance of about 5 nautical miles, where she intended anchoring for the night, prior to yet another day of mine sweeping to keep the shipping lanes open, she was under way without lights.

The 10,346 ton Motor Vessel and Troop Transport Duntroon, loaded with troops, was on her way down the Bay, to clear the Rip at Port Phillip Heads and sail to Sydney.

At 2037 ( 8.37 PM ) she struck Goorangai amidships, quickly chopped her in half, and the small mine sweeper sank in under a minute, taking her entire crew of 24 with her, there were no survivors.

The Queencliff life boat to the rescue.
Within 15 minutes, the life boat Queenscliffe was on the scene, and Duntroon had quickly lowered boats, but only the tops of Goorangai’s masts were visible, she had sunk in 15 metres of water.

Only 6 bodies were recovered, and but 5 could be identified, the unidentified body was buried at sea.

Duntroon was forced to return to Melbourne for repairs to her bow, and did not sail again until the 18th. of December.

MV Duntroon who ran down the MineSweeper HMAS Goorangai
on the 20th. November 1940 killing all her crew.
Duntroon in Bass Strait being towed to Hong Kong in 1960 by the tug Ajax.

My friend Don Boyle, is the son of Lieutenant Commander G. Boyle, who was the
minesweeping officer in Goorangai at the time, and he died with all her

Thanks to Rick Itenson for his photo,
at the time he was the third Mate in
the tug.

Duntroon again in strife.
Duntroon was again in strife in November 1943, the troopship this time, in collision with the US Destroyer USS Perkins, killing 5 of her crewmen.

Blasting the wreck of Goorangai.
The wreck of Goorangai sitting close to the shipping channels near the Port Phillip Heads was a menace to ships seeking to either enter or exit the Bay.

In January of 1941 the wreck was reduced to small pieces by blasting, and on the 16th. of November 1995 the site was declared an Historic Ship Wreck.

Memorial Cairn at Queenscliff.
In 1981, a memorial cairn was erected at Queenscliff, on the foreshore and overlooking the site where Goorangai was sunk. It is here, some short distance from the Goorangai cairn, that the cairn for all of the Royal Australian Navy’s WW2 cruisers was recently both built and dedicated.

All the crew members killed when Goorangai was run down by Duntroon are recorded on her cairn, they are:

G. Boyle, A.Carter, H. Gilroy, F. Hack, A. Ladlow, D. McGregor, K. Matheson, E. McLaughlin ( note that on the Goorangai Cairn plaque at Queenscliffe, this surname is  incorrectly spelt as McLaughlan ), R. Redman, B. Buchanan, C. Cox, C. Green, H. Johnson, A. MacDonnell, J. Moxey, J. Saunders, J. Dungey, W. Johnston, M. Madden, F. Wadds, N. Farquharson, A. Kemp, L. Mainbridge, and R. Wadrop.

Bell from M.V.Duntroon.
The bell from the M.V.Duntroon is now mounted on the parade ground of the Royal Military College Duntroon at Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory.

Bell from MV Duntroon mounted to left of flagpole at Royal Military College Duntroon, Canberra.
Bell from MV Duntroon

It was not the hazardous task of mine sweeping that claimed HMAS Goorangai, but MV Duntroon who sliced her in half.

This small ship became the first Royal Australian Navy ship to be lost in WW2, and took her entire crew with her to the bottom of Port Phillip Bay on that fateful night of the 20th. of November 1940.


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