LVTs enter the water at Stockton

Nationality: Australian

Vessel type: Army amphibious vehicles

Date lost: 9 March 1954

Cause of loss: Accidental

Number of Casualties: 2 confirmed drownings plus 1 confirmed missing

Discovery date: April, 1974

Location/water depth: 15 Fathoms

On 8th March, 1954, one of Australia’s worst peacetime disasters happened off Morna Point NSW. At 2a.m. a convoy of 19 amphibious vehicles, - “DUKW” and LVT4 tanks set out from Horseshoe beach, Newcastle going north towards the ominously named “Cemetery Point”.

The 184 men consisted of regular army men, CMF and national servicemen. A squall developed and the seas suddenly became a fury. Some 100 soldiers were pitched into the heavy seas. The swamped vehicles had either capsized or nosedived into the deep waters of Stockton Bight. Eight vehicles simply disappeared, apparently lost forever.  Soldiers struggled to swim ashore, against all odds. Two persons were confirmed lost and one, Robert Alan Blackie went missing.

Salvage men later found his Mae West life jacket unbuckled, among retrieved army gear. Some wreckage in 1984 on Stockton Beach and more was observed 1987 in a marine archaeological dive. 

Ducks and buffaloes in dangerous games at sea; mother nature. Beware.

Future military exercises need to consider the following:

  • risk analysis report
  • the undertaking
  • training experience of men
  • appropriateness of task maintenance of vehicles
  • forecast detail source
  • review of preparedness of those involved
  • retrieval plan in advent of emergency situations


Two Amphibious DUKW’s training at Horseshoe Beach 1966 (Newcastle Herald 9 May 2014)


Pauline de Vos (Newcastle Morning Herald 29/3/14) examines deep water wreck of tank in 1987

Fishermen examine Driving Wheel and Tail-shaft of DUKW trawled up from Stockton Bight Waters

AMMC Member Institution

Port Stephens Historical Society Inc

submitted by Jan Corr

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