Mistaken Identity or Calculated Cruelty?

Dureenbee with her funnel blown off, aground on the Richmond bombora north of Batemans Bay.

Nationality: Australian

Vessel type: 223 tons  35.6 metre iron screw steamer, trawler, built at State Dockyard, Newcastle.

Date lost: 3rd August 1942   

Cause of loss: Japanese submarine attack, crew rescued, vessel drifted and ran aground.

Number of Casualties: 3 killed, 3 injured.

Discovery date (if applicable): N/A

Location/water depth: Richmond Bombora off Batemans Bay, South Coast NSW

On 3rd August 1942, Dureenbee’s eleven man crew were casting nets twenty miles off Moruya Heads, NSW.  Simultaneously patrolling in the early hours, was Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-175.

The raider attacked.  Circling, for 45 minutes cannon and machine guns raked her superstructure, leaving the crippled vessel without wheelhouse, wireless or lifeboat.

The little trawler Mirrabooka, sailed from Moruya on a rescue mission.  With lights ablaze to attract survivors, they risked attack and fought rough seas, courageously rowing backwards and forwards between the trawlers.

Three of the Dureenbee's fishermen died, and were buried with Merchant Navy markers in Moruya cemetery.

Was the Dureenbee mistaken for sister ship Goonambee,  converted to a minesweeper in 1940? Or was it cold-blooded, opportunistic ‘target practice’ for a bored crew?

The vessel drifted for 45k, running aground and breaking her back on the Richmond Bombora, off North Head, Batemans Bay.


Smoko and More

The Dureenbee's whistle was salvaged and became the factory whistle at Perry's Timber Mill. Echoing across the township, it was the Bay's default timekeeper for 50 years.

HMAS Goonambee, commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy as an auxiliary minesweeper in 1940. Sister ship of the Durreenbee. 

Objects of interest (artefacts, images or other collection items) associated with the shipwreck story.  

Dureenbee's steamer whistle (Museum collection)
Articles retrieved from NLA Trove and local publications

AMMC Member Institution  

The Old Courthouse Museum

submitted by Lesley Billings

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