27ft Montagu Whaler (Source HMAS Castlemaine)

Date of Event: December 1942

Vessel type: 27ft Montagu Whaler

Location: Timor Sea 400km from Darwin

Suggested title: Royal Australian Navy Survival Story


With their ship, HMAS Armidale sunk in battle. The two boats (one broken) were the survivors only hope.

The 27ft Montagu whaleboat was in poor condition, just buoyant lying one metre under the water.
Turned upside down and the sailors stuffed pieces of clothing into the bullet holes. The largest single hole measured 250mm x 300mm was patched with a piece of timber and fastening with “robbed” copper nails from the boat and attached using improvised tools.

The sailors treaded water and lifted the boat while the boat was bailed of water. Although the whaleboat was in bad condition 29 loaded into the boat and paddled toward Darwin while being continuously bailed.

When the whaleboat men were rescued, the whaleboat was attempted to be lifted from the water, it crumbled and broke up. Of a total of 149 soldiers and sailors there were just 49 survivors using their “Floated Boats”.

Interesting anecdote

The collective effort and resourcefulness of the sailors allowed for some to be rescued while many were destined to lose their lives.

A whaler (circled) identical to that on sistership to the Armidale on Museum Ship ex-HMAS Castlemaine open on weekends, located at Williamstown Victoria. (Source HMAS Castlemaine)

Montagu 27ft whaler being sailed. Imagine the congestion when the Armidale’s whaler 29 souls. (Source HMAS Castlemaine)

In the whaler, Lieutenant Palmer said: “If we get out of this alive, I will buy the Melbourne blokes a dinner at the Menzies Hotel. This photo was taken at the dinner, the officer is seated. (Source Navy Website)

The ex-HMAS Castlemaine rebuilt whaler. (Source HMAS Castlemaine)

Artists impression of the whaler. (Source Jan Senbergs)





Please briefly note any objects (artefacts, images or other collection items) associated with the story

An example of the 27ft Montagu Whaler is available to be inspected every weekend at the HMAS Castlemaine museum ship at Williamstown Victoria.

Name of person submitting the story

Andrew Campbell


AMMC Member Institution

Individual Member

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