- Svensen, Randi
- History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2008 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
After about eight months of patrol in which neither paint nor any extensive engine repairs were made, owing to the impossibility of obtaining any facilities, the boats returned to Merauke.
AM1478 left Eilardon River and proceeded down the coast. The seas were high and a 50 miles an hour wind blowing, seas were short, jumbled and steep, and breaking, owing to the shallow sea hereabouts and many conflicting tides. AM1478 made 11 knots average and after 30 hours made the Mariana Strait, where one engine broke down, oil filters burst, which was to be expected after nearly nine months continuous running.
The pounding AM1478 took on this occasion was a real bashing. From the Marianas AM1478 was towed on four heavy towing lines by a 100 ton cargo vessel to Merauke. Again we struck adverse seas and high winds and even worse no crew on her, as the towing skipper deemed it unsafe. I watched her all night, and the battering on the tow lines was terrific and at 5 am all four parted in some enormous seas; when this happened we reported her lost. The last I saw of her was broadsides on and seas breaking over her.
However, on reaching Merauke, a plane was sent out and she was discovered 60 miles away high and dry on beach. I went out with a naval vessel to see what could be done and to see if we could salvage her.
On arrival we found her intact but half a mile from floatable water; the bilges had practically no water in them, and we decided to get her off. One engine was persuaded to start, and with the assistance of natives, we skull-dragged her through the surf and the engine just got us to the naval vessel where a very strong steel cable and new manila towing hawsers were placed on her, and we set off for Merauke. Again the seas got up, but the lines held and we made Merauke.
Here an accident, out of anyone’s control, occurred and in beaching her on the mud, some iron bolts in timber well sunk in mud pierced her hull. She was patched and made no water thereafter.
AM1477, in company with another small craft, left Marianas some three days later and struck similar bad weather off Mabooka Island; the other small boat sank and AM1477 effected a skilful and successful rescue under most difficult conditions, and made Merauke one day late.
AM1477 was then left to make her way into Thursday Island, as the crews preferred their chances on her, although the Sybia (about 1000 tons) offered to take them off. On one engine they made Thursday Island after four days.
AM1477 sailed to Brisbane, was refitted and is again back in the Islands on a job; she has had new engines.
Total length of patrol for both boats was about nine months and about 10,000 miles.
AMI477 has of course built up her mileage since then. As Officer in Charge of this patrol, I cannot speak too highly of the Halvorsen 38. She was asked for the almost impossible from her kind of boat and never failed us at any time, except for minor engine breakdowns.
I should like all to know who build and work at Halvorsens that the men who sail in their boats appreciate, as no other can, the strength and endurance of these small craft.
Harold also designed the 62 footers, classed as fast supply boats, though they were also used as fast ambulance vessels. Forty-three 62 footers were produced by Halvorsens—twenty-five for the United States Army and eighteen for the Australian army. Some were twin-screw petrol driven, producing a maximum speed of 27 knots, and others were twin or triple-screw diesel, with a maximum speed of 24 knots. They had a cargo hold, and some carried a half-ton capacity hand-operated cargo derrick. Their armament consisted of two Browning .5 machine-guns or three Vickers .303 twins.
The 62 footers had accommodation for a crew of eight (with the US vessels also carrying sixteen collapsible cots), but they could be controlled entirely by one man, either from the open bridge or the enclosed wheel house.
When General Sir Thomas Blamey arrived in Australia in March 1942 aboard the Queen Mary, to assume the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, he ordered a Halvorsen 62 footer. Its exterior was to be the same as other army boats, but inside she was to be fitted with motor cruiser fixtures and finish, and stateroom accommodation, rather than the standard service style. Perhaps he thought it fitting that the Commander-in-Chief should have more elaborate surroundings than his troops, but if anything, it appeared to have cemented opinion of him as someone who liked to use his rank and power to the full.