- Swinden, Greg
- Biographies and personal histories, Early warships
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Penguin I, HMAS Psyche
- June 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Penguin was the depot ship based at Garden Island in Sydney and many men who were sick and in hospital were nominally posted to her. It is unlikely Hanlon ever went onboard Penguin but instead went straight into hospital. Any administrative paperwork on him though would have been handled by Penguin. Interestingly enough the current HMAS Penguin (a shore base located at Balmoral) also fulfils this role.
The next information received on Hanlon was from Mrs Nalda Biela. Nalda had worked at Garrawarra for several years and was now employed at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital, and my letter had been passed on to her there. An amateur historian, Nalda had rescued the Sanatorium’s records before they were consigned to the rubbish heap and had retained them. Among the records were Hanlon’s admission papers which revealed more about him.
Hanlon was admitted to Waterfall Sanatorium on 4 May 1916. Prior to this he had spent six weeks at Rookwood Sanatorium. He was aged 19, a Roman Catholic and gave his next of kin as his sister Nellie Hanlon then aged 14. His last address was HMS Psyche (sic) which would seem to indicate that he had been posted to Penguin in name only.
The records also stated that he had been in Australia for one year and 11 months indicating he arrived in this country in about June 1914. His father was listed as William Hanlon (deceased), a horse dealer and his mother as Mary Hanlon (nee Dixon) who was also deceased. Hanlon’s occupation was given as Fireman Australian Navy (Fireman being the Merchant Navy terminology for a Stoker; those who worked in the engine room and stoked the boilers).
The Sanatorium at Waterfall had commenced operation in 1909 as the Hospital for Consumptives (Tuberculosis was originally known as Consumption) and by 1919 was the largest Sanatorium in NSW, accommodating 788 patients both male and female. The patients were treated with `periods of graduated exercise, diet, fresh air, sunshine and light and rest when necessary’. Waterfall’s position, far from the centre of Sydney in a natural bush location, made it an ideal spot for the Sanatorium. It was also a case of `out of sight – out of mind’.
The patients at Waterfall were classified as one of three types – `the hopeful cases likely to improve, the chronic cases that cannot improve though they may live for years and the advanced cases that will soon die’. It appears Hanlon was in the latter group as on 2 September 1916 at the age of 19 years and 9 months he died. He was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the cemetery, attached to the Sanatorium, on 5 September. The attending clergyman was a Reverend O’Connell and the witnesses were an A. Handcock and an A. Douglass. The undertaker employed was a Mr Charles MacDermott.
It is unlikely anyone from Penguin attended the funeral, as Hanlon was only posted to that ship for administrative reasons and any shipmates he had in Psyche would have been unable to attend as the ship was still in South East Asia and did not return to Australia until 1917. Hanlon’s Navy Service Record was marked to note him as D.D. (Discharged Dead) on 2 September 1916 and his Service Certificate (a record of his time in the Navy) was forwarded to his next of kin.
Nalda Biela also advised me that the Waterfall Cemetery still existed, but it was overgrown and in very poor state of repair. She also said the cemetery was difficult to find and that once found it would be almost impossible to find Hanlon’s grave as most of the headstones had been destroyed by the ravages of time and vandals.
Undeterred, and armed with a map of the cemetery and some rough directions from Nalda, my family and I embarked on yet another mystery tour. On arrival at Garrawarra I followed the directions I had, but after an hour’s fruitless search had not located the cemetery. Fortunately an elderly lady tending her horses in a nearby paddock took pity on me and showed me where the entrance to the cemetery was. The entrance was indeed overgrown and difficult to find. The path through the cemetery was also overgrown and at times I was on my hands and knees crawling along it.