It was with considerable interest that I read your article “Torpedoing of S.S. Ormiston 1943″ by L.A. d’Alpuget, Lieut. RANVR (Rtd) in the Naval Historical Review Vol 21 No 4 2000. Ormiston, a passenger ship of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company (AUSN) was my first ship at sea as a Cadet, and I had transferred from her to the cargo ship S.S. Macumba less than three months prior to her torpedoing. (Macumba, in turn, was bombed and sunk in the Arafura Sea, again, after I had left her, and this good luck continued with me during my wartime Merchant Navy service!).
I am delighted that the NHR should see fit to publish such an article, and I hope Mr d’Alpuget will not mind if I add a few amendments to his very good story.
Ormiston had sailed south from Brisbane as Commodore Ship in an 11-ship convoy. In the Coffs Harbour area a torpedo crossed ahead of Ormiston; struck the side of S.S. Caradale but failed to explode. Ormiston, not so fortunate, was struck at 1412 hours on March 12, 1943. The escort corvette HMAS Ballarat’s First Lieutenant, Lieut. C. Donald Dykes RANR (Seagoing) – also a pre-war AUSN Cadet – was, within the hour, onboard Ormiston to ascertain from Captain Harry (“Bull”) Raven if he required specialised assistance. I am indebted to my old shipmate and good friend of many decades, Donald Dykes, now a retired Torres Strait Pilot, for his details of the torpedoing.
It’s a small point, but Ormiston had only steel derricks, hence no crane nor jib was onboard. Also, tallow being the messy product that it is, certainly in those days, was only carried in casks or drums.
Ormiston did manage to successfully steam to Sydney entirely under her own power. The salvage tug Sprightly was in attendance, as were her two escorts, HMAS Ballarat and the destroyer USS Henley.
With kind regards … and I think your magazine is splendid.
Herb Bolles (Capt. M.N. Retd)