WW2 Australian Warship Which Sank In Darwin Harbor Looks Destined To Remain There For Good

HDML "1321" - 1945

The rescue of a part of Australia’s military past from the bottom of Darwin Harbour may not be realized. A Second World War boat, HDML 1321, sank there recently, and now this piece of Australia’s military history is facing a watery demise. The boat was known for ferrying the country’s elite Z Special Unit.

The boat was known for ferrying the country’s elite Z Special Unit. The Z Special Unit was an exclusive commando force started by the Australian Army and is considered as the beginning of the modern Special Airborne Service. Soldiers depended on custom designed vessels such as the HDML 1321 to execute secret operations in the Pacific Ocean.

Current owners Tracy Geddes and her mother Wendy had hopes of using the boat as a tourist attraction, but its sinking has left its future unclear. They purchased the boat because they wished to rescue the history and they invested a large amount of money, over $300,000, in the first couple of years to save the history it represents and now the boat may be gone. Now they are under growing pressure from the Darwin Port Authority to surface the boat in the next two weeks which will cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

The sunken boat inspired a campaign to preserve what is thought to be the last vessel of its kind in Australia. The HDML 1321 was a boat preferred by Australia’s elite Z Special Unit during World War II.

Following the war, the boat ended up in private hands.

In the last year of the war, eight commandos used 1321 to infiltrate enemy lines as part of Operation Copper in Papua New Guinea. All the commandos except one were killed.  He survived and had a tough journey to return to Allied lines with critical information he had concerning Japanese positions, their order of battle and strengths, explained Norman Cramp from the Darwin Military Museum. Soldiers relied on specially designed vessels like this one to allow them to undertake secret operations in the Pacific.

Ms. Geddes said she was not sure if the boat could be salvaged and has the impression the Port Authority may break it up for sale as scrap. They have the moral support of the Darwin Military Museum, but it is not possible for the museum to offer financial support, nor have they been asked to do so. They do not have the monetary resources to assist, Norman Cramp from the museum told ABC News.

But he does agree the boat should be protected.

“If the opportunity slides by to save a part of history, particularly wartime history and the connection to Z Commandos, it is gone for eternity,” he said.

A GoFundMe campaign has been started in an effort to generate funds for its recovery and repair.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE