A period publicity shot of what appears to be the City of Rayville, date unknown. For a large view of the above shot click here.
These four ships were built by the Oscar Daniels Company, Ybor Channel, Tampa Florida as part of an order for twelve ships for delivery to the US Shipping Board. The first of the order was delivered in October 1919, the last during 1922. Delivery dates & hull numbers for the four vessels are:
Yomachichi - hull #1 - delivered October 1919
These were single screw cargo ships with a displacement of 9,500 tons, (GT 5,900 tons) and were originally powered by steam but later converted to diesel power. They were equipped with a Busch-Sulzer 3,000 bhp 6 cylinder, two cycle, single acting diesel engine. The conversions commenced during 1926 with the Sawokla being the first converted, followed by the two 'City's' then the Yomachichi, which was recommissioned during December 1927.
A total of eleven ships had been converted to diesel engined power through the end of 1927 at a cost of $8,943,590, with the Yomachichi having the highest conversion cost of $869,000 whilst the Tampa was the cheapest at $740,000.
Engine details based on an official 30-day Full load test from March 18th - April 17th 1926 by the United States Shipping Board:
Net weight of engine complete (without spares, starting tanks, oil or water): 868,000 Lbs
'Gathering place' in Creek Indian
Following the conversion of the Sawokla to diesel propulsion the vessel completed round-the-world voyages from the east coast of America via the Panama canal to Australia and continuing westwards via India and Suez to the east coast of America. In some cases after reaching Australia the ship returned eastward via the Panama canal to the east coast of America.
Its first round-the-world voyage departed from New York on December 6th 1927 under Captain T Sheridan, carrying general cargo and several fare paying passengers. Brisbane was reached on January 11th 1928, followed by Sydney (Jan 15th), Melbourne (Jan 20th), Adelaide (Jan 23rd) and Fremantle February 2nd. Here the Sawokla loaded 3,000 tons of wheat bound for India. On February 21st the ship was noted at Calcutta.
The second round-the-world trip commenced sometime during late May/early June with the Sawokla noted at New Orleans on June 5th 1928 & Galveston on June 9th 1928. By June 14th 1928 the Sawokla was at Colon. Between Panama and Australia the ship maintained an average of 13.5 knots with an expected arrival at Dalgety's Wharf, Brisbane on July 13th 1928. Unloading of the Sawokla was delayed by a waterside workers strike. The cargo included turpentine, celotex wall board, sulphur, lubricating oil and 37,000 cases of kerosene for discharge at Brisbane.
The Sawokla sailed for Sydney and after handling of the cargo there it departed on July 24th 1928, again underr Captain Sheridan for Melbourne (July 26th), Geelong, Adelaide (Aug 2nd) & Fremantle (Aug 14th).
A dispute occurred at Fremantle on August 15th 1928. Claiming that the consignment of sulphur in a hold of the Sawokla was obnoxious cargo, waterside workers at Fremantle approached the Association of Waterside Employers for payment at the rate of 5/- an hour, and men engaged in loading wheat into the boat, demanded similar rates. A board of reference was called with the Industrial Registrar (Mr. Frank Walsh) as chairman, and the condition of the cargo was investigated. The men continued to work the cargo while the board sat, and later they agreed to accept the board's announcement that 5/- an hour should be paid to men working the sulphur between 8 am and 5 pm, 6/3.5 an hour to the men working between 6 pm and 11 pm, and 7/0.5 an hour for work between midnight and 7 am. The wheat lumpers were awarded no extra payment. Three shifts were worked on the vessel, which contained about 900 tons of sulphur to discharge at Fremantle. From here the ship was scheduled to sail for Columbo & Calcutta with general cargo from the United States and wheat & general cargo from Australia. From August 18th sister ship City of Dalhart was berthed at Fremantle.
On August 25th 1928 the vessel departed Fremantle for Columbo, Calcutta & New York.
The next round-the-world trip left New York on December 4th 1928. By January 13th 1929 the Sawokla had arrived at Dalgety's Bulimba wharf, Brisbane from Montreal. The ship was commanded by Captain F. C. Neal who reported that the Sawokla had an uneventful voyage across the Pacific. The consignments carried on the ship included cased oils, motor cars, machinery, patent medicines, and general merchandise. For Brisbane the cargo consisted of 533 pieces of piping to be used in connection with one of the Roma oil bores, 50 motor cars, and sundries.
After departing Brisbane the Sawokla called at Sydney (Jan 17th), Melbourne (Jan 25th) and Birkenhead Wharf, Port Adelaide (Feb 5th) with 720 tons of cargo to unload, sister ship City of Dalhart was also present. From here the ship sailed for Fremantle, where on February 12th 1929 Yenaca Desa, second cook on the Sawokla, at Victoria Quay, Fremantle, was arrested by Constables Mortimer and Badcock, and charged with having assaulted Victor Rodrigues, first cook on the same vessel. It was alleged that Desa attacked his shipmate with a carving knife. The accused was later fined £2 with costs.
On February 25th 1929 the Sawokla departed Fremantle with Captain Frederick Neal for India with 4,500 tons of wheat and a load of timber. Her loaded cargo was said to be larger than any taken away from Fremantle by a vessel of the Roosevelt Line. Her departure had been set for February 23rd, but when the vessel swung into the river it was found the engine was not running satisfactorily. Two day were spent repairing the engines and making a trial run before dparture late on 25th.
After reaching the American East Coast ports the Sawokla was noted at Philadelphia on June 16th and New York on (?) July 7th. By July 16th 1929 the ship was at Colon en-route to Australia. The arrival date at Brisbane was forecast as August 12th but the ship arrived a week late having experienced engine trouble mid-ocean including having drifted on several occasions. After entering Moreton Bay, the Sawokla was met by the tug Beaver, which took her in tow, and was joined at the Pile Light by the tug Forceful, and berthed at Dalgety's wharf, Bulimba, about 9 p.m. on August 19th 1929.
During an inspection of the ship at Brisbane on August 21st 1929 the Boarding Inspector, Customs Department (Mr. E. Pickett), announced that Customs officers found 1,400 cigarettes concealed in the tunnel shaft and also behind a donkey boiler. The cigarettes were confiscated to the Crown. The next day the Sawokla was moved from Dalgety's Wharf, Bulimba to Nixon-Smith's Wharf, Circular Quay by three tugs. Repairs were not immediately forthcoming for the Sawokla, the absence of facilities at Brisbane prevented making of the neccesary repairs, variously reported as trouble with the cylinder liners and a piston. Proposals to tow the ship to Sydney, where the repairs could be carried out were rejected by the ship's insurers. The primary concern was the cargo remaining on board had a value of at least £500,000 which was destined for Sydney, Melbourne & Adelaide. The alternative solution was to make repairs to the diesel engine sufficient to allow it to reach Sydney under its own power. An attempt had been made, without success to weld the fractured piston. Eventually a new piston was obtained and trials completed on September 16th 1929 proved satisfactory and allowed the Sawokla to sail for Sydney on September 17th 1929.
Sydney was reached on September 19th 1929, departing the next day under Captain Neal for Melbourne (Sept 24th), Port Adelaide (Sept 27th) to unload 600 tons general cargo from New York and to load 300 tons of cargo. Fremantle was reached on October 1st where 1,000 tons of wheat was loaded for Calcutta. Departure from Fremantle took place on October 9th 1929 for Madras, Bombay and New York.
The Sawokla departed Philadelphia on April 10th 1932 for Australia, with arrival expected in Brisbane on June 18th 1932.
A winter storm which brough the coldest weather in thirty years to the Melbourne area also brought heavy seas to the Tasman Straight area which slowed the progress of the Sawokla between Sydney & Melbourne on June 24th 1932. Melbourne was reached on June 30th 1932. A record for the Roosevelt Line for continuously running engines was claimed by the Sawokla on its arrival at Melbourne. The voyage lasted 65 days, caused by the ship calling at several South American ports. After leaving Balboa 34 days ago the engines were not stopped until the ship berthed at the bay anchorage (Melbourne) on Wednesday night (June 29th) and during the passage extraordinarily bad weather was encountered. Birkenhead (Adelaide) was reached on July 11th 1932 with oil products.
Having reached Port Adelaide the Sawokla reversed course and headed back to the United States via the Panama canal rather than continuing westwards as on previous trips. July 16/18th 1932 were spent at Sydney, departing 18th with Captain Lee for Halifax via Brisbane (July 21st), Townsville, Cairns, Panama (Sept 3rd) Boston, New York & Halifax (Sept 15th).
Whilst in the Cairns area the local press ran a story about one of the Sawokla's crew. Mr. J. R.Jansen, an engineer on the Sawokla, was for sometime associated with the Australian explorer, Sir Hubert Wilkins, in America. Mr. Jansen was second engineer on the Nautilus, when Sir Hubert Wilkins made his attempt during 1931 to reach the North Pole. When the expedition was abandoned, Mr. Jansen joined the Sawokla, and made his first visit to Australia. The ship had loaded 2,000 tons of sugar at Cairns & Townsville (departed July 29th). Logs were also being shipped to Norfolk and New York.
The Sawokla was noted at New York on September 21st 1932 and later noted departing Philadelphia on October 19th 1932 for Australia. Colon was reached on November 1st 1932 and Brisbane (Nov 26th), Sydney under Captain Lee (Nov 30th) and Melbourne (Dec 3rd). Here the cargo for Fremantle was transhipped allowing the Sawokla to return to Sydney and points east.
The ship left Sydney on December 13th 1932, passed Thursday Island (Dec 20th) en-route to Manila, Los Angeles (Feb 10th), Panama (Feb 21st) and Philadelphia on March 2nd 1933.
December 16th 1936 saw the Sawokla departing New York under Captain S J Lee with general cargo & substituting for the City of Rayville's cancelled sailing of November 25th 1936 due to a shipping strike. The Sawokla was expected to reach Fremantle on February 11th 1937. The crew spent Christmas Day 1936 at Cristobal and reached Brisbane on January 26th 1937, unloaded here were 350 drums of oil, 56 motor cars and 200 tons of general cargo. Also unloaded here were sixteen pedigree'd bulls and cows from the United States. The stock included Shorthorns and Herefords.
Sydney was reached on January 30th 1937, followed by Melbourne (Feb 2nd) and Geelong (Feb 3rd) - unloaded at Geelong were about 200 tons of heavy machinery for the Ford Motor Company of Australia, using the hydraulic crane berth, North Wharf. A Geelong philatelist on Saturday morning (February 6th) boarded the Sawokla with the object of obtaining stamps from the crew. He did not notice the vessel moving until it was well out into the bay. The captain took his ship to the Heads, where the man essayed the perilous descent of the Jacob's ladder and entered the pilot ship Akuna. He spent Saturday night on the vessel and was landed at Point Lonsdale on Sunday! By February 8th 1937 the Sawokla had departed Adelaide for Fremantle via Whyalla.
Fremantle, Victoria Quay was reached on February 16th 1937, her first call at the port since October 1929. In the days when there was a regular service from New York around the world by way of Australia, India and the Mediterranean the Sawokla was a regular visitor at Fremantle, but when the service was stopped her voyages from New York did not extend past Adelaide. The present visit is her first under a new American schedule inaugurated last year, under which an American vessel will call at Fremantle about every four or five months. She brought about 2,000 tons of cargo for Fremantle, including petrol and oils, motor car parts and other cargo, and will take away with her West Australian wool and sheepskins for America.
On February 17th 1937 the Sawokla departed Fremantle for Boston & New York via the Eastern states and Panama, being noted at Adelaide on February 23rd 1937. On this date there was trouble on the Sawokla which was officially dealt with in Sydney on March 1st.
Allegations that he had been placed in irons and beaten with a "black-Jack" were made at the Sydney City Court yesterday by Marvin Slay, aged 25 years, seaman, on the American freighter Sawokla. Slay was charged with having on February 23rd on the high seas between Adelaide and Melbourne, assaulted Frothif Crowell, second officer of the ship. He pleaded not guilty. Mr. W. G. Manchester appeared for him. Sergeant J. W. Madin prosecuted. Crowell said that a fight began between three men on the Sawokla, when the ship was leaving Port Adelaide. He intervened and Slay struck him. He hit Slay back. After he had stopped the fight Slay came towards him and threatened him with a knife.
Slay on oath said that he had broken a finger while the ship was in the Panama Canal, and had his right hand in splints on February 23rd. He said that he was not in the fight, but that Crowell approached him and hit him in the face. Crowell said, "I didn't mean to do it. I apologise." Slay then hit him with his left hand. "They took me forward and locked me up and beat me with a 'black-Jack' " Slay told the Court.
Three seamen were called by Slay as witnesses. One had been charged with larceny and was brought from the cells. He denied knowledge of the assault. The others did not appear. Slay was convicted, but because he had been in gaol since February 26th, he was sentenced to be imprisoned only until the rising of the Court.
James McGreevy, an oiler on the Sawokla appeared later on a charge of having stolen a lock valued at £1 from the Bourke Street West police station on February 26th. McGreevy pleaded guilty and said that he had "souvenired" the lock because he thought it would be "a good joke." He was convicted and discharged.
On March 18th 1937 the ship sailed from Sydney for Brisbane, arriving March 20th, the cargo included 60,000 superficial feet of walnut logs originating from the Cairns region and headed for America. Balboa was reached on April 29th 1937, Boston (May 11th), St John (May 16th).
By May 19th 1937 the Sawokla was back at New York and remained here until June 2nd 1937.
Projected sailings from New York for the Sawokla in 1939 were March 30th & September 10th.
In November 1939 the United States Maritime Commission confirmed the sale of the Sawokla to the American Export Lines, was renamed Excellency during 1940 but regained its original name in 1941.
The last journey of the Sawokla, an Army transport operated by American Export Lines commenced with an eastbound voyage from the Caribbean to the Persian Gulf with urgently needed supplies. On the return trip to New York the ship was carrying a crew of forty one, thirteen naval gunners and five passengers (sick soldiers) and a cargo of jute, rough linen and other war-time items. Whilst travelling through the Indian Ocean on the Columbo - Cape Town leg of the voyage and about 400 miles south east of Madagascar, the Sawokla was intercepted by the German Auxiliary Cruiser 'Michel' on November 29th 1942.
The attack commenced in darkness (20.35 local time), the weather was overcast and the sea was rough. The Michel opened fire from 2,500 yards, the first salvo destroyed the bridge killing the captain and two seamen, following salvos struck the engine room, the radio shack and the boat deck, and also knocked out was the 4.5-inch gun - all this soon set the freighter on fire. In all sixty eight rounds of heavy ammunition were fired at the ship, along with much machine-gun fire. One torpedo struck amidships, a second completely missed the ship. Response from the Sawokla was minimal, one of the 20mm guns was briefly in use and a weak radio message was sent out. Only one person on watch that night survived the shelling.
The Sawokla sank very quickly - in about seven to eight minutes at 28°00'S, 54°00'E, within three hours most of the survivors were picked up by the German raider, but four gunners remained in the water until the following day when the raider made another sweep of the area. Sixteen of the 41-man crew were killed in the attack, as were four of the thirteen Armed Guard sailors. The thirty nine survivors spent three months on the Michel before being turned over to the Japanese in Singapore. After being held in Singapore for a few months, the American mariners were sent to one of the most notorious prisoner-of-war camps run by the Japanese. For three years they worked as slaves building the notorious Burma railroad project which included the Bridge over the River Kwai. All thirty nine survivors of the sinking would survive this horror.
The German raider was sunk on October 17th, 1943 near Tokyo Bay by the USS Tarpon.
Yomachichi, (later Ocelot IX 110)
The Yomachichi was built as a steamship in 1919 for the US Shipping Board, Tampa. During 1927 it was converted to motor vessel and operated by the Roosevelt Line and the American Pioneer Line. In 1937 U.S. Maritime Commission, Tampa took responsibilty for the vessel.
On October 21st 1930 the Yomachichi was recorded as en-route to Fremantle, Australia, part of the world which the Yomachichi visited regularly.
Proposed shipping legislation contained in United States diplomatic papers circa 1932 mention the use of the Yomachichi by British interests as perhaps a means of cutting costs. The Yomachichi, then operated by the Roosevelt Steamship Company had been chartered by British interests to carry a cargo of wheat from Australia to the United Kingdom at a rate of eighteen pence below the prevailing rate for such a trip. The sinister intentions possibly implied by this charter were believed to be an attempt to drive foreign vessels (in this case US vessels) out of competition. It is not clear whether the Roosevelt Steamship Company at the time of the charter were aware of these rumblings.
In June 1933 the Yomachichi provided monsoon reports in the area of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, the southwest monsoon was active in the Gulf of Aden and the Arnbinn Sea during the early part of June with observed velocities ranging generally between force seven and nine.
On October 2nd 1943 the Yomachichi was accepted by the United States Navy under bare boat charter from the War Shipping Administration. It was converted to a barracks ship and commissioned as Ocelot (IX 110) on January 15th 1944 with Lt. Milton S. Samuels in command. After shakedown trials the vessel headed west, through the Panama Canal and after making a brief stop in San Diego headed out for its final destination of Pearl Harbour. Here the Ocelot underwent conversion to flagship for Service Squadron 10.
The Ocelot was hardly the ideal 'flagship' vessel to house the squadron commander and his entourage. This commander had the largest staff afloat in the Pacific including several hundred ships and floating equipment. The ship needed to carry a large amount of communications equipment which would take up much space in the superstructure, not only to support the day to day operations, but also for accomodation required for the personnel. Such was the shortage of room that the flag office was located in the frequently hot and stuffy forward hold. Which also summed up pretty well the general accomodation for the entire ship's company. Typical of the challenging conditions was the squadron commander's quarters - these adjoined the main exhaust and were presumably somewhat noisy when the main engine was running.
With the conversion complete in October, she sailed via Eniwetok for Ulithi where she spent six months providing an administrative post at the advanced base.
On May 24th 1945 Commodore Carter and staff left Ulithi in the Ocelot, by the evening of the 27th the reliability of the main engine was in question after the lubricating system for the main engine failed, reducing her speed to about 7.6 knots. By 9:20 p.m. the ship had stopped completely to repair the main engine's No. 2 cylinder, 8.6 knots was achieved after about twenty minutes tinkering. About four hours later the loss of lubricating-oil pressure required a further dead stop. After about an hour wallowing in the ocean swell and an easy target for any enemy submarines in the area, the ship's engineers were able to coax some life back into the aging diesel engine, allowing the Ocelot to reach San Pedro Bay, Leyte the next day.
On September 13th 1945 the Ocelot sailed to Buckner Bay, Okinawa. Three days after her arrival in Okinawa, a typhoon struck and drove her aground. She was quickly refloated, but another typhoon on October 9th caused her to ground and break in two. Whilst grounded the storm drove the vessel Nestor ashore, but shifting winds refloated the holed Nestor, tossing her around like matchwood, only to be driven back onto the beach, but now alongside the Ocelot. Another shift in the wind swung the Nestor around causing her bow to strike and penetrate the side of the Ocelot. During all this time twenty to thirty foot breakers continued to pound the vessels.
Official reports for typhoon Louise of October 9th 1945 that led to the demise of the Ocelot make interesting reading - some details of the damage sustained near the location of the Ocelot are recorded below:
Almost a day's worth of torrential rain had soaked everything, made quagmires of roads, and ruined virtually all stores. The hurricane winds destroyed from 50% to 95% of all tent camps, and flooded the remainder. Damage to Quonset huts ran from 40% to 99% total destruction. Some of these Quonsets were lifted bodily and moved hundreds of feet; others were just simply torn apart. Driven from their housing, officers and men alike took shelter in caves, old tombs, trenches, and ditches in the open fields, and even behind heavy machinery, as the wind picked up and hurled pretty much everything through the air.
At the Naval Air Bases some sixty planes of all types were damaged, some were complete losses, but most of were repairable. The seas worked under many of the concrete ramps and broke them up into large and small pieces of rubble. All repair installations were either swept away or severely damaged. At Yonobaru, all 40' by 100' buildings were demolished, the same being true at the NATS terminal. Communication and meteorological services were blown out at most bases by 19.00.
The storm center of typhoon Louise passed Buckner Bay at about 16.00, from which time until 20.00 it raged at peak strength. The storm was advancing at the rapid rate of fifteen knots in a northerly, then northeasterly direction, and by 20.00 the center was sixty miles away. The winds gradually began to subside. Conditions in Buckner Bay were at this time somewhat improved by the wind's having veered to the northwest across the land mass of Okinawa, which reduced the size of the seas, and probably saved many more damaged ships from being driven off the reefs and sunk in deep water. Nevertheless, the subsidence at 20.00 was a relative one, from super-typhoon to typhoon conditions, with steady winds of eighty and sixty knots throughout the night, and some gusts of higher velocity. A wild, wet, and dangerous night was spent by all hands, afloat or ashore. It was not until 10.00 on the 10th that the winds fell to a steady forty knots and rains slackened.
Having left Okinawa, the storm proceeded north-north-east on a curving track. On the night of October 10-11th "Louise" ran into cold air from over Japan; as a result the center of the typhoon occluded, moved aloft to the north, and eventually dissipated.
Casualties were low, considering the great numbers of people concerned and the extreme violence of the storm. This was very largely due to the active and well directed efforts of all hands in assisting one another, particularly in evacuation of grounded and sinking ships. By October 18th reports had been sifted and it was found that there were 36 dead and 47 missing, with approximately 100 receiving fairly serious injuries.
The casualty list of ships was far greater. A total of 12 ships were sunk, 222 grounded, and 32 damaged beyond the ability of ships' companies to repair. On November 14th 1945 after inspection it was decided that only 10 ships were worth complete salvage, out of some 90 ships with major work to be done on them. By November 19th 1945 79 ships had been refloated, and 132 were under repair. The remaining 53 badly damaged vessels still afloat had been, or were being, decommissioned, stripped, and abandoned.
The Ocelot was stripped of salvageable items and decommissioned December 6th 1945 and was to be struck from the Navy List on January 3rd 1946. On January 15th 1946 CNO directed that the ship be redelivered to WSA. She was placed out of service on February 8th 1946, when reported lying on the bottom in Yonabaru Wan, Buckner Bay, Okinawa, with water in the holds up to the tween-decks. The vessel was stricken from the Navy List on March 12th 1946. The ship was finally redelivered to WSA as she lay on 6 April 1946. The Maritime Commission sold her under her merchant name with seven other Okinawa wrecks to China Merchants and Engineers, Inc., for scrap. The ships were delivered to the buyer on February 19th 1948 under the condition that they be scrapped within two years and three months. An extension was later granted, and scrapping of all the ships except one of the civilian vessels was reported complete on January 31st 1952.
City of Rayville
1927: May 12th departed New York for Adelaide, departed Brisbane June 17th for Sydney (20th) and then June 27th (eastbound?), at Newcastle June 23rd.
1928: January 31st at Sydney under Captain Ricca. February 9th, shortly after departure from Melbourne the ship return to port after experiencing engine trouble.
1929: January 3rd at Melbourne, January 8th departed Adelaide for Fremantle, reported stopped at Birkenhead for a week for repairs to the motor windlass and machinery inside the funnel, requiring the funnel to be temporarily placed on the port side of the ship. Cargo for the Indian Army included 34 horses loaded at Melbourne.
1930: January 2nd arrived Adelaide from New York, January 8th at Fremantle, three American female passengers used the City of Rayville to complete a world, tour, two other ladies travelled from New York to Calcutta, and would take a later sailing to complete their circumnavigation. January 14th (?) to Bunbury to load timber.
1931: January 20th at Suez.
1932: February 9th at Boston, February 17th at Baltimore.
1933: October 31st at Colon, Sydney (Nov 30th) and Melbourne (Dec 4th).
1934: January 25th at Panama.
1936: February 25th: under Captain Arkins, Brisbane, the cargo of the City of Rayville which reached Brisbane yesterday from New York, included a large quantity of heavy machinery for the Geelong works of the Ford Company. When assembled the plant will be engaged in car body manufacture. The total cargo comprised 4,000 tons and of this 600 tons were for Brisbane, the latter consignment being made up chiefly of lubricating oils. Arrived Sydney February 28th where 36 pedigree'd beef cattle valued at £10,000 from the USA were unloaded.This repesented probably the most valuable consignment of pedigree beef stock imported from the USA to Australia to date. Two animals died en-route.
1937: on its journey from India to New York the vessel carried 1,500 monkeys, 200 snakes (black cobras, king cobras & pythons), three elephants, a pair of Tasmanian devils, wombats, a black panther, flamingoes and other birds. On this voyage there were many instances of the monkeys escaping and heading for the engineroom, the warmest part of the ship.
1938: January 5th depart Sydney, the jorney through all the locks at Panama took eight hours (from noon till 8pm), February 10th at Balboa, February 23rd at New York, February 27th at Baltimore.
1940: July in drydock at New York (?).
1940: August 21st departed New York for Gulf ports, New Orleans, Panama Canal, Newcastle, Sydney & Pirie, departed Panama September 13th.
The City of Rayville was very familiar with Australian waters having spent much of the previous ten years visiting Australian ports. So it was no surprise to find the vessel early in November transporting a general cargo including wool and 1,500 tons of lead (in the form of 37,520 bars) from Port Pirie, South Australia to New York, manned by a crew of thirty eight, under the command of Captain A P Cronin. One crew member, able seaman Gray had been left behind at Port Pirie after undergoing an operation for appendicitis. He would later rejoin the rescued crew members in Melbourne. The ship also called at Port Augusta to load further cargo. At this time the ship carried large painted Stars & Stripes on her sides, leaving no one in any doubt which flag the ship was flying under. On November 7th 1940 the freighter was on the Adelaide to Melbourne leg of its lengthy journey. At about 8pm on 8th the Cape Otway signal station, Apollo Bay, reported a flash and sounds of an explosion, and just visible in the fading light could be seen the stricken City of Rayville. Three minesweepers were ordered out but for the rapidly sinking ship it would be fishing boats from Apollo Bay that would rescue all but one crew member. At the time of the sinking the weather was fine and the seas calm. By daylight the wind picked up from the west, causing heavy seas. Two lifeboats were located by the fishing vessels, lines attached and they were safely brought into Apollo Bay on the morning of the 9th. The water temperature at the time was a chilly 58F.
It was determined that the City of Rayville had struck a mine on the starboad side 11 miles south of Cape Otway, causing wreckage & cargo to pass through the superstructure. The stem lifted high in the air, then settled at the head with a list to starboard. The bridge was awash within five minutes leading to the rapid sinking of the vessel. As well as the damage to the bow the explosion toppled the foremast and showered cargo and parts of the ship over the superstructure. The loss of the foremast hampering the transmission of radio distress messages. Both lifeboats were successfully launched from the sinking ship. Eventuallt the ship went down by the bow, standing perpendicular, buried to the forward bridge, remaining in this position for some considerable time before finally disappearing beneath the waves. Sea temperature at the time was 58 degrees. The Royal Australian Navy had discovered mines similar to a German model in the vicinity of the sinking. A British ship, the 'S.S. Cambridge' had sunk in a similar manner off Wilsons Promontory the day before the Rayville had sunk. During their stay in Australian waters German Raiders laid extensive mine fields off New South Wales, Hobart and in Bass Strait between the mainland and Tasmania. The previous night (Thursday November 7th) in the same area a British freighter had suffered a similar fate after striking a German mine resulting in its sinking.
The City of Rayville is reported as the first casualty of World War II for the United States of America, and resulted in the first death of a US merchant seaman in World War II, being the Third Engineer, Mr. James (Mack) Bryan of Norfolk, Virginia USA who had jumped in to the water. This was reported as his first trip on the City of Rayville. Nine fishermen who participated in rescue work each received a letter from the United States Secretary of State (Mr. Cordell Hull). The letters expressed appreciation on behalf of the President of the United States for their courageous and prompt action in assisting the American sailors.
During 1998 the shipwreck was declared to be an historic site although at that point in time the actual location on the seabed was not known. However in 2002 wreck site was finally positively identified. The Victoria coastline is a graveyard of over 660 vessels making positive identification of many wrecks quite a challenge. Artefacts were taken from the wreck for identification. In particular china plates made especially for the ship's owners confirmed the identity of the wreck. The site lies three miles from Apollo Bay at a depth of 260 feet in a shipping lane subject to strong tidal currents.
(Trove next 26)
City of Dalhart (later IX-156)
During 1928 the Atlantic Australian Line/American India Line, operated by the Roosevelt Steamship Co. operated an Australia-India & return via Suez featuring vessels including the, Sawokla, City of Rayville & City of Dalhart.
On August 14th 1928 the ‘City of Dalhart’ arrived at Victoria dock (Melbourne?) Australia after a trans-Pacific journey from the United States. One small part of her cargo for unloading here was a Climax Class B geared steam locomotive for the Forests Commission of Victoria - for its shipment the steam locomotive had been disassembled and placed in nineteen boxes plus one box of spares.
Whilst crossing the Pacific in October 1940 the City of Dalhart during the night of the 16th-l7th encountered the full force of a storm in 34'35' N., 163'53' E., with a north-northeast typhoon and a low barometer of 981 millibars (28.97 inches). On the 21st the ship was near the northern edge of the storm, an east-northeast gale of force 8, barometer 1,008.1 millibars (29.77 inches).
Late in 1943 Capt James H. Brodie of the USAAF Transportation Corps obtained the cargo ship City of Dalhart, to continue the experiments of the rather unusual apparatus permitting the take off and landing of airplanes from ships withhout the use of a runway. In December a series of landings and takeoffs were successfully made with a Stinson L-5, bringing vindication of the months of work on what many officials called a of waste money.
The City of Dalhart was acquired by the United States Navy on February 29th 1944, was commissioned at San Francisco on June 2nd 1944 and sailed from here on June 9th under the command of Lieutenant Commander C. M. Lokey, USNR, with sailors and cargo for Pearl Harbor. On July 16th the vessel sailed from here, now as the mobile barracks for the 301st Naval Construction Battalion, with the men and machinery of this unit aboard, calling at Eniwetok from August 3rd - 5th before putting in to Guam on August 11th, one day after the island was declared secure. The ship remained at Guam until November 22nd, then sailing to San Francisco arriving there on December 19th. City of Dalhart received one battle star for World War II service.
The City of Dalhart was decommissioned on January 28th 1946, and returned to her owner.
Built: Oscar Daniels Company, Tampa, Florida
Above details may vary between the four vessels.
Page added April 7th 2007