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The Story of an Army Small Ship

(4 customer reviews)
Authors: Jack Peel
Military History, World War II
C Format

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Tarra describes the 25 years of service provided to the nation by a 125-foot Wooden Cargo Vessel, operated by the Australian Army from her launch in 1945 to her abandonment in huge seas off the north coast of New South Wales in 1965. During the war in the South Pacific, the only mode of transport available to provide food ammunition and supplies to the fighting forces and civilian population to the north of Australia, other than aircraft and pack
horses, was seagoing small craft and small ships.

The Tarra story follows her launch in Tasmania in 1945, when the ship was employed in dumping ammunition off the east coast. Based in Newcastle and later in Cairns, she was seconded to the Graves Registration Unit during the establishment of the Bomana War Cemetery, and then lent to the civil authorities to collect copra from remote islands. Tarra provided the only form of transport for materials and personnel for the construction of the Vanimo Outstation of the Pacific Islands Regiment on the Indonesian border in 1952, and she continued to resupply the
Company base for the next ten years, making two voyages per year from Brisbane.

Tarra and her sister, Vasse, played a key role in training soldiers to become sailors, particularly in the Citizen Military Forces and in the development of the Australian Regular Army after the war and during the Pentomic experiment. In declining condition, she was sold to the Societe Marine Caledonian and renamed Milos Del Mar in April 1965.

The dramatic rescue of her civilian crew eight months later and her abandonment to sink slowly in rough seas was described on the front pages of major newspapers at the time and by the commander of the Air Force Sea Air Rescue aircraft, thereby completing Tarra’s story. Water Transport continues today, with Landing Craft operated by 35 Water Transport Squadron RACT.

Jack Peel

Jack Peel

John Peel, known as Jack, was born in Newcastle in 1943. He graduated from the Army Apprentice School as a Fitter and Turner in 1961, completing his trade training in the engine room of AV 1379 Tarra. For the next seven years, he was employed as an engine room watchkeeper with the Royal Australian Engineer’s […]

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4 reviews for Tarra

  1. Launched from a Tasmanian slipway late in 1945, and destined to join the Australian Army’s fleet of small ships, then a branch of the Royal Australian Engineers. It usually had a crew of 14, sometimes commanded by a warrant officer, and them. are explained, such as Operation Blowdown near the Lockhart River Community

    I greatly admired their resourcefulness and fortitude, when absent from their home port for up to seven months.

    I have had a direct interest in such ships as I served in Pacific Island’s Regiment in the mid-1960s and we were resupplied by the small craft that sailed the sometimes perilous route from Sydney to Wewak and Vanimo, in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea. The Tarra was a 125-foot vessel considered the best of its type

  2. A meticulously researched history of the ‘Tarra’, with the specific implications of the ADF’s place in our local geography and development. The author’s passion for the subject shines through and will no doubt be of interest to anyone studying the time period, or for any reader seeking better to understand our Australian history and footprint in our region.

  3. The author has achieved success in portraying the history of one of many Australian Army Small Ships that served Australia for many years. He has produced a fascinating and detailed book. There were many incidents on every voyage and to describe them all, such as ships involvement in a simulated atomic bomb blast in Far North Queensland in 1963; the author could write another 100 pages. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book as it details another phase in Australia’s history and brought back many pleasurable memories.

  4. Review: “Tarra, The Story of a Small Ship …” is a well researched, well-paced and entertaining yarn about small ships and their characterful people in a mixed maritime and military setting, often in unusual or dangerous situations, told with good humour and an eye for personalities. Jack Peel treats the broad historical, political, and military situations besides the more detailed personal stories.

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