Monday 9 January 2017

Reminiscence of Bribie in WW2

In the 2017 edition (#43) of Bribie magazine Holiday Guide & Business Directory (pages 32-33) is an interesting article written by Historian Ron Donald about serviceman Frederick Sydney Sharp's reminiscences of Bribie Island in World War 2.

Syd Sharp continued his association with Bribie Island after his military service when he became the proprietor of the Ocean Beach Guest House for a few years.

The following article is reprinted with permission, from 2017 Bribie Holiday Guide & Business Directory published by the Bribie Island Chamber of Commerce.

The long life of a sailor comes to an end. . . 
By Historian Ron Donald

"The last remaining military link with Bribie Island in World War 2 has been severed with the death of former naval lieutenant and wartime Darwin bombing survivor Frederick Sydney Sharp on June 9 [2016] at the age of 99 years.
Lieut. Syd Sharp, as the youthful officer-in-charge of
RAN No. 4 Indicator loop station at Woorim on the east
 coast of Bribie Island. He was also a highly responsible
 officer in the wartime Brisbane seaward defences structure
 Although now protected by sandbagging, the station was
seriously threatened by beach erosion several years ago and
 is still intact, as are its two diesel electric power huts a little further inland.
Caption: Ron Donald

But his experiences in the long service of his country remain for posterity through his detailed written reminiscences of some of the most critical episodes in Australia's wartime history.

Syd Sharp, as he became popularly known in adult life, was born into a family living on the Parramatta River and it was only natural that his main sporting activities would soon become swimming, sailing and rowing, with the waters of Sydney Harbour an irresistible magnet.
There were ominous beginnings to his life - at the age of only four years he contracted typhoid fever and spent three months in the isolation ward of a private hospital in Ashfield, Sydney.  The illness was cured and he became a student at Sydney Grammar, joining the school cadets and leaving in 1934 at the age of 17 to take a job in the insurance industry.

Subsequently he joined the peacetime Militia (Army) - becoming a sergeant - but the call of the sea was insistent and he transferred to the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve in February, 1939 - the same year in which Britain and Germany became adversaries in World War 2.  Newly-married, Syd was mobilised in the naval reserve in December, 1939, being stationed at the port war signal station and anti-submarine unit at South Head, Sydney.  His training included an ASDIC (anti-submarine detection) course with service in a submarine being part of the regime which was to stand him in good stead at Bribie Island and Moreton Bay later in the war. As a RANVR sub-lieutenant, he was posted to Darwin to serve in the northern capital's port war signal and loop station, arriving there on February 10, 1941.  His duties included reconnaissance flights, as naval observer, in Allied aircraft seeking to monitor possible Japanese military activity to the north. The Japanese began to strafe and bomb Darwin and its defence installations on February 19, 1942, and Syd Sharp survived a total of 26 devastating air raids before being posted south, hitching a ride to Sydney in a US Air Force Flying Fortresses.

Still standing is the old control post of the wartime RAN No. 4 station at Woorim. The building was manned around the clock and, with equipment connected to an under-sea electrical cable, was able to detect any enemy submarine activity in Moreton Bay.  Since this photograph was taken, about 20 years ago, beach erosion has removed the foredunes to within only a few metres of the building.
Caption: Ron Donald
In late 1942, he was appointed to command the newly-established RAN No. 4 indicator loop station close to the eastern beach of Bribie Island, near the township of Woorim.
No. 4 was the senior RAN establishment - the others were No. 2 (northern Bribie Island), port war signal station at Caloundra and RAN No. 3 at Tangalooma.  Built of concrete, No. 4 had seven rooms and, aided by electrically-operated cables on the seabed, was equipped to monitor all shipping movements in and out of Moreton Bay.

The RAN No. 4 station at Woorim, 2016.
Although now protected by sandbagging, the station was seriously
 threatened by beach erosion several years ago and is still intact,
 as are its two diesel electric power huts a little further inland.
Caption and photo: Ron Donald

The RAN No. 4 station at Woorim, 2016.
Caption and photo: Ron Donald

Any enemy ships, including submarines, would run the risk of being blown up by suspended mines in the bay while four six-inch (155mm) artillery guns on Bribie's ocean beach would be an added deterrent.

No. 4 station had a crew of about 35, including Royal Navy seamen who had survived battles against German ships in the European theatre of the war.

At times, Lieut. Sharp acted in his capacity as RAN deputy extended defences officer for Moreton Bay - a highly-responsible position considering that the North-West passage of the bay was the main route to and from the port of Brisbane for convoys of Allied shipping.

With the Japanese retreating in the islands north of Australia, the RAN installations in Moreton Bay were closed in 1944 and Syd Sharp was posted first to Darwin and then to Cairns for his final duties in WW2.

Proudly wearing his naval service medals,
Syd Sharp regarded the annual Anzac Day
observations in Sydney as a 'must' to attend - so much so that
 in 2012, at the age of 95, he was the oldest in the navy contingent
and opted to complete the march on foot!
Caption: Ron Donald
Always a keen yachtsman, he became a member (ultimately commodore) of the Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association and, as either skipper or crew member, took part in ocean races between Sydney Harbour and Noumea.  These achievements earned him membership of the London-based Ocean Cruising Club.

In 1980, he sold his insurance brokerage business and retired while still owning a cruising yacht for leisurely trips to Fiji and other destinations. A modest and gentlemanly person, he was proud of his service medals and of being able to participate on foot each year in the Anzac Day march in Sydney until the time when very few WW2 naval veterans were still alive.

Lieut. Syd Sharp is survived by Linda, his wife of the past 39 years, and three daughters (Rosemary, Suzanne and Alison) from his first marriage, as well as their families. He and Linda has lived on the Gold Coast for the past 28 years. His funeral service was held with naval honours in Somerville Chapel at Nerang Cemetery on the Gold Coast on June 17, 2016.

An additional - an rare - tribute was the sending of a signal from RAN headquarters to all serving ships and shore installations, acknowledging Lieut. Sharp's service to his country over a period of four decades.  He had requested that his ashes be scattered at sea from a serving RAN ship."

Historian Ron Donald
2017 edition (#43) of Bribie magazine Holiday Guide & Business Directory (pages 32-33)
Bribie Island Chamber of Commerce 

Dr Richard Walding's site Indicator Loops of the Royal Australian Navy at Bribie Island - lists Officers and Ratings who served at RAN4, 1942-1943.  This site also contains a copy of the Tribute acknowledging Lieut. Sharp's service sent from RAN headquarters in June 2016.

Final salvo for Naval officer by Dr Tom Lewis. Navy Daily 22 June 2016 [online]
This article mentions Syd Sharp's service in Darwin.

Saturday 7 January 2017

Dec 2016 speaker

RMS Quetta, sank 28 February 1890
Lynne Hooper, BIHS president
Guest speaker at BIHS meeting December 2016

At our December meeting BIHS president Lynne Hooper, through a PowerPoint presentation, gave us a glimpse of the fascinating story of the RMS Quetta, which sank off Thursday Island on 28 February 1890.

Amongst the passengers who didn’t survive were two gentlemen (and their wives) who were well known in the Caboolture Shire: Alexander Archer and Claudius Whish. 

Alexander Archer was that delightful man who wrote a letter to his niece describing a trip by boat to Bribie. Alexander at the time of the voyage the General Manager of the Bank of NSW and was one of the famous Archer brothers of Durundur.  Claudius Whish at one time owned the Oaklands sugar plantation on the Caboolture River and the Captain Whish bridge is named for him. When the Quetta sailed he was working for the Government as the Surveyor of Roads in the Lands Department.

10 days after leaving Brisbane and steaming to its next port, Thursday Island, the RMS Quetta hit an uncharted rock at 9pm in Torres Strait and sank in 3 minutes.

133 people drowned with 158 surviving.  Out of 34 women and 30 children only 2 teenage girls and 1 baby girl were amongst the survivors.

                                                     TOTAL LOST SAVED
Saloon passengers                                    33 27 6
Steerage passengers                                 65 56 9
Deck passengers (Javanese cane cutters)  71 15 56
European Officers                                    29 14 15
Asian Crew                                              93 21 72
                                                          291 133 158

The Australian/European passengers who survived:
Saloon Class: Alice Nicklin (Brisbane – parents died), Emily Lacy (Mackay- sister & uncle died), Mr. S.T. Debney (Brisbane), Henry Corser (Maryborough –wife and child died), Mr. Clarke (Tasmania) and Mr. A.H. Renton (England). 

Steerage: Messrs: Wrathall (Townsville – wife & 2 children died), Davidson (Melbourne), Cameron (Brisbane), Ashford (Brisbane), Dunn (Brisbane), Train (Rockhampton), Gregory (Townsville), Murphy (Port Douglas) and a baby girl who was either the child of Mrs Copeland or Mrs Davidson – who both had 3 children with them.

The loss of the Quetta devastated both city and country-town alike. The Quetta had sailed its London – Brisbane – London voyage 11 times bringing with it many emigrants to Brisbane.  One of our members, Monica Nunn’s, great-grandparents and grandmother arrived on the Quetta in 1886.

Using newspaper interviews and statements made at the inquiry, Lynne spoke about the ship’s final minutes and how the passengers survived when the Quetta sank at night in crocodile and shark infested waters.

Thursday 5 January 2017

Enchanted Isle 1936 article

A wonderful online resource for researching local history is Trove, provided by the National Library of Australia, particularly Trove's access to digitised copies of Australian newspapers. Many a happy hour can be spent looking through articles and advertisements from a bygone era and occasionally, photos sprinkled through the article delight and entertain the reader!

Such a series of articles appeared in The Telegraph in the latter part of 1936 when journalist A.E. Simmons covered the emerging tourism industry of south-east Queensland.  The final article in the series, published in December 1936, was on Bribie Island, and though it was written to entice "new tourists" in 1936, it gives today's reader a glimpse of Bribie Island as it was 80 years ago.

by A.E. Simmons, December 1936.

"It is almost unbelievable that Bribie Island, with all that it has to offer the holiday-maker, has remained, until recent years, almost unknown to the citizens of Brisbane.  Situated on beautiful Moreton Bay, and only 36 miles by sea from the Custom House wharf, the commodious steamship Koopa, belonging to the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Co. Ltd., in command of Captain J.S. Johnson, reaches it in about 3 hours.  . . .

   The journey down the Brisbane River and across Bramble and Deception Bays is a most enjoyable one.  Each wind of the river presents a picture of fresh charm, many steamers (overseas and coastal) and sailing and motor boats adding their quota to the life of the river and bay.  The many beautiful homes with their well-kept gardens in New Farm, East Brisbane, Bulimba and Hamilton complete a picture of rare charm, some of these homes being amongst the finest to be found in Brisbane.
   After passing Lytton, with its fort and quarantine station, we see St. Helena and the white sand hills of Moreton Island on the right.  The steamer turns north almost opposite Fisherman Island, with Bishop's or Wreck Island on the east, and proceeds through the Old Channel and past the Old Pile Light.
   On the left we pass Cribb Island, Nudgee Beach and Sandgate nestling in Bramble Bay, and in the distance, to the north-west, we see the Hornibrook Highway with its high pylons, connecting Sandgate with Clontarf on the Redcliffe Peninsula.  We next pass Woody Point and Scott's Point with their charming beaches, the steamer calling at Redcliffe jetty to embark passengers for Bribie Island.
   Leaving Redcliffe, the steamer proceeds past Scarborough and across Deception Bay, reaching Bribie jetty, in the Pumice Stone Channel, about 50 minutes after leaving Redcliffe.

"A Charming Spot near Bongaree, Bribie Island."
Caption and photo: A.E. Simmons, Dec 1936.
   The beauty and charm of Moreton Bay have been described on numerous occasions.  Suffice it to say that in few parts of the world can such charming and varied scenery being found - the background of hills adding a charm beyond description.
   Bribie Island is approximately 26 miles long and three miles wide.  . . .   At the southern end (Boat Jetty) is Bongaree, and on the ocean beach side (surfing beach), about three miles distant and connected by a good metaled road is Woorim.  . . . 
   The island is a most pleasant spot in which to spend a restful holiday.  Unlike most holiday resorts, it has somehow managed to retain its natural charms, and the proclaiming of the island as a sanctuary has certainly helped to preserve the bird and animal life which would otherwise have been completely wiped out.
"Enjoying the cool breezes on Bribie Island,
away from the heat of the city."
Caption and photo: A.E. Simmons, Dec 1936.
   Bribie Island boasts that it has something to attract all types of holidaymakers - the fisherman, the swimmer, the surfer and the lover of nature.
   The western coast of Bribie Island, at the southern end of which is Bongaree, is one of the oldest fishing resorts in Moreton Bay.  Here, in the far-famed Pumice Stone Channel, squire, whiting, flathead and bream are to be found in season, which oysters and crabs abound.  This place is the Mecca of the fisherman, and those who have once tasted of its charm return again and again to the old haunts.
   Safe swimming and paddling for children can be enjoyed in this district, the youngsters delighting in the clean sand to be found here.
   There are several old residents in the district who have resided here practically all their lives.  One of the oldest is Mr. E.H. Freeman who now lives on the mainland side of Pumice Stone Channel, a short way up Ninghi Creek.  I understand this gentleman has spent about 68 years in and around Bribie. . . . 

   There are many good camping reserves at Bongaree, and furnished and unfurnished houses and flats are available for those preferring same.  The family man could choose no more pleasant spot in which to spend a holiday with his family at a reasonable cost.  The fare is the cheapest in Queensland, and all supplies may be obtained at prices that compare favourably with those in the capital cities.
"Bribie Bowling Club - set amid delightful surroundings."
Caption and photo: A.E. Simmons, Dec 1936.

   There are several tennis courts and bowling green set in delightful surroundings, and visitors are always welcome to enjoy their favourite sports.  There is also a fine cricket pitch, and dances are held several times a week during the holidayseason.  For those fond of riding, horses may be hired for the purpose, and many beautiful spots may be visited by this means.  The hiker will find himself in a veritable paradise, fresh pastures with most delightful surroundings beckoning him in all directions. 

"Australian Coat of Arms, Davies' Ornamental Garden."
Caption and photo: A.E. Simmons, Dec 1936.
   A place of interest that should on no account be missed by visitors to Bribie Island, is Davies' ornamental gardens, situated a few hundred yards from the jetty at Bongaree.  These gardens, which were founded by the late Mr R.J. Davies, are now carried on by his family and show the artistic temperament of the founder.  Here are many specimens of statuary in cypress pine, the only tools of trade of the artist being an ordinary pair of garden clippers and pieces of string.  To see these gardens flourishing in the pure sand, is simply a revelation.  The most striking design is one depicting the Australian coat of arms, the kangaroo, emu and shield being perfectly executed.

   A favourite design, especially with juveniles, is "The Bribie Limited," which is a model of a train, with an engine and six coaches attached.  As the visitor moves from tree to tree he cannot but marvel at the amazing patience that must have been required for the successful carrying out of the work.  There are dozens of models, including Phar Lap, Cleopatra's Needle and many others too numerous to mention, but all well worth seeing.  Visitors are always welcome, and the Davies family are proud of the many letters of appreciate they have received from distinguished visitors.
"Congeau House, formerly the beautiful home of the late Mr and Mrs Congeau, which was given to the Church of England for use as a Home of Rest for members of the Clergy and their wives. The beautiful gardens and quiet surroundings are very much appreciated by those who come here for a holiday."
Caption and photo: A.E. Simmons, Dec 1936.
   There are many charming homes on the island, and one of the most beautiful is that of the late Mr and Mrs Congeau, which was handed over to the Church of England, together with its contents, for use as a rest home for members of the clergy and their wives.  This home was opened on November 3 last by Archbishop Ward, and with its glorious gardens is much appreciated by those who avail themselves of same. 
   At Bongaree is the home of the Amateur Fishermen's Association, and here they have a fine club house which is always well patronised by its members.
   On the east coast of Bribie Island, about 3 miles from Bongaree, is Woorim, which is easily reached by motor bus along a good metalled road, built by the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Co. Ltd., as a cost of over £8,000.  Here is the finest stretch of surfing beach in Queensland, if not in Australia.  For a distance of about 26 miles, this beach stretches from Tripcony's Beach, about 2 miles from Bongaree, to the northern end of the island opposite Caloundra.  It is a safe,  . . . beach, free from sharks and above all, . . .  The breakers are just ideal for surfing, not too boisterous, but gentle . . . and surfing can be enjoyed here at all seasons of the year, even during the winter months.  The entire stretch of beach is of the hard sandy variety, and a walk or drive along here is most enjoyable.  When the tide recedes the beach is strewn here and there with thousands of small shells which will delight . . . the youngsters. 

"The Pine Forest - Stirling Creek."
Caption and photo: A.E. Simmons, Dec 1936.
   The island abounds in beauty spots, lagoons, creeks, and plains covered with wildflowers, especially boronia and Christmas bells, the latter growing to a huge size, the white heath completing a glorious picture.  At every period of the year wildflowers of one kind or another are in bloom, and the plains on which they grow are easily accessible from either Bongaree or Woorim.  Bush orchids grow here in all their glory, and a feature of the fauna is the bridal bush which grows to a height of 12 feet and is a mass of white and yellow.  Wild hops grow on several parts of the island, and pines, dark cypress, and banksia are some of the principal trees which flourish here.
   Along the beach there are many fine specimens of casuarinas or horse-tailed oak trees, and these trees grow practically along the entire length of the beach.
   The lagoons, of which there are four on the island, are of outstanding charm, and the photographer will here find scenes to depict which could not be equaled in any other part.  The calm, placid water, with the trees on the banks perfectly mirrored, is a picture that lingers long in the memory of those who visit here.  The lagoons are full of fish, and crabs can easily being caught here, owing to the shallowness of the water.
   The bird life on the island consists of several varieties of gulls, magpies, butcher birds, blue mountain and green parrots, wrens, difference species of pigeons, doves, brolgahs, leatherheads, black cockatoos, Australian black swans and ducks.  Emus are also found here, these birds having waded across from near Caloundra.  Kangaroos and wallabies have also found their way to the island in this manner and besides these, there are dingoes and several species of iguanas.
"Ocean Beach - Woorim, Bribie Island."
Caption and photo: A.E. Simmons, Dec 1936.
   The surfing beach at Woorim is patrolled by the Bribie Surf Life Saving Club in a most efficient manner, and here they have a shelter-shed and reel.  Persons who intend camping or residing at Woorim should note that orders for all goods are taken at the kiosk, including meat and milk.
   The charms of Bribie Island are inexhaustible.  The visitor fond of boating can hire a boat at all times, and I would certainly recommend a trip through the Pumice Stone Passage as far as Caloundra.  The journey through the passage thrills one with the beauty of the scenery, the narrow channel threading its tortuous course for miles and miles between Bribie Island and the mainland emptying itself into the sea, at Caloundra.  It is indeed a most pleasing trip, with its myriads of small islands and bays, and the majestic Glasshouse Mountains and Taylor Range, stand out as a fitting background.
   The sunsets in this region are beyond description, and to see the glories of a dying day in this locality is ample recompense for the time spent in coming here.  As before mentioned, the Pumice Stone Passage is an angler's paradise, and for years has been known to the numerous habitu├ęs of the bay.
   A holiday spent on Bribie Island, away from the turmoil and hustle of city life, is a holiday well spent, and the visitor can rest assured that no dull moment need be spent here, and that the scenic charm of the Island and Bay, together with the exhilarating surf, will fit him afresh for the battle of life."

A.E. Simmons, journalist.
The Telegraph (Brisbane newspaper) Monday 7 December 1936, p. 20.
Trove, National Library of Australia: access to digitised copies of Australian newspapers.

In memory of Ranger

A Memorial to a dog named Ranger
by Lynne Hooper, president, Bribie Island Historical Society

Bribie Island in 1936 had its own “Red Dog” story and with the prequel movie “Red Dog – True Blue” released in 2016 it's fitting that “Ranger’s” story is told.

A little wooden cross used to stand on the sand dunes at Main Beach (Woorim), Bribie Island, just in front of the lifesavers’ club house and fixed to it was a glass-covered frame, behind which were framed these words:

Source: The Telegraph, Thu 18 Nov 1937, p. 15

“In memory of Ranger,
Died May 8th, 1936.
If there be an after world for such as thou –
May the juiciest of bones be thy reward”

The little cross was erected, as the wording implies, to the memory of a dog, just one of the many friends and allies of man.

Ranger was a dog with no especial owner. A black, retriever type, dog he was the special pet of the Bribie Lifesavers’ team, and a general favourite with residents and visitors of the Island, going from one to the other for an occasional meal and a little affection. His particular pals, the lifesavers, were only there during the week-ends and holidays.

When the steamships Koopa or Doomba arrived each Saturday Ranger would be there to meet the team and after greeting them all joyfully would race away through the scrub, covering the three miles from the boat berth to the main beach ahead of the bus and be waiting for the boys to arrive at the clubhouse.

He would not ride in the bus, apparently, he thought that he should be the perfect host and receive his guests at the door.
Ranger's memorial cross, 1950.
Photo: G. Dudley via BIHS.

When the team were on beach patrol, so was Ranger, and he would accompany them into the sea, always swimming out beyond the furthest swimmer.  As long as the men were in the water he would continue to swim around beyond them. He remained at his self-appointed task until the patrol withdrew, sometimes being in the sea for hours on end.

Whenever beach sports or team competitions were held Ranger took his place at the front of the team, trotting along, tail erect, as the men marched.

So popular was Ranger with everyone on the island that one could hardly imagine anybody wishing him harm.  The lifesavers were heart-broken when they found him dead.  They buried him in the sand in front of the club-house and the flag was flown at half-mast. They placed the cross on top of his grave, overlooking the sea, in memory of a faithful friend.
Sydney cartoonist Harmuth Lahm
visited Bribie Island in 1950.
Photo: G. Dudley via BIHS.
Ranger's memorial cross, 1950.
Photo: G. Dudley via BIHS.

In 1950 the Sydney cartoonist Harmuth Lahm visited Bribie Island and was photographed at Ranger's memorial cross.

The cross remained in position into the late 1960s.

References Used for above text:  
World News, Sydney, 27 July 1940, p. 12
Sydney Morning Herald, 14 August 1946, p. 4