Merauke 5: tough experience had a silver lining
Leading Pacific academic Ron Crocombe dies

Macdhui a reminder Port Moresby’s dark days

Malum Nalu

MV Macdhui

A small but significant anniversary occurred on Thursday: the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the MV Macdhui by Japanese bombs on 18 June 1942.

The wreck of the Macdhui in the waters off Port Moresby Technical College at Kanudi remains one of the best-known landmarks in Moresby.

The Macdhui, 4630 tonnes, built in Glascow in 1930 was operated by Burns Philp. Her maiden voyage took place in March 1931, when she sailing to Suva via the Azores, Jamaica and the Panama Canal with a load of coal.

Macdhui then serviced the Sydney-Rabaul route with accommodation for 167 first-class passengers.

With the onset of World War II, she was used to evacuate civilians from  New Guinea and to carry Australian troops back to Port Moresby.

On 17 June 1942, Macdhui was attacked by Japanese bombers while discharging cargo to lighters in Moresby harbour. She zigzagged around the harbour but took a direct hit which caused considerable damage. The vessel went alongside the main wharf to unload dead and wounded.

MV Macdhui The next morning at 10.45 there was an air-raid warning and Macdhui moved into the harbour and began manoeuvring. Soon after she took a direct hit and then three more. The captain headed towards shallow water where Macdhui keeled over on a reef. Ten of the 77 crew and five Australian gunners from the 39th Battalion were killed.

The sinking was filmed from a nearby hilltop by Australian cameraman, Damien Parer.

The loss of the Macdhui was a great blow to the morale of the Australian troops in Port Moresby. Until then it had been the only regular link between Australia and Port Moresby.

The wreck is now deeply pitted and corroded under the waterline. It is gradually breaking up but even if it does slip completely under the surface, part of the Macdhui will remain. Macdhui_Bell In the late 1960s the mast was removed and stands outside the Royal Papua Yacht Club as a memorial to those who died.

And one of the ship’s bells was erected in the tower of St John's Anglican Church in Port Moresby and still calls parishioners to worship.

Source: Abstracted from a story in the PNG National

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