HMAS TAMBAR HIT BY "FRIENDLY FIRE"
FROM COWAN COWAN, MORETON ISLAND
ON 4 MARCH 1942

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HMAS Tambar

On 4 March 1942 an unfortunate accident occurred, when the auxiliary minesweeper HMAS Tambar was fired on by the Examination Battery at Fort Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island. There was a mix up in the code signals for identification of the vessel and the examination Battery at Cowan Cowan was ordered to fire a shot from one of their 6 inch BL Mark VI guns across the bow of the unidentified "intruder". The gun was under the control of Lieutenant E. Bingham, RAA. The shell that was fired was apparently a practice round filled with plaster of paris.

Unfortunately the shell struck the ships forecastle. Able Seaman Archibald E. Bartch (PA1922) of the anchor party was killed instantly. The shell then skidded across the deck, struck the superstructure, and passed through the captain's cabin, killing Steward Eric R. Harrison (S4788) instantly. It then passed through the radio room severing both legs of Warrant Officer Henry Theeman before leaving the ship and plunging into the sea. Warrant Officer Theeman later died in the Greenslopes Hospital as a result of his wounds. Other crew members received lacerations and flesh wounds.

HMAS Tambar was on a routine patrol at the time of this incident. The Commanding Officer of HMAS Tambar was Lieutenant J.H.P. Dixon, RANR. HMAS Tambar was part of Minesweeping Group 74 and was based in Brisbane. HMAS Kianga was also part of the same group.

The military authorities decided to cover up the incident so as not to affect morale in the services. "Tambar's" crew was dispersed throughout the RAN immediately after the funeral of their shipmates. The captain was given a new ship to command and the "Tambar" was later paid off as a minesweeper. It was used as a boom defence vessel later in the war.

 

Seaward Defences for Moreton Bay

Fort Bribie

Fort Rous

Fort Cowan Cowan

RAN4 - The Bribie Island Indicator Loop Hut
Part of the Royal Navy's anti-submarine harbour defence for "Fortress Brisbane"

Was American Submarine USS Triton
accidentally sunk in Moreton Bay by friendly fire?

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Lee Deighton for his assistance with this page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Fortress Brisbane"
By D.W. Spethman and R.G. Miller

(Available from Fort Lytton, Brisbane))

 

 

 

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 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 28 March 2001

This page last updated 05 May 2013