US ARMY SMALL SHIPS SECTION
UNITED STATES ARMY SERVICES OF SUPPLY (USASOS)
IN AUSTRALIAN WATERS
The ship "Coweambah", an 82 foot wooden steamer, was requisitioned by the Commonwealth Government in 1953 for use by the US Army Small Ships Section during WWII to aid in fighting the Japanese. Daniel William "Bill" Ripley had been the captain of the "Coweambah" since the 1920's and served with the US Army Small Ships Section during WWII on board "Comeambah (S-96). "Coweambah" was owned by G.A. Engel & Sons and before the war had carried freight and passengers between Tea Gardens and Newcastle, as well as servicing the Myall Lakes, and River, up to Buladelah. This sea-going vessel was 82 feet in length.
Bill Ripley's role was to ferry stores from U.S. ships into the bays and inlets of New Guinea. Bill was decorated , at the end of the war, by U. S. authorities for bravery during repeated Japanese air attacks.
"Coweambah" had an incident on 11 June 1945 when it went ashore near South-west Rocks, 25 miles from Kempsey whilst being towed by the North Coast Steamship Company's "Comara". They decided to run into Trial Bay to avoid a gale but the tow line broke and the "Coweambah" was washed ashore. The cook, George Michalitis, was washed overboard and never seen again. The following 6 men either swam or were washed ashore:-
Ian Graham Cripps
Artheur George Salt
James W. Gadd
Keith W. Roals
Eric M. Thrower
The Captain of the "Coweambah" at that time was Captain J.N. Hansen, who was on board the escorting vessel.
In his younger years Bill had been a champion sculler, winning eight races on the Hunter River in both single and double sculls. In 1910, he won the ‘Parramatta Hundred’, at Gladesville, with prize-money of 100 pounds. In May, 1916, he won the N.S.W. Heavy Boat championship, and four years later, (August, 1920), the N.S.W. Sculling Championship - becoming the first person to hold both titles. In this same year he challenged for the World championship, but his challenge was denied on a technicality. (because he worked for a living) In 1923, he retired from professional/competitive rowing.
In 1912, he apparently made the move with his father’s family to the Myall Lakes. Living at Tea Gardens, he worked as a deckhand on Les Motum’s storeboat, "Wave", which serviced the Myall River and Lakes settlements. In 1916, he gained his ‘Harbour and Rivers’ Certificate, and became captain of the "Nepean", a larger storeboat, owned by the Engel family, and running from Bugwahl to Nelson Bay.
I'd like to thank Rob Ripley for his assistance with this web page. "Bill" Ripley was Rob Ripley's father's uncle.
"Forgotten Fleet 2"
An updated and expanded history of the part played by Australian men and ships in the US Army Ships in New Guinea, 1942 - 1945
by Bill Lunney and Ruth Lunney
"Cook Lost When Ship Driven Ashore"
The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 12 June 1945
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© Peter Dunn 2006
This page first produced 9 March 2014
This page last updated 09 March 2014