A Pictorial Glossary of Vessels Sunk in Wartime Australian Waters
By Kevin Gomm

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In the period of six years, throughout a conflict which engulfed almost the entire world, over 55 ships and vessels were lost as a result of direct enemy engagement and action off the immediate coastline of Australia. Some were sunk within sight of shore, whereas others succumbed further out to sea, where for the enemy at least, they were perhaps out of range from land-based reconnaissance aircraft or the stretched resources that the various Allied navies, including our own could muster at the time.

However, the sinking of merchant and naval shipping due to enemy activity wasn't just confined to the Second World War. A small handful were lost throughout 1914 - 1918 as well, giving impetus that these shores were not immune to a conflict primarily being conducted half a world away.

But between 1939 and 1945 Australia was one of the few countries to feel the brunt, however small or great, of the direct impact meted out from all three major belligerents in the war, that is namely Germany, Japan and to a lesser degree Italy.

Elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army Air Force carried out air raids and attacks on three states and one territory with Darwin receiving the most. Japan's naval forces, especially the submarine division, targeted Allied shipping with equally devastating fervour, no less evident than with the number of vessels that were torpedoed and sunk off the east coast. Conversely and sometimes overlooked, is the success Germany's Kriegsmarine (navy) achieved here. The disguised raiders and U-boats all managed to surreptitiously sink and attack shipping in Australia's busy waterways with equally accomplishing results.


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This page first produced 5 June 2011

This page last updated 21 January 2020