HMAS TAMBAR HIT BY "FRIENDLY FIRE"
FROM FORT COWAN, MORETON ISLAND
ON 4 MARCH 1942
On 4 March 1942 an unfortunate accident occurred, when the auxiliary minesweeper HMAS Tambar was fired on by the Examination Battery at Fort 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 just below the wooden decking of the gun platform. Able Seaman Archibald E. Bartch (PA1922) of the anchor party was hit by the shell and was killed instantly whilst he was painting underneath the gun platform.
The shell then flew at head height across the forward well deck, passing through the Captain's Cabin severely injuring Steward Eric R. Harrison (S4788). It then passed into the chart room where it severed both legs of Warrant Officer Henry Theeman. Stoker Arthur Forwood, who was twelve feet away from Theeman, also had his face cut by metal fragments.
The main remains of the shell then went through the other cabin wall and flew past the funnel, near where Able Seaman Thomson was painting. It then slammed through the steel walls of the radio room just missing the radio operator. It then passed through the starboard wall of the radio room, across the deck through the railings before leaving the ship and plunging into the sea.
Warrant Officer Theeman later died as a result of his injuries during the journey to the wharf at Pinkenba. Eric Harrison died of his wounds that night in Rosemount Hospital. Other crew members, including Able Seaman Bert Degen, 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 Cowan Cowan
RAN4 - The
Bribie Island Indicator Loop Hut
Part of the Royal Navy's anti-submarine harbour defence for "Fortress Brisbane"
American Submarine USS Triton
accidentally sunk in Moreton Bay by friendly fire?
I'd like to thank Peter Nunan and Lee Deighton for their assistance with this page.
By D.W. Spethman and R.G. Miller
(Available from Fort Lytton, Brisbane)
"A Lucky Ship -
The Nine Lives of the Australian Coastal 'Tambar' 1912 - 1960"
by Craig Mair
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 28 March 2001
This page last updated 15 January 2020