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AWM Photo ID No 303698

"MV Nimbin"


The Australian Freighter "MV Nimbin", 1052 tons, was sunk about 8 miles off Norah Head, New South Wales (10 miles east of Bird Island) after hitting a German Mine at 3:20pm on the 5 December 1940 with the loss of 7 lives. It is believed that this mine had been laid by the German Commerce Raider "Pinguin". "MV Nimbin" had left Coff's Harbour jetty on 4 December 1940 on its way to Sydney.

German Raiders "Pinguin" and "Passat" and "Orion" laid extensive mine fields off New South Wales, Hobart and in Bass Strait between the mainland and Tasmania during WWII. 

In 1940, the German commerce raider "Pinguin" accompanied by a tender ship sailed through Bass Strait and laid mines along the Victorian Coast, including the area off Apollo Bay. This field claimed two ships, "S.S. Cambridge" and "MS City of Rayville".

The "Pinguin" also laid mines in South Australian waters including the Gulf of St. Vincent and Investigator Strait (near Kangaroo Island) areas. Numerous mines were reported washed ashore along the coast of South Australia, especially along the south east coast area. "Pinguin" also operated off Newcastle, Sydney and Hobart.

"MV Nimbin" was owned by North Coast Steam Navigation Company a NSW Shipping Company. The loss of "MV Nimbin" and its captain and 6 crew is commemorated on the Australian Merchant Seamens Memorial (Seventh Plaque).

The following crew went down with the "MV Nimbin" and their bodies were never found:-

William James Bysantson, Master, 57 years old, Australian Merchant Navy
Ernest Walter Hallett, Wiper, 60 years old, Australian Merchant Navy
Ernest Wilfred Carlson, Donkeyman, 56 years old, Australian Merchant Navy
Nils Hulton, Greaser, 60 years old, Australian Merchant Navy
Charles George Chapman, Chief Officer, 56 years old, Australian Merchant Navy
Archibald McAllister, Third Engineer Officer, 47 years old, Australian Merchant Navy
William Gorry, Able Seaman, Australian merchant Navy

The mine exploded on the starboard side aft at about the bulkhead between the engine room and No. 2 Hold.

An aircraft took off from Rathmines and reported a wreck and approximately 12 men in a position 5 miles east of Bird Island. 13 crew members were eventually rescued two and half hours after "MV Nimbin" sank. They were picked up and taken ashore on the "S.S. Bonalbo" arriving in Sydney at 10pm on the 5 December 1940. Three of the survivors were badly injured and a fourth slightly injured. The survivors were as follows:-


Arthur Nicklen
Emil Andersen
Charles Cartwright
John Reynolds


Stuart Kennedy
Thomas Humphrey
Frederick Whelan
Edward Green
William Pry?
Walter Nicholson
Christopher Banks
David Powell
Frederick Gough

The Port of Newcastle was closed to shipping and sailings to Newcastle from Sydney stopped until further orders.


Report of a Mine spotted floating off
 Noora on 23 November 1940



"North Coast Run: Men and Ships of the New South Wales North Coast"
by Michael Richards



I'd like to thank Gwilym Richards for his assistance with this web page.


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This page first produced 17 June 2011

This page last updated 17 June 2017