ON 16 MAY 1943


The "SS Cities Service Boston", a 9,348 tons oil tanker, ran aground at Bass Point in New South Wales in a bad storm on 16 May 1943. "SS Cities Service Boston" had been in convoy PG50 four days earlier, when the convoy was attacked by Japanese submarine I-180.

Approximately thirty soldiers of the Australian Army's Sixth Machine Gun Battalion who were camped nearby at Kembla Grange were sent to rescue the crew of the ship. The soldiers assisted with rescuing the 62 American crew members, but unfortunately four men from the 6th Machine Gun Battalion lost their lives when ten soldiers were swept off the rocks in the wild seas. The soldiers had unsuccessfully tried to build a temporary flying fox to the stricken vessel.

Sgt. William Francis Allan NX133804
Pvt. Geoffrey William Pitt NX127791
Pvt. Bruce Howard Simmons NX111705
Pvt. Raymond John Snell NX118174

Japanese submarine I-180 carried out the following attacks off the eastern coast of Australia around this time:-

Date Ship Country Tonnage Submarine Damage
29 Apr 43 Wollongbar Australian 2,239 tons I-180 Sunk by torpedoes. 32 men killed, 5 survivors. Remains discovered off Crescent Head in about April 2020.
5 May 43 Fingal Norwegian 2,137 tons I-180 Sunk by torpedoes
12 May 43 Caradale Australian 1,881 tons I-180 Minor torpedo damage
12 May 43 Ormiston Australian 5,832 tons I-180 Damaged by torpedoes

On Monday 4 September 1944, the American Consul-General, Mr. Ely E. Palmer, presented the United States Soldier's Medal to the next-of-kin of the four Australian soldiers who drowned trying to rescue the American crew of the SS Cities Service Boston. The ceremony was held at the Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney. The Medal was apparently the equivalent of the O.B.E.

The relatives present were:-

Mrs F. N. Allan, mother of Sgt. W. F. Allan of Croydon
Mrs. T. P. Pitt, mother of Pvt. G. W. Pitt of Rose Bay
Mrs. H. E. Simmons, mother of Pvt. B. H. Simmons of Mosman
Mrs. Jacqueline Snell, widow of Pvt. R. J. Snell of North Strathfield

Also present were Brigadier-General T. E. Riley, the US Base Section Commander and other US and Australian military authorities.


"SS Cities Service Boston" in 1943 aground a Bass Point


Albert Colyer donated a double lifeboat pullet from the "SS Cities Service Boston" to the Shellharbour City Museum Collection.

On 8 September 1968, a memorial to commemorate this tragic event was unveiled. A memorial service is held at the memorial each year. A second plaque was dedicated on 21 May 1989.


Photo:- David Stevens

Memorial at Bass Point Reserve, Shellharbour, NSW


Photo:- David Stevens

History board at Bass Point Reserve, Shellharbour, NSW


Photo:- David Stevens

Closeup of the above sign


The wreck was later used for practice bombing and rocket firing practice by the RAAF. The wreck was later salvaged over a ten year period by a number of companies including Port Kembla Steelworks. In January 1944 the company which first bought the wreck ran some light rails across the rocks and into the wreck to help recover the larger items. Smaller items up till then had been recovered using a flying fox arrangement.



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This page first produced 29 June 2020

This page last updated 03 July 2020