Subchaser SC 738 was attached to the 7th Fleet, US Navy and operated in Australian waters performing mostly escort and patrol work up and down the east coast of Queensland. SC 738 operated out of Brisbane for some time during WW2. Lt. Carroll F. Sweet was the Commanding Officer of SC 738.

On 25 April 1943, SC 738 and another subchaser were escorting a convoy north east from Moreton Bay, near Brisbane. They were running up the coast inside the Great Barrier Reef. Their destination was Townsville in north Queensland. 

The convoy comprised:-

The Nord was to leave the convoy and berth in Rockhampton.

When dawn broke on 25 April 1943, Van Vlissenberg was lagging behind the convoy by about a mile. As they were near Rockhampton, Nord headed west for it destination port. Around this time, Lt. Sweet on SC 738 signalled the other Subchaser and ordered it to "Round up straggler and return". The Subchasers inexperienced newly appointed Commanding Officer, headed west after the Nord rather than heading back to the Van Vlissenberg.

Lt. Sweet tried to signal the other Subchaser with a signal lamp, but the other SC did not respond. Then the bulb in the signal lamp failed. When they eventually found a replacement bulb they signalled the other Subchaser to "Come back". They saw the signal and turned around, Sweet then ordered them to proceed to the Van Vlissenberg.

Lt. Sweet then noticed that the other SC had stopped and come about. The SC then signalled "Am picking up survivors. Request permission to search for more."

Lt. Sweet on SC 738 suddenly realised that the other SC must have been picking up survivors from a ship that had been sunk by a Japanese submarine. Sweet was concerned that the Japanese submarine may have still been in the area. He signalled back "How long". The reply came back "Thirty Minutes" and he responded "Permission granted". While the other SC picked up survivors, SC 738 escorted the rest of the convoy. Sweet ordered the ship to General Quarters and increased speed to increase its patrol area. They closely monitored their sound gear and were on the lookout for any periscopes.

The other SC picked up the 11 survivors and headed for the Van Vlissenberg. She then returned to her normal position on the port bow of the convoy. 

The vessel that had been torpedoed was the Australasian Steam Navigation Company vessel, "Kowarra", of 2125 tons. She had been built in Sunderland, United Kingdom in 1916. The unescorted ship had been torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-26 on 24 April 1943 off Fraser Island, with the loss of 21 lives, including the master of the vessel, Captain D. McPherson. It had left Bowen headed for Brisbane. The 11 survivors were picked up by the other subchaser.


Photo: Ted Treadwell

Subchaser SC 648 in 1944



"Splinter Fleet - The Wooden Subchasers of World War II"
by Theodore R. Treadwell



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This page first produced 4 October 2003

This page last updated 10 October 2016