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hello and welcome to this

special edition of Stateline.

I'm Craig Allen and I'm at the

Australian War Memorial. This

is the monument to the merchant

mariners who lost their lives

during the Second World War.

Apart from this memorial and a

few like it around the country,

the stories of these men and

their sacrifices have gone

largely unsung and untold. In

this special program we reveal

Australian history for the

first time, a tale of

adventure, heroism, tragedy and

loss, also one of discovery - a

small group of intrepid divers

has located the wreB of one of

these ships, the 'Iron Knight'

on the ocean floor off the

coast of Bermagui. Families

will discover what happened to

their fathers, uncles and

brother and the sole survivor

will finds peace as he tells

Bermagui. Families will ocean floor off the coast of ships, the 'Iron Knight' on the his story 63 years ck of one of the

peace as he tells his story 63 the sole survivor will finds fathers, uncles and brother and discover what happened to their

years later.

It's well before dawn and a

team of undersea adventurers is

gearing up for a day of diving

on Australia's newest shipwreck

discovery. They've driven five

hours from Sydney to Bermagui

on the far south coast and it's

now 6:00am. Their dive charter

isn't the fastest boat on the

coast but it does come with a

wealth of local knowledge, the

sort of knowledge that can

interpret a fuzzy image on the

depth sounder and recognise

there's a new wreck waiting to

be named and explored.

Fishermen have chartered wrecks

along the NSW coast for

decades, they usually find them

the hard way, when they snag

their trawl nets. But in the

last few years they've shared

some of their information with

a team of elite technical

divers calling themselves the

Sydney Project. These men give

new meaning to the term deep

sea diving. They're deck out

more like spacemen with dry

suits to keep out the cold and

a tangle of hi tech scuba

equipment to sustain them for a

marathon five hours under

water. Can I get you to put

it underneath the arm? the

wreck is 125 m down, much

deeper than most divers dare to

go. They're pushing it to the

limits but for some incredible limits but for some incredible

rewards. Go! Watch out. Where

they're heading, the water is

pitch black and icy cold. It's

a 6-minute freefall to the

ocean floor when finally the

wreck emerges out of the gloom. Dropping down to the

wreck, the water visibility was

really good that day. When we

dropped down the first thing

that struck was the outline of

the wreck. Straight away you

actually can see that it's a

wreck as soon as you see the

big massive outline, the hulk

of it, the first thing you

think is, "This is great, it's

an intact wreck, it's not in

pieces, it is something you can

possibly identify on the

particular dive." That's what

we try to do, identify them on

the first dive if possible, not

always achievable but a lot of

times it happens. The wreck is

the 'Iron Knight', a cargo

carrier sunk by the Japanese

during the Second World War and

its discovery has come just in

time because 63 years after the

'Iron Knight' went down,

there's now just one man left

to tell the tragic story

first-hand. It was about half

past 12 in the morning and this

great explosion and another

deck boy, he was sleeping and I

says, "Come on, we're hit." I

woke him up and up we went to

the boat deck." John Stone went

to sea at 16 when the 'Iron

Knight' and its sister ships

had formed the backbone of

Australia's wartime supply

line. Part of BHP's merchant

navy, the iron ore carriers had

transported raw materials from

Whyalla in SA to Newcastle

where they were transformed

into the tools of industry and

war. And the waters they plied

were becoming increasingly

dangerous. The night of May 31,

Japanese midget submarines

enter Sydney Harbour. A navy

ship is torpedoed, 19 lose

their lives. The 1942 attacks

in Sydney Harbour and Newcastle

highlighted the growing threat

and shattered the illusion that

southern cities were not at

threat. Japanese submarines turned their attention to the

merchant navy. The Japanese

eyes still rest on Sydney's

shipping. The midgets have

sailed but larger parts here

roam the coastline. The RAAF

seeks the marauders while in

turn the marauders seek

unguarded shipping. Merchant

ships would quickly send word

of any suspicious sightings at

sea and on 3 June, 1942, the

tragic news came that a

Japanese torpedo had sunk

another in the BHP fleet, the

'Iron Chieftain' east of Manly.

12 went down with that ship but

others lived to sound had the

warning about the extent of

Japanese activity. Freely

expressing their feelings for

the Japs. Is this the first time you've been

torpedoed? this is the first

time and I hope it will be the

last time. They were

full-sized ocean-going

submarine, nothing midget about

it. Remember the Japs will

strike again. Sure enough they

did, eight months later on

February 8, 1943 the 'Iron

Knight' was leading a convoy of

cargo ships around the NSW far

south coast flanked by an armed

escort of two mine sweepers,

the naval ships dispatched from

Melbourne to protect the fleet

against enemy attack as it

sailed north. But as the convoy

reached the waters off burmguy

shortly after midnight, it came

under attack from the infamous

Japanese submarine, I-21, the

sub that had developed a

reputation for sinking ships

off the Australian coast. The

two torpedos shot beneath the

hull of one of the naval ships,

striking the 'Iron Knight'

side-on. The night we got hit

we were in the first lot of

ships. There was 10 of us - two

lots of four and two. We were

the - that's why we got hit

because we were right on the

starboard side and bingo, we

copped it. The torpedos blasted

a massive hole below the bridge

of the 'Iron Knight', killing

many of its senior officers.

Now on fire, cargo holds

quickly flooded and within

seconds the ship was listing dangerously. But John Stone and

a handful of others somehow

made it out of their cabins to

what they thought was safety.

How long do you think it took

to sink? About two minutes to

be out of sight. I don't

remember - I never got over the

side, it just went from under

me. Beautiful night. All I had

was a pair of pyjama pants on.

That's what I finished up with

- no singlet or nothing, you

know. It was a very, very

pleasant night and that was one

consolation, the water was

warm. And then when they said,

"Jump," too late to get to the

stern. I had to go over the

side of the props and into the

water spinning. I remember

getting sucked down with it and

how I came up I don't know. I

got hold of a smoke flare and I

thought, "Now, if that - if I

can hold my breath long enough

I'll definitely come to the

top," which I did. When I come

up I didn't know where I was

and I couldn't hear a soul and

I just yelled out, "Anyone

there?" They were a bit away

from me on the raft and anyhow

I managed to - it wasn't a bad

sort of a swim and it got me

out of trouble. Some people

used to call them the death

ships because they sank so

fast. That's right. Yep. They

were impossible. And down in

the engine room they had no

hope. Always reckon you never

get out of it down there

because it's too far down.

There's no time to get up. As

the 'Iron Knight' went down and

its survivors were thrown into

the sea, the convoy sailed on.

To turn around or to stop and

try and rescue survivors would

have invited another torpedo

attack. Of the 'Iron Knight''s

crew of 50, only 14 survived to

clamber aboard a life raft. 10

hours later they were spotted

by the French warship which had

been sent to search for survivors. Did you count

yourself lucky? Very lucky. I

was the last one on the raft

and I don't remember anybody

else coming on after me, after

I got on the raft. It was

pretty hairy and I still think

of it - still think of it of a

nighttime when I'm in bed. So

you were on a raft for 10 hours

or something - 10 or 12 hours?

Yeah. We saw the naval ship

coming towards us - yes, it was

a very good sight . And they

looked after you? And that's

when I started to smoke. As I

got into the grappling net on

to the destroyer, they had a

cigarette alight for you and

that's when I started smoking. This photograph was snapped

as the survivors reached

Circular Quay, showing the

young crewmates freshly decked

out in surplus French uniforms,

their smiles belying their

horrific ordeal and the fact

that 36 crewmates had been

killed. 63 years later, John

Stone is the last of those

survivors. How does it feel for

you to know that you're the

last surviving member of that

50-strong crew? Very lucky

boy. Yeah. That's how you see

yourself? Yeah. Very lucky

boy. Do you sometimes ask

yourself, "How did I survive

that?" why me? Why me? Yeah.

Yeah. The public was never

told the full detail of the

torpedo attack that claimed the

'Iron Knight'. Wartime

censorship meant that only this

newspaper snippet acknowledged

the tragedy at the time. We

knew very little. Even though

the family were a sea-faring

family, my uncles followed by

grandfather to see, both were

at sea during the war as

midshipman, cadets. Nothing was

mentioned except I said to my

mum one day and my grandmother,

"What happened to grandad, why

isn't he around, sort of

thing?" It came out he was in a

ship that sunk off the coast by

the Japanese at that time and

he was killed on the ship and

that's as much as we knew, as

much as was spoken about. To

Craig Hunt, whose grandfather

died on the 'Iron Knight',

merchant marines were the

unsung heroes of wartime

Australia. They may have been

civilians but they were on the

front line. They'd supply ships

and man the tankers that fueled

the navy ships and they brought

in the AV gas to keep the air

force flying. They were

everywhere and paid for it

pretty dearly. They lost more

men than any of the armed

services actually and probably

the British and the Americans

bore the brunt even more than

we did but even our merchant

navy lost something like 20% of

all our personnel. But not only

was their sacrifice hushed up

during wartime, their treatment

was at times downright shabby.

Those who didn't go down with

their ship were left high and

dry by their employers. When

the ship was sunk, so was the

money. They did not pay once

you lost a ship. You had to

wait and get another ship

before you got paid. That was

the killer. Once you hit the

water your pay stopped. In

recent years, though, the price

paid by merchant mariners has

at last been recognised. Today

their names are listed add the

Australian War Memorial in

Canberra, including that of

Craig Hunt's grandfather, Alf

Pinnington, 1 of hundreds who

died and no-one really knows

how many did die. The

current got - we got to 50m and

we were holding on for grim

death. We could feel the line

shaking. It felt like it was getting stronger as it was

going deeper. 15km out at sea,

the wreck is often scoured by

fierce currents. Little wonder

that after 63 years it's become

a shelter for marine life. The

'Iron Knight''s transformation

from cargo ship to artificial

reef is nothing short of

remarkable. Those nets lost by

trawler fishermen hang eerily

suspended from the wreck. There

was never a chance to fire the

ship's 4-inch stern gun against

a Japanese torpedo attack and

it's now rusted into place,

incrusted with marine growth.

Surprisingly, the massive iron

ore carrier remains virtually

intact, resting upright where

it came to rest on the ocean

floor. It carried 8,000-tonof

iron ore and only covered about

a third of the hold. That's

probably why they found her

upright. It's like a roll doll

toy the kids use. Even if she

landed on the sides she would

have come up again because all

the weight's down at the

bottom. There's no obvious

evidence of the 36 crew who

perished but archeologists are

confident their remains will be

in the hull where the sailors

were trapped. Will it be

classified as a war grave? The

war grave legislation doesn't

refer to shipping structures

but we can certainly talk of

war dead and for that reason

alone we need to make sure any

human interaction is done in a

measured and careful way,

respecting those values. In my

mind, the chaps that went down

in these boats were in active duty, serving country and

serving the politics at the

time and they should be

remembered as such and treated

as such. It's difficult to look

at the wreck today and not

imagine the drama that sent it

so quickly to the bottom. The

sister ship lasted a bit

longer, the 'Iron Chieftain',

she didn't have a full cargo of

iron ore and they managed to

get a boat away and most of the

crew. What about the crew of

the 'Iron Knight' then? Um,

well, I imagine it all happened

pretty sudden. It would be

pretty horrific, wouldn't it?

Be in bed one minute, a loud

bang, trapped and going down

with your ship. Pretty horrific

thing. It was an image that haunted Peter Le Marquand

through 31 years on the sea, 25

of those in command of BHP

merchant ships. They're all

identical and they were lovely

old ships, probably best ships

in the Australian merchant navy

really. They were big and

strong because they were made

to hold steel cargoes, iron

ore, pig iron. The chieftain

class were a bit more like the

'Titanic', the bulkheads only

came up to between decks,

they'd virtually flood straight

through. For people like Peter

Le Marquand and descendants

like Craig Hunt, the Sydney

Project divers have made a

human connection to their

latest discovery. Artefacts

belong to people and possibly

to the relatives that you just

met, that could be something of

their relatives, you know, so

you actually - trivulitems

become very important sort of

relic to them and, you know,

even taking a photo or a video

and showing it to them will

bring something special to them

because, I suppose, it is their past. The Sydney Project

divers freely admit that in

years past the temptation to

plunder historic wrecks for

artefacts was too great for

some to resist but attitudes

and laws have changed. Today

they dive on wrecks to study

and film them, to tell their

story and to help the

Government bodies charged with

protecting them. You're seeing

today with modern technical

drive clubs like the Sydney

Project that there's been a

quantum shift in people's

attitudes in how they interact

with ship sites, making sure they're reserved and looked

after and we get the most

information from them. The

Sydney Project divers wanted

Peter Le Marquand and Craig

Hunt to see the first pictures

filmed on the wreck, but no-one

was quite prepared for the

emotional reaction it evoked.

after all, this isn't just a

slowly rusting cargo ship, it's

the grave for 33 men, a grave

that survived 63 years without

detection, a grave for a

grandfather and crew mates that

went before and it was a wartime mystery

solved. Initially I didn't

think it would affect me at all

because I never knew him. It

was purely a family anecdote

because I never knew the men

other than he was my mother's

father. It brought a lump, I

guess, to think that Samir and

his team have found the resting

place of a relative. If you

ever feel that you'd like to

show that video, the master

mariners in Newcastle will pay

all the expenses and all the

booze. Bring it up. Speaking

on behalf of the membership, no

doubt that we will be in touch

and I'm sure we look forward to

going up en masse. Diver and cinematographer, Samir Alhafith, doesn't take the

credit for finding the 'Iron

Knight', he says that honour

goes to the burmguy fishermen

who snagged their nets on the wreck without knowing what it

was. When the fishermen told us

about a wreck we weren't sure

it would be the 'Iron Knight'

because of the position. From

where it was reported

originally to have been

torpedoed and sank was a bit

off from the charts so we

thought it might have been but

we couldn't be sure so the only

way to be sure was to actually

dive in. Born in Baghdad,

war-torn Iraq must seem a world

away for Samir Alhafith. Moving

to Sydney as a teenager, he

learned to dive around the

harbour, filming its

spectacular undersea wildlife.

now he's reached the pinnacle

and in diving that often means

going down deeper than anyone

else dares but there are strict

rules to abide. Generally we

stick to a 20-minute bottom

time. It takes five to six

minutes to get to the depth if

the conditions are ideal, no

currents. You get ideally 15

minutes on a good day on the

actual wreck which is not bad

considering the depth. You can

still achieve quite a bit. The

only thing is you're penalised

with a long decompression after

that, around four hours. We

like to stay longer down there

but for every five minutes

you're adding close to an hour

of decompression. These hours

are spent floating in water

waiting for the body to rid

itself of potentially fatal

nitrogen bubbles in the

blood. It's a new wreck and no

matter how many times you dive

a new wreck the feelings's

always the same, you're the

first person to see it after so

many years. It's quite

incredible. It's like being an

archeologist in Egypt opening a

new sarcophagus, you know,

you've found a new relic

basically. It's a nice day so

that helps. Our dad went down

too. It was my grandfather.

Lovely. We thought we'd get this. It's a wonderful

opportunity. Too good to

miss. For decades family

members had guessed where the

'Iron Knight' might have been

sunk but never known for

certain. We believed it went

off somewhere near the

beach. No, mum always said

burmguy. Unknowingly, families

had been paying their respects

in the wrong spot. The wreck

wasn't north-east as Montague

island as war official s said,

but much further south. Now for

the first time, descendants of

the crew make the bumpy and

very emotional journey for

themselves. The man who was a

4-month-old baby when his

father went down on the 'Iron

Knight', the daughter who

waited in vain for a father who

never arrived home for his own

21st birthday party, they came

to see once and for all where

their loved ones died and lay

poppies on the sea, one for

each of the 36 crew. They were

all good people. They were all

good people. A lot of good

people lost their lives just

doing their job, didn't they?


the families know at least

it's there in that spot and

there's always a grave there

for them.

This program is not subtitled

Welcome to the show. I'm Andy Muirhead, and this is Collectors, the show that celebrates the passion, the obsession, and the compulsion that is collecting. And to help us do that, we have our panel of experts.