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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Commander, s.s. Meklong,

You will proceed in the Meklong, at 4 p.m. to-day, to Bougainville, calling at'.Buka, and afterwards at Kieta.; or, ifrequired to do so by Lieutenant-Colonel W.R. Watson, V.D., you are to proceed to Kieta first, or/and such other place or places as he may direct you.

You will take orders from him as to the landing of troops, and will return to Rabaul when instructed to do so by him.

I have appointed A.B. Jackson as First Mate, and A.B. Wills as Second Mate, for this voyage.

The letter is signed by Commander Lambton, R.A.N.R., King's Harbor Master, and is dated from Rabaul, 7th December, 1914. That covers the whole of the correspondence, and it satisfies me that Lieutenant Strasburg was entitled to the gratuity. I shall now place before the Senate some information which Lieutenant Strasburg compiled, at my request, from his diaries and logs. The following statement compasses his case as he sees it, and all I ask is that, if there are any good reasons why this officer should not receive the gratuity, the Government should make them known. I certainly am aware of none ; - 12th August, 1914. - I was summoned to Garden Island, and to producemy papers. After my papers were inspected in Sydney, the reportswere sent on to the Naval Board in Melbourne for their approval. Three days later, I received instructions to go and board the s.s. Berrima, and report myself to Commander Stevenson. I also handed him a letter from Lieutenant-Commander Cayley, R.N., stating the Naval Board has approved of Captain Strasburg's services being utilized on boardthe H.M.A.TBerrima.He will receive acommission as Acting Lieutenant, R.N.R. We left Sydney on the 19th August, and arrived atRabaul on 11th September. I piloted the Berrima at Kaba Kaul, and pointed out the road to the wireless station. We anchored at Herbertshohefor the night. 12th September, 1914; - Piloted the Berrima from Herbertshohe to Rabaul. Assoonasthe vessel was tied up at the wharf, and before the troops had 'landed to garrison the place, I went on shore, together with Brigade-Major Heritage and Commander Brown, to secure a flagstaff for hoisting the British flag, and also selected a suitable spot for erecting the same. 13th September.- TheBritish flag was hoisted at Rabaul, and theProclamation read to the white residents. An address to the natives in pidgin English, drafted by me, was also read to the natives, and three hearty cheers were given by them, which showed that wewere welcome visitors. 16th September. - The s.s. Madang arrived from Kieta. Iwas sent on board to takean inventory of crew, passengers, and cargo. 17 th September. - We commenced to coal the Berrima. I engaged 84 Chinese labourers for coaling. 19th September. - TheChinese labourers struck, and wantedmore pay. They struck for1s. a day more, eight hours' work, and no night work. Being stuck up for Chinese labour, I took command of the motor schooner Laurengau, and proceeded in her to Matupi, and North coast New Britain. Recruited 135 native labourers to coal the ship. 20th September. - Being successful in supplying labour, I was sent for by the Admiral of the Fleet to supply labour to coal the following ships: - Murex,Grantala, and Aorangi. 22nd September. - We finished coaling the Berrima at 6 a.m., 970 tons. The coal bill - Chinese labour, £87 10s.; native labour, £21. 7s. 6d. The natives did the most of the coaling and all the night work, and the Chinese day work only. At 9.30 a.m., we left for Frederich Wilhelmshafen, the flagship Encounter and the French cruiser Montcalm escorting us. When at Rabaul, I discovered many recent German plans, and also several reports and soundings, tides, and currents for the whole of the Bismarck Archipelago,German New Guinea, Caroline, and MarshallIslands. This work had taken the German surveying vessels many years to complete, and when translated and published in the South Sea Directory, should prove of great value to navigators. These plans and papers I passed on to Commander Stevenson, and I believe he transferred them to the Admiral the next day, when he and the Brigadier, Colonel Holmes, visited 'the Flagship at sea. 24th September. - Piloted the Berrima to Frederich Wilhelmshafen Harbor,and after the passage entrance had been swept for mines, we entered the harbor at 9.30 a.m. The flagship and Montcalm remained outside. The entrance is very narrow, and not enough swing room inside. We landed troops to garrison the place, provisions, stores, and ammunition ; leftat 5 p.m. the same day for Rabaul. We were complimented by the Admiral for the quick discharge, and for safely bringing the Berrima in and out of port. 26th September. - Arrived at Rabaul.Received information of the Whereabouts of the German vesselsCondor, Komet, and Planet. Communicatedsame to Commander Stevenson. 30th September. - IwasappointedCommander of s.s. Summatra. Thisvesselwas captured by the flagship on the day of arrival at Rabaul, on the 11th September. 2nd October. - I was appointed in command of s.s. Meklong. This vessel was in a very neglected condition, nearly all her furniture had been .taken out of her, and even the little charthouse on the bridge had been removed, and even, too, her compass lamps had been stolen. Her bottom was very foul, and had not been docked for two and a half years. Her engine-room and engines were in good order. I had some difficulty in securing a crew for this vessel, as they all had been allowed to go ashore. Her bottom being so foul, she would only steam 3 to 4 knots, and being flatbottomed, 'She could not make any progress against fresh winds, sea, and current. 4th October. - The Berrima left Rabaul for Sydney, and I was transferred to the Administrator, who thought my services would be very useful on account of my local knowledge of those waters, and also of native affairs. After being appointed in command of the Meklong and getting her ready - for sea, the King's Deputy Harbor Master was sent on board to bring her alongside the wharf, and I was asked to take a day off. She was sent down with Captain Komini as pilot, and despatched to Kapa Kaul to take on board some wireless gear and other .matters which had been captured at the Wireless Station. When she returned to Rabaul late that night, I took charge of her again,' but was cautioned not to take the hatches off, and not let anybody know the contents of her cargo. 6th October. - S.S. Meklong's engines were dismantled, and she has laid up, awaiting instructions. 7th October. - I was appointed in command of the M.S. Laurengau, and made a trip in her .to the Duke of York Groups, circumnavigating the same. 8th October. - Was sent to Wotam Islands looking for a wireless plant. 15th October. - I was appointed the Commander of the Nusa, a Government yacht, and left in her on the 27th October on an expedition to New Ireland, to secure the release of the British Consul, Mr. Jolley, Brigade-Major Heritage iu charge of the expedition. At Kawieng, New Ireland, we hoisted the British flag, and secured the release of Mr. Jolley, and left Lieutenant Holmes and a few men to garrison the place; and left the same day at 9 p.m., for Gardner -Island, where we expected to find the s.s, Sier. It was in Kawieng where the transport Eastern got stranded last January, and damages to the vessel's bottom amounted to £4,000. The stranding of the Eastern took place in the middle of the day, and had I been the pilot on board, it would never have happened. All leading marks and beacons in the harbor had been destroyed by the Germans. I took the s.s. Meklong through after dark twice. 18th October. - I found the s.s. Siar and M.S. Matupi and M.S. Senta hidden in a small cove called "Tekarake." This place is not marked on any chart published, and known to very few local people, and I do not believe that there is a navigator in the whole of Australasia that knows the place. Those ships were .taken by great surprise, the captain and officers being on shore. When they saw us coming, they ran down the wharf to board their own boats; but we came so suddenly round the corner, entered' the harbor, and took possession, and sentries posted on each ship, before the Germans had time to go on board. The s.s. Siar had no coal on board, so I took her in tow of the Nusa, and the other two boats following in their own steam. We arrived off Kawieng after dark, and were unable to enter the place, the two motor vessels having broken down, and I had .the three ships in tow the whole night. It was rather dangerous work, as we were within half-a-mile of the breakers. We arrived at Kawieng on the morning of the 20th; there we provisioned, coaled, and watered the ships, and left on the 21st for Rabaul. We arrived off Rabaul at midnight,' but did not enter the harbor until 7.30 next morning. On arrival, I was heartily congratulated by the Administrator and his officers, and the whole of the garrison. 24th October. - I *taas appointed in command of the s.s. Madang. I had previously been informed of the whereabouts of the auxiliary schooner Samoa, and was commissioned to capture her. Leaving the wharf, Commander Lambton jumped aboard, and informed me that he was to command, and that I was navigating officer only. This took me rather by surprise, as if I had been informed previous to leaving the wharf that Mr. Lambton was to be Commander, I should have protested against going in the vessel. We arrived at Kalili Bay at 6.30 a.m., on the 25th October, found there the schooner at anchor in a small cove, and hidden behind trees, where we could just see the top of her mast. Whilst Commander Lambton was making .arrangements for his men to board the ship, I steamed into the harbor, calling out to the captain of the Samoa to lower his boats down out of the davits so that I could come alongside. Commander Lambton and two A.B.'s jumped' on board, pulled the German - flag down, and hoisted the Union Jack. There was no resistance offered, and what firearms they had on board were dumped overboard when they saw us coming. We left at 8 a.m., and the Samoa followed under her steam, and arrived at 6 p.m. the same day at Rabaul. 26th October. - I was again appointed in command of the s.s. Meklong, and left Rabaul with troops, stores, and 154 tons of general cargo, for Kawieng, New Ireland. 29th October. - We arrived at Kawieng at' 7 a.m., landed troops, stores, and cargo, and left at 8.30 p.m. for Namatanai, where we arrived at 6 p.m. Landed shore party, who marched along the coast some 20 miles, and captured some of the Germans who were connected with the flogging of the English .missionary, t 31st October. - We hoisted the flag at Namatanai, landed a small garrison force, and left at 6.30 p.m. for Kawieng. On 1st November, O I captured the auxiliary cutter Hilalon at sea, took her into tow, and arrived at Kawieng at 3 p.m. the same day. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th November. - We discharged cargo, and loaded copra at Kawieng, and three other ports; and commenced to inaugurate an inter-island trade service. 6th November. - We -left Kawieng for Rabaul with the auxiliary schooner Harriet Alice in tow. 6th November. - Whilst steaming close along the coast of New Ireland, when off Kalili Bay, several canoes came off and told us that there were several Germans on shore who had illtreated them (flogged them), and they had also been connected with the flogging of the missionary. We landed a shore party at 7 a.m., with instructions to capture the Germans. They retured at noon,, and reported that the Germans had all fled to the mountains. On leaving Kalili, I again picked up the Harriet Alice, which I had left under her own steam while we went into the bay. I steamed further along the coast looking for the Germans, and arrived at 7 p.m. off Labur, and laid to outside for the night. At 6 o'clock next morning I landed Captain Twynan and party at a place called Labur. They returned at 8 o'clock, and we proceeded further down the coast to 'a place called Bum; but we could find no trace of any more Germans, so we proceeded to Rabaul, where we arrived that evening. 8th November. - At 6 a.m. (Sunday), left the wharf, went alongside the s.s. Matunga, who was anchored in the stream, discharged 250 tons of cargo, and returned to the 'wharf at 4 p.m. 10th November. - 8 a.m. Anchored at Herbertshohe waiting high tide to beach the vessel" at Matupi for the purpose of cleaning her bottom, which was very foul. I sent the boat ashore with instructions. At 10 a.m., received signal to return to Rabaul; replied, I could not, boat and crew on shore. Signal repeated; name reply. Received urgent signal, leave boat and crew behind and return to Rabaul. On arriving at Rabaul, received instructions to take cargo from the Madang and proceed with cargo and passengers, and to leave the same evening for Kawieng. Replied impossible, vessel requires water, coal, stores, and provisions, and a full complement of crew. We only had Ave natives aboard, and no white officers. At 3 p.m. we commenced to load cargo and coal Madang on port side, and coal lighter on the other side, the ship anchored in the stream. 11th November. - We left at 9 p.m. for New Ireland, with Major Ralston, two other officers, 155 troops, Captain Twynan, 25 native police, 15 native carriers, and 10 native passengers on board. 13th November. - Arrived at . Namatanai, landed Major Ralston and party, and left next day for Kawieng. 16th November. - We left Kawieng for Gardner Island. 17th November. - Arrived off Gardner Island 7 a.m. Anchored at Zigarrigarri, the same place where the three German vessels were captured last month. Landed cargo, and took on board copra, and left at 11.30 for Tatau where we anchored at 1.30 p.m. Here we landed cargo, and took on board four cutter loads of copra. 18th November. - Left Tatau Island at 5 a.m. At 7.30 a.m., we anchored at Terripax, took aboard 252 bags of copra, and left at .1.30 p.m. for Fisoa, New Ireland. Arrived there at 7 p.m., failed to find an anchorage, went to sea intending to return next morning. After leaving the coast, I went below for a couple of hours' rest, when the officer in charge of the bridge turned back with the vessel without my . authority, attempted to pick up an anchorage, lost one anchor and 45 fathoms of chain, and nearly wrecked the vessel. I went to sea the second time, reported this matter on my return to Rabaul; but no official inquiry was held. 19th November. - We laid to outside Namatanai the whole night waiting for Major Ralston and party to come on board. 20th November. - Received party on board at 10 a.m., and anchored at a place called Muliama at 6 p.m. Immediately we anchored, Major Ralston and party landed in ship's boat, x and proceeded down the coast to capture some German outlaws. I received next morning a message that Major Ralston had captured two- German prisoners at 3 a.m., and that he was expected to come on board at 3.30 p.m. the same day. I may mention at this place the entrance is very harrow, only 200 yards wide, with a sharp turning; and had we not anchored there after dark, we would have been unable to capture the Germans, as they had scouts out along the coast. We left at 3.30 p.m., intending to go back to Namatanai; but, having several people on board dangerously 'ill, and

Acting on the advice of the A.A.M.C. detail on board, decided to return to Rabaul.

I think I have quoted sufficient, to show that this man has not only rendered service, hut excellent service, and I am claiming that he should be treated in the same manner as other members of the Expeditionary Force, and be paid his gratuity.

Senator Elliott - Was he sworn in? Did he get his commission?

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