SEARCH FOR SURVIVORS SS PETER SILVESTER 10TH FEBRUARY TO 10TH March 1945
1.----- On the 10th, February a signal was received from the S.S. CAPE EDMONT via Naval Board the she had rescued 15 survivors from the S.S. PETER SILVESTER which had been torpedoed in position 34 deg 19 min South 99 deg 37 min East at 1540Z on 6th February. The signal also stated that 3 boats and possibly 4 rafts were still afloat and that the aft part of the ship was still forming a menace to navigation.
C.S.W.P.S.F. promulgated a BAMS (British Allied Merchant Ships) message
on 10thFEBRUARY that 3 boats and 4 rafts were adrift in the position indicated
and that a portion of the ship presented a menace to navigation.
Shortly after receipt of
CAPE EDMONT message H.M.A.S.”DUBBO” was recalled from the exercise area and
she together with USS CORPUS CRISTI was prepared for a long search by topping up
with fuel and fresh provisions to maximum capacity. USS CORPUS CRISTI proceeded
out of the harbor at 0848Z /10th , followed by the DUBBO at 1135Z
both with orders to proceed to the vicinity of the attack on PETER SILVESTER and
endeavor to rescue survivors,. Areas of search were suggested and a sketch of
the suggested method of search was attached to the “Sailing Orders”.
Discretion was given regarding towing back or destroying the derelict if
sighted, bearing in mind that survivors were the first importance. CORPUS CRISTI
was to take charge of the operation.
(a) Two liberators EAST of line joining position 33 deg 47 min South 99 deg 05 min EAST and 32 deg 15 min South 99 deg 05 min East
(b) Catalina West of above line, Catalina was forced to return due to engine trouble.
Liberators searched for approximately two hours and sighted two rafts lashed together containing approximately 20men in pos 33 deg 05 min South 99 deg 10 min East. At 0005Z/ 11th. Supplies were dropped but it is doubtful the survivors could reach them as the parachute dragged the parcel a mile away. Weather at the time wind ENE 20 knots with high sea running.
32 deg 50 min South 99 deg 10 min East
33 deg 50 min South 99 deg 10 min East
33 deg 50 min South 98 deg 10 min East
32 deg 50 min South 98 deg 10 min East
One Liberator was cancelled due to engine trouble the other proceeded. Results were negative apart from sighting of wreckage.
(a) One Catalina was briefed to make a square search with center 33 deg 20 min S 98 deg 40 min E to endurance (about 7 hours in area)
(b) Two Liberators were briefed to search area:
33 deg 30 min S 98 deg 33 min E
32 deg 40 min S 98 deg 33 min E
32 deg 40 min S 97 deg 45 min E
33 deg 20 min S 97 deg 45 min E
One Liberator became unserviceable. The second Liberator proceeded to search and sighted two rafts and one lifeboat and guided CORPUS CRISTI to them.
(c) SLINGER and SPEAKER commenced to search area:
30 deg 31 min S 95 deg 35 min E
29 deg 50 min S 97 deg 25 min E
33 deg 00 min S 98 deg 45 min E
33 deg 32 min S 97 deg 45 min E
16.Air Searches ( a ) two Liberators were briefed to search an area
33 deg 00 min S 99 deg 05 min E
33 deg 00 min S 98 deg 30 min E
33 deg 40 min S 99 deg 20 min E
33 deg 40 min S 99 deg 05 min E
One Liberator crashed on taking off resulting in five of the crew being killed. The second aircraft completed the search with negative results. Owing to the crash further participation by Liberators was cancelled.
(b) Carrier search 50 miles on each side of MLA 090 deg from position 33 deg 16 min S 96 deg 52 min E commencing at 2300Z 13th speed of advance 515 knots.
17.CORPUS CRISTI and DUBBO were still search the area. DARVEL and IDOMENUS were proceeding to FREMANTLE and SLINGER reported that sightings up to 0500Z/14th all within a 30 mile radius of position 33 deg 02min S 97 deg 54 min E. were as follows: CORPUS CRISTI DUBBO 1 empty life boat 6 empty rafts. Sundry wreckage and a number of horses .(actually mules). Slinger advised proposed search on 15th. In view of this report it appeared the derelict after section had now sunk.
18. NOIC (F) asked CIC EI for the period carriers could remain and was told that they were to relinquish searching in time to reach SYDNEY at the end of FEBRUARY subject to CicC BPF concurring. BFP CinC later signaled concurrence amending arrival time to FEBRUARY 24th and 27th for SPEAKER and SLINGER respectively. NOIC (F) then suggested the DUBBO de detached PM 15th. Returning to FREMANTLE with the survivors if CORPUS CRISTI concurred and later suggested of proposed searches for the 15th. And the area then being searched be considered clear and proposed that search should be made on 16th for two remaining boats commencing at position 31 deg 30 min S 103 deg 25 min E assuming the missing boats en route to AUSTRALIA.
19. WARRNAMBOOL advised her position at 2200Z/14 in view of altered scheme.
20. Air Search
One Catalina was briefed to search area: (this search was later cancelled at 0400Z/15)
32 deg 40 min S 98 deg min E
33 deg 20 min S 98 deg 33 min E
33 deg 20 min S 97 deg 45 min E
32 deg 40 min S 97 deg 45 min E
(b) Carrier search 50 miles each side of line 090 deg MLA from position 32 deg 40 min S 96 deg 30 min E speed of advance 15 knots. Ships carried out surface sweep to the Eastward datum for next days search.
21. DUBBO and CORPUS CRISTI had by then found the carriers and DUBBO refueled from SPEAKER AM 15th thus to cancelled proposed return to FREMANTLE.DUBBO proceeded to carry out search of the area outlined for CATALINA search and CORPUS CRISTI remained as screen for carriers.
22. NOIC (F) asked for carriers intentions and told SLINGER to plan further searches bearing in mind the time left. CinC BPF was asked for a firm date for carriers to arrive in SYDNEY.
23. CORPUS CRISTI and HUTCHINSON and WARRNAMBOOL to proceed to position 31 deg 30 min S 103 deg 25 min E and search line of 050 from that position. NOIC (F) cancelled WARRNAMBOOL ‘s participation in the search (advising CORPUS CRISTI Accordingly) and directed him to search area of projected CATALINA search.
24.CinC BPF agreed to carriers search continuing subject to their conforming with arrival dates as previously mentioned in CinC EI concurred in the search projected for the 16th.
25. SLINGER detached CORPUS CRISTI at 1100Z/15 with instructions to pass through the area outlined and then proceed to FREMANTLE. NOIC (F) approved this.
26. NOIC (F) told DUBBO to search area:
29 deg 52 min S 104 deg 06 min E
30 deg 50 min S 102 deg 47 min E
30 deg 04 min S 102 deg 06 min E
28 deg 11 min S 103 deg 13 min E
and WARRNAMBOOL to search area 065 deg from line joining position 28 deg 39 min S 106 deg 06 min E and 27 deg 15 min S 105 deg 30 min E to endurance. All ships were advised that the Catalina search would be carried out on the 16th.
27.. SLINGER advised the he proposed searching in company with SPEAKER on 16th, detaching SPEAKER for SYDNEY on conclusion of days operation and continuing alone on 17th, and 18th and asked for more shore based aircraft search Eastward of his area.
28. Air Search
(a) one Catalina was briefed to carry out the search proposed for the 15th.Shore based Aircraft to seaward of in this ea ceased after this operation.
(b) Carrier search 50 miles each side of line 050 deg MLA from position 31 deg 30 min D 103 deg 25 min E This was later terminated at position 29 deg 40 min S 105 deg 50 min E and a further area added as follows:
(c) 29 deg 05 min S 105 deg 50 min E by 28 deg 20 min S 107 deg 35 min E by
(d) 29 deg 05 min S 108 deg 00 min E by 30 deg 05 min S 106 deg 20 min E.
29. CinC BPF amended SLINGER due date at SYDNEY to 25th and NOIMC (F) asked SLINGER for his intentions, telling Hutchinson to remain with SLINGER as consort on 17th.SLINGER gave her estimated position at 2300Z/16 (26 deg 40 min 1o7 deg 15 min E course 107 speed 15 knots) to HUTCHINSON and told her to join him, then cancelled projected search for 17th and 18th substituting a further area for 17th.
30. In view of this NOIC(F) ordered HUTCHINSON to search area below on completion of operation of 17th. 30 deg 05 min S 106 deg 48 min E by 28 deg 50 min S 105 deg 30 min E by 27 deg 42 min S by 107 deg 05 \min E by 28 deg 55 min S 108 deg 28 min E.
31. DUBBO was by this time in her search area, the Catalina had completed with negative results, WARRNAMBOOL WAS IN HER AREA AND Hutchinson was in the Western area covered by carriers on 16th. CORPUS CRISTI was through the search area and headed for FREMANTLE.
32. Actually HUTCHINSON was unable to make the rendezvous as signaled by SLINGER so steered to intercept on the run south. SLINGER advised that she could not contact HUTCHINSON and NOIC(F) broadcast the purport of SLINGER messages. The actual position of the Hutchinson was not known until some time later. The days operation was negative.
33. Air Search: Carriers 50 miles either side of line 135 degrees MLA from position 26 deg 0 min S min E for 150 miles. WARRNAMBOOL GAVE HER POSITION AT 0100z/17TH AS 26 DEG 40 MINS 108 DEG 44 MIN E course 010 deg speed 9 knots until 0500Z/17 thence a course 135 deg to daylight 18th.
34. SLINGER advised the air search has been abandoned after 30 miles due to unfavorable conditions and that she was continuing Surface search along MLA during daylight thence proceeding to SYDNEY via point A on her original route.
35, NOIC(F) directed CASTLEMAINE due FREMANTLE on 23 from DARWIN to pass through 27 deg 56 min S 111 deg 16 min E and 31 deg52 min S 114 deg 22 min E warning her to keep a lookout for the missing boats and Coastal Authorities as far north ad DERBY were warned to keep a lookout for missing boats.
36, HUTCHINSON asked for SLINGER’S position and NOIC(F) told her to report her whereabouts and told WARRNMABOOL to search as previously ordered. SLINGER gave her midnight position as 29 deg 42 min S 110 deg 10 min E and advised she had not contacted HUTCHINSON. HUTCHINSON reported her position at 1200Z/17th as 27 deg 32 min 106 deg 49 min E course 180 deg speed 15 knots. From later information it appeared that HUTCHINSON was steering to intercept SLINGER as previously stated but received a message saying SLINGER was searching downwind (this was not traced) and proceeded North to intercept her. Later she intercepted SLINGER’S message referring to position A in WARRNAMBOOL search area and proceeded to that position when asked for her whereabouts. DUBBZO was still searching her area.
37. Air Search nil.
38. NOIC(F) told HUTCHINSON to search area : 27 deg 33 min S 106 deg 57 min E by
26 deg 22 min S 108 deg 20 min E by 27 deg 50 min S 110 deg 00 min E by 29 deg 02 min S 108 deg 40 min E.
39. WARRNAMBOOL reported weather unsuitable for northerly run and was told to proceed at discretion but a search South of 245 degs from GERALDTON was not considered useful.
40.HUTCHINSON proceeded to new area having carried out a short search of the area assigned to WARRNAMBOOL. DUBBO continued searching her area.
41. AIR SEARCH: Two Beauforts were briefed to search the coast from GERALDTON to PORT REDLAND carrying out a box search to a depth of 100 miles off North West Cape returning the next day. Air search was negative.
42.DUBBO reported her position as 29 deg 52 min S 104 deg 06 min E at 0100Z/19th, and she could stay in the area until 1000Z on 20th and was told by NOIC(F) to return to FREMANTLE keeping North of 30 deg S until 110 deg E using wide zigzag until then.
43. HUTCHINSON continued searching her area and WARRNAMBOOL was about 120 miles South West of GERALDTON working to the southward.
44. AIR SEARCH :Two Beauforts returned from REDLAND TO GERALDTON doing a box search to a depth of 100 miles of North West Cape. Result was negative.
45.NOIUC thanked the carriers and advised them that some of the survivors had seen their aircraft and were greatly impressed with their search. DUBBO was diverted to GERALDTON and WARRNAMBOOL and HUTCHINSON were told to return to Harbor. NOIC(F) then abandoned the search but arranged for a repetition of the Beaufort search of 19 and 20th on 25th and 26th.
46. WARRNAMBOOL arrived FREMANTLE A.M.
47. HUTCHINSON arrived FREMANTLE A.M. and DUBBO arrived GERALDTON A.M.
48. CASTLEMINE reported nil sightings.
25th and 26th FEBRUARY
49. and 50.Air search by Beauforts negative.
51. HMS ACTIVITY reported picking up 20 survivors of PETER SILVESTER from 1 lifeboat bound for AUSTRALIA in position 26 deg 48 min S 101 deg 58 min E at 0440Z on 28th and CinC EI ordered FORMIDABLE and UGANDA to pass through this area and carry out a search in passing.
52.HMS ACTIVITY landed survivors in FREMANTLE who stated remaining boat also headed for AUSTRALIA.
53. FORMIDABLE arrived FREMANTLE and reported Search negative.
54. Uganda arrived FREMANTLE and reported search negative.
55. On the morning USS ROCK picked up the remaining boat from the PETER SILVESTER with 15 survivors 20 miles West of VLAMING HD Light NORTH WEST CAPE. Survivors were in fair condition with the exception of one man who needed hospital treatment. (Chuck Kemmer )
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