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Remembered Today:

June, 1915 voyage of HMAT A35 "BERRIMA"


Valda

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Hello, 
I am researching my grandfather's war service, and trying to put in some background details. Can anyone tell me if the HMAT (A35) Berrima, stopped in at Colombo on it's June, 1915 voyage to Suez, please? It started it's voyage in Sydney on 26th June, called in briefly to Port Phillip to collect 193 men of 21st Bn, bypassed Albany & Fremantle (both coaling stations), then arrived at Aden on 18 July 1915. I cannot find any reference to stopping off at Colombo for re-coaling. Could it have made a voyage from Sydney to Aden without stopping for more fuel, en route? What would be the range of an 11,000 ton freighter travelling at 14 knots?(sea conditions to be considered of course).
Thank you
Val

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These are the references to BERRIMA in naval-history.net - sorry but I have not time to check them for you:

https://cse.google.com/cse?cx=009877456310598106759%3Azxs0-uu4kew&cof=FORID%3A0&q=Berrima&sa=Search

Failing that it may be worth your while to check the National Library of Australia's research portal Trove, which includes coverage of Australian newspapers: https://trove.nla.gov.au/

sJ

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Thank you seaJane for the links, which I have checked out...without success I am afraid. The mention of the BERRIMa in the Pink Lists, shows her as being here in Australia on 30 June 1915. In fact she was in Australian waters - yes - but already steaming across the Great Australian Bight, heading westward towards the Indian Ocean.

I suppose my real question, is: Would a ship her size (11,000+ tons) be able to cruise (at 14 knots) to Aden from Sydney - (almost 7,000 miles distance) on one load of coal? She did not refuel in either Melbourne, Albany or Fremantle before heading into the Indian Ocean. She was also carrying nearly 3,000 troops and their kits, plus crew. Did she call into Colombo on this voyage? I have not been able to find any references to such in any of the diaries etc I have read.

I have looked at Trove as well, but it seems there was a "blanket silence" over the movement of troopships at that time...which is understandable, when there were German submarines lurking around the islands in the north of Australia.

Thank you once more for these links ....this is a new world for me to explore!

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Val

Berrima's Official Number was 135332.  You might be in luck as her logs covering the period you're interested in are held by the UK National Archives here: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1733142  It's not guaranteed you'll find the information you seek but it's probably the best chance you'll have. The costs to copy the log won't be cheap but you may be able to specify defined periods to keep those costs down.  Only one way to find out...

Dave W

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If you do decide to have the log copied get an independent researcher to do it for you as that will reduce the costs by a lot.

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There are several personal accounts published by Aussi soldiers of the June 15 sailing of Berrima, and none I’ve read have mention a call at Columbo en route.

MB

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Thank you all for your valuable input.

Wightspirit: Thank you for this link to the National Archives. I f I decide to follow it through, I will take Dave Owen's advice and use an independent researcher. I have used one before, who knows his way around military records etc.

Kizmed: I agree with your comment. But neither have they mentioned stopping at Albany or Fremantle. Two diaries I read complained of not stopping at Albany, and mentioned passing the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin at 10 pm as "their last sight of Australia".....Since most of the troops were young men who may not have travelled by sea before, I would have thought the coaling of the ship would have been an interesting operation, particularly if they had been refused shore leave, and needed some 'distraction'! Then again, perhaps it was such an 'every day' occasion for those who lived near the coast, it wasn't worth mentioning. Anyway, I know they reached Aden after 22 days at sea.

Once more, many thanks to you all, for your interest and help.

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If its true that the voyage duration was only 22 days, given that the sea distance from Sydney to Aden is 8,244 nautical miles, then clearly Berrima’s could not have made any intermediate stop overs for coaling. She would have been sailing at top speed simply in order to complete the voyage within the time-frame.

MB

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22 hours ago, KizmeRD said:

several personal accounts published by Aussi[e] soldiers

Hi @Valda,

I think this is the quickest way to research it as these accounts tend to be quite detailed, as there was nothing much else to do but record.  I looked at Oscar Rhodes' diary as he was on Berrima in June 1915.  It is a detailed day-by-day account and he does not mention any stopovers.  Tellingly, he gives one position as

Quote

Position of ship about 15 degrees south of equator – 15 by 80 north.

I interpret this as 15 degrees south 80 degrees west heading north (ie NW).  If so, this is on the direct route (Great Circle) for Western Australia to Aden.  Nine days later they arrived in Aden.  There is no way that ship is en-route to Colombo with at least 1 day re-coaling.

Naturally, the logs are the authoritative source and if you do end up paying for their transcription, sing out as I'd chip in for the Ascanius if they were held in the same repository.

Cheers, Bill

image.png.82aaa45f7fa46a95ccc4739ffae6dde9.png

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The ‘B’ class P&O passenger-cargo ships (of which Berrima was one) were purposely designed and built for the UK-Australia route, and therefore it seems highly likely that they would have had sufficient endurance and bunker capacity to get them from Aus to Aden (or from Aus to Capetown).

MB

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Thank you both for clarifying the situation. I had finally come to your conclusion Bill, after heeding KizmeRD's comment and  did the maths - ie: distance divided by speed. The answer was 24 1/2 days - basically what Oscar Rhodes' diary notes. However - I have just realised that this was not the end of their voyage. They still had a further 5 days travel through the Red Sea, (Oscar Rhodes), making the entire journey from Sydney to Suez 9,644 nautical miles. Travelling at 14 knots (which would have varied particularly at the start of the journey fighting the Great Australian Bight), that would take 28.7 days.

I looked at the Troopship and Cargo Carrier Movement Card for "Berrima" through the AWM website. Ref: AWM 2028.8.642 which shows the dates and Australian ports she visited before going to Suez. Mostly they were short coastal runs. She left for Egypt from Melbourne 28/6/1915 without calling into Adelaide, Albany or Fremantle. This was supported in a book by Greville Tregarthen "Sea Transport of the AIF" which clearly shows the dates at each port, numbers of troops and the Convoy number. She returned to Australia on 22 Nov 1915 and continued her coastal trade until 4 July 1916, when she leaves again for overseas.

I take your point KizmeRD about bunkerage  for the P&O passenger ship, and checked further with the AWM Movement Card, which listed a later voyage of "Berrima" from the UK.

She left UK on 19 Sep 1916, with cargo for Melbourne (620 tons); Sydney (610 tons; Ballast 1,000 tons. (I am not sure how to interpret this except that it shows her carrying capacity  over and above her workings as a steamship). She arrived in Pt Said on 30 Sept (11 days), left Suez on 2 Oct  and arrived in Colombo 23 Oct - a three week journey. She left Colombo on 25 Oct and arrived in Melbourne, 10 Nov (16 days) to discharge some of her cargo, and for refits, before going on to Sydney. That journey took 48 days of travel time...clearly she was not in as big a hurry as she had been in 1915!

In another diary (Herbert Vincent Reynolds) who was on "Berrima" in the previous voyage of Dec 14/Jan 15, and part of the No 2 Convoy, which was towing the submarine AE2. They stopped at Colombo on 13 -15 Jan 1915, to take on coal....but were not allowed ashore themselves. They arrived at Aden on 23 Jan where they needed some repairs.Their last stop was Suez on 28 Jan. All told their trip was about 40 days.

After checking all these figures, all I can say about HMAT A35 Berrima's June voyage, is - what a gal!!!

Thank you all for taking time to help me out

Best wishes

Val

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3 hours ago, Valda said:

start of the journey fighting the Great Australian Bight), that would take 28.7 days.

Great Val, thanks for confirming.  At least it was a bit quicker than my grandfather's 1917 voyage of 69 days.  By a stroke of luck, years ago I was chatting to a work colleague who said "my grandfather was Third Officer of the Watch on the Benalla - would you like to borrow his log?".  Out fell an immaculate copy of the Convoy Orders for Gallipoli plus he had every daily lat, lon the Benalla had done while trooping in the Great War.

image.png.6586bfcaf8af17c74d7b114930d99bd0.png

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I suppose your grandfather was travelling the long way round to avoid the war, although I imagine it would have been 'dicey' near Gibraltar.

Wow. What a fantastic find. You can be lucky sometime. To have the complete history at that time, would be a gold mine. Isn't it amazing how serendipity often plays an important part in our family history research? Wonderful.

Speaking of the Benalla, my great-grandmother and two aunts came to Australia on the Benalla, in 1915 - which raises the question: When did she become a troopship? Or - did she bring migrants to Australia and carry troops on the return trip? The latter is probably unlikely, if she had undergone some conversion.

(You know, I still can't get over how Berrima made that journey on one load of coal and in such a short time, when other ships - even the Euripides - took a lot longer :-))

Cheers

 

 

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1 hour ago, Valda said:

Speaking of the Benalla, my great-grandmother and two aunts came to Australia on the Benalla, in 1915 - which raises the question: When did she become a troopship? Or - did she bring migrants to Australia and carry troops on the return trip? The latter is probably unlikely, if she had undergone some conversion.

Benalla was taken into Government service at the start of the war and was part of the first convoy of the Australian and New Zealand Imperial Expeditionary Forces leaving Australia 1 November 1914 from King Georges Sound, Western Australia.  
The "BENALLA"' (A24) was then released for limited commercial service in January 1915 and during her trip down to Aus (with 800 emigrants onboard) on 19 July 1915 caught fire in No. 2 Hold (three days out of Capetown). After some difficulty the ship diverted to Durban where the fire was finally extinguished. Benalla was then back carrying troops by year end (1915).

MB

 

 

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Aha. It seems they were on her first voyage, leaving London 21 Jan 1915 with only 192 people on board (Findmypast), so they missed that excitement. Just as well, because their brother who went to war, was on the Southland when it was torpedoed on it's way to Gallipoli. With so much coal aboard, fire on board (spontaneous combustion?) was probably not an uncommon occurrence.

Val

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