MV Mamutu


Name: Mamutu
Owner: Burns Philp & Company
Builder: Hong Kong
Completed: 1938
Fate: Sunk on 7 August 1942
General characteristics
Type: Cargo ship
Tonnage: 300 GRT
Length: 113 ft (34 m)
Beam: 25 ft (7.6 m)

MV Mamutu was an Australian merchant ship built in Hong Kong in 1938, was of 300 tons gross, 113 feet in length, and had a beam of 25 feet. She operated on the Inter-Island trade route for Burns Philp & Company, and at the outbreak of World War II, she was engaged in the evacuation of civilians ahead of advancing Japanese forces. She was sunk in 1942 by a Japanese submarine in the Gulf of Papua near Murray Island, Torres Strait.


With the onset of war, Mamutu served as a Stores Issuing Ship for ships of the Royal Australian Navy during 1941, returning to customary re-supply duty in January 1942. On 7 August 1942, she was sunk by enemy action in the Gulf of Papua near Murray Island, Torres Strait, with the loss of 114 lives. Twenty-seven persons were thought to have survived by drifting to the coast on air-delivered rafts, while one person was taken back to Port Moresby by a Royal Australian Air Force rescue plane. The attack location, given by British Admiralty records, was 09.11S by 144.12E.

The following recounting of Mamutu's loss is drawn from the book Battle Surface- Japan's Submarine War Against Australia 1942-1944 by David Jenkins. Published by Random House Australia 1992:- reference

The submarine trailing Mamutu was a RO-33 class submarine under the command of Lieutenant Commander Shigeshi Kuriyama. R.O.33 had a surface speed of 19 knots and was closing fast, as she drew near, Kuriyama ordered his crew to man the 3.25 inch gun mounted forward of the conning tower. At 300 metres, he gave the order to fire. The first shell ripped into the radio room, killing Furbank; the second shot carried away the bridge, killing Captain J. McEachern. Other shells tore into the hull. Within minutes, Mamutu was a scene of carnage with dead and dying littering the decks. Kuriyama then ordered his gunners to open fire with 13mm gunfire as survivors struggled in the water; men, women and children. He then retired, leaving Mamutu a sinking hull and most of her complement dead.

There were only 28 survivors from the total complement of 120 persons. One man, a European engineer named Bill Griffin, escaped death at the hands of the machine gunners by pretending to be dead.

A B-17 Flying Fortress search aircraft dropped life rafts to the struggling survivors, who eventually made it to shore. The Army signal ship MV Reliance, which was used by the Coastwatchers, was sent from Murray Island to try to pick up the survivors. They were unable to locate the survivors.

On 29 August 1942, Ro-33 torpedoed the Burns Philp ship Malaita (3,310 tons) as she left Port Moresby. Malaita was being escorted by the destroyer HMAS Arunta. While Malaita was towed back to Port Moresby, Commander J.C. Morrow, the captain of HMAS Arunta made an asdic contact on Ro-33. The Japanese submarine was sunk 10 miles SE of Port Moresby (09-36S, 147-06E) with the loss of all hands as a result of a series of depth charge attacks by HMAS Arunta.

External links

"Imperial Submarines". Retrieved 11 February 2020.

Coordinates: 9°07′S 144°07′E / 9.11°S 144.12°E / -9.11; 144.12