Bennett, Gwen: Portland's Historic Battery
(1889): Including the Western Artillery Corps (1866-1884) and the Portland
Battery Garrison Artillery (1884-1904): The Author: 52 pp.: 1991, 1994 --
ISBN 0 646 07030 4
Probably available from Information
THE FIRST SHOT
OF WORLD WAR 1
The first shot of World War 1 by any allied army is
supposed to have been fired from Point Nepean fort at Port Phillip Heads. The
date was 5 August 1914, and the war was just one day
old. The target was the German steamer Pfalz which
was attempting to leave the port. When
she left Melbourne, news that Britain had declared war had
not yet reached Australia. But
that news had come through by the time Pfalz had
reached the Heads. A shot fired ahead
of the ship prompted wrestling over the engine-room
telegraph control between the ship's Master and Melbourne Pilot Captain M.
Robinson of Williamstown, followed by a quick reversal of course. The ship
returned to anchor off Williamstown. More than five hours passed after the
incident before the crew realised why the vessel had been fired upon and
Point Nepean Fort -- gun crew
Captain M D Williams
CSMs E Wheeler, C Carter
Cpls R Britnell, J Jack
Bdrs W Young, W Carlin, L Hope, J Purdue, J
Gnrs A Murray, J Gregory, J Ryan, A Brown, W
Quirk, J Russell, F Mealy]
Sources: Nepean Historical
Society and Gordon R Burrowes
Pfalz was fitted out as a troop
transport, and renamed H.M.A.T. A42 Boorara. Boorara is a
former gold mining area south east of South Kalgoorlie in West Australia. She
took part in the 2nd Australian convoy and later carried Turkish prisoners from
the Dardanelles. While in the Aegean Sea, in July 1915, she was unintentionally
rammed by the French Cruiser Kleber, but was beached and patched up at
Mudros, then repaired at Naples.
This photo of SS Pfalz (later HMAT
Boorara) kindly provided by Bob Pounds, who obtained the image from a
A UK visitor to this
page, Max Turner, kindly has donated 15 images of A42 Boorara to
the Defending Victoria website. These photographs, Max believes, belonged to a
crew member of Boorara. Taking up the story, Max feels that
Mr Fred Miles may have been that crewman.
Miles 'lived with a very elderly aunt of ours and has sadly passed
away, and that is how I came in possession of these pictures'. Fred Miles died
in 1983 in his early eighties with few possessions. 'But these photographs were
quite precious to him according to Auntie who died last year'. Fred
Miles originally hailed from the Brentwood area of Essex.
Victoria Website (Max Turner having agreed) will donate these historically
valuable images to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra as a gift to the
Nation in due course. Some are sepia toned, and others in need of restoration
and conservation after nearly a century.
Miles? HMAT A42
Boorara beached on Mudros after being unintenionally rammed by French Cruiser
Kleber. There was extensive damage to the hull...
below the waterline.
Hole' from inside the ship... Patched up.
A tug prepares to tow Boorara off Mudros
In dry dock
This catastrophic damage, fully revealed at
Naples, should have sunk the ship on the spot when she was rammed.
A ladder and workman (bottom left) give some scale to the
rest of the small collection of photographs sent to Fred Miles, there were three
portraits. One was of a pretty young lady with dog, another was of two
women - and this one, possibly of three shipmates (perhaps stewards on the
Boorara). The surnames of the men, written on the back in
pencil, are almost indecipherable - from left to right 'Tar (or Far), Dow,
Sparkes (or Shanks)'.
Boorara later was twice torpedoed in the English
Channel. On the first occasion, on 20 March 1918, off Beachy Head. She managed
to reach Southampton and was made seaworthy for a tow to Newcastle for extensive
repairs. However, she was torpedoed again off Whitby on 23 July 1918. Despite
her engine room being wrecked twice, the sturdy vessel was repaired in time to
help repatriate Australian troops in 1919.
The first shot of the Second World War is believed to have
been fired from the same spot--Point Nepean--at a passing German ship--ss
Stassfurt--which refused to stop and escaped. Despite continuing
research, this cannot as yet be verified. Other versions of this incident exist,
including mistaken identification of a Tasmanian vessel. Can anyone cast light
on the subject?