Ship struck off Jervis Bay

ANNIVERSARY: Greek merchant ship, Georgios S. Livanos sunk off Jervis Bay in July 20, 1942. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

ANNIVERSARY: Greek merchant ship, Georgios S. Livanos sunk off Jervis Bay in July 20, 1942. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

The 75th anniversary of the sinking of Greek merchant ship, Georgios S. Livanos occurs on Thursday.

The Georgios S. Livanos was torpedoed and sunk between 15 and 20 miles off Jervis Bay on July 20, 1942 by the Japanese Midget Submarine 1-11.

The crew of more than 40 was rescued and brought into Nowra. A boat load of 17 men reached shore at Jervis Bay after the attack and another 25 landed a few hours later.

Nowra Police Sergeant David Sturgiss took care of the recovery of the men and arranged for the rescued men to be taken to Nowra.

Sturgiss was an experienced officer and had worked in the area since 1939. He enlisted the help of the best known person of Greek heritage, Paul Calopedis.

The seaman were fed and taken care of at the Nowra Cafe, which was owned and operated by the businessman.

Only one member of the crew was seriously injured and he was treated at David Berry Hospital.

The men arrived cold and wet, and Nowra Red Cross supplied them with fresh clothes.

As it was wartime, Mr Calopedis was granted permission to speak in his native tongue and contacted the Greek Consulate in Sydney, who sent officials to Nowra to take care of the men, with the help of the Red Cross volunteers.

For more than 12 months after the outbreak of World War II, Greek ships continued to visit Australia on regular commercial charters.

After Greece entered the conflict in October 1940, ships outside the Mediterranean were taken over by the British Government.

Sixteen ships operated in Australian waters and four of those were sunk by the actions of the enemy.

When the Georgios S. Livanos sank, it was making its way to Melbourne from Sydney under Australian Government charter, under the command of Captain Svolos.

As well as the crew, the ship was carrying 87 army motor vehicles when it was torpedoed at approximately 11pm.

The Georgios S. Livanos had been built at the William Gray and Company shipyard at Hartpoole in England for the Theofano Maritime Company Limited. 

The Georgios S. Livanos was a steel steamship with a tonnage of 4835.36 with engines built by Central Marine Engine Works. It was officially launched on August 25, 1937.

Throughout 1942 Japanese submarines travelled up and down the south east coast of NSW.

A few hours later the submarine struck again, this time taking down the American freighter Coast Farmer off Ulladulla, one crew member was killed in the attack.

The Japanese Midget Submarine caused yet more havoc, when only two days later it launched an attack and sank the SS William Dawes, which was travelling between Merimbula and Tathra.

The damaged section of the vessel separated from the ship and sank, taking the propeller, steering, the stern deck gun and two anti-aircraft guns with it. 

Five men were killed and four were wounded. After daybreak a second torpedo struck the ship, causing a further fire and explosions.

Many thanks to the Shoalhaven Historical Society for providing this information.

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