“A SOBERING reminder” of the sacrifice by Australian seafarers is how Maritime Union national secretary Paddy Crumlin has described the recent discovery of the vessel SS Iron Crown.
As was reported in DCN, the freighter was approaching Bass Strait when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in June 1942, claiming the lives of 38 mariners.
Iron Crown was carrying a cargo of manganese ore required for steelmaking.
“During the war, the sinking of merchant vessels was kept secret for fear of undermining morale, but seafarers and their families were well aware of the risks they were taking each time they set out,” Mr Crumlin said.
“Maintaining supplies of raw materials and other goods were essential to the success of the fight against European fascism and Japanese militarism, and Australian merchant seafarers willingly risked their lives to keep those supply lines open.”
Mr Crumlin said merchant vessels were prime targets for attacks, and the crew on board the SS Iron Crown would have been aware of the risk of submarine attack.
“In total, about 30 merchant vessels were sunk in Australian waters during the war, resulting in a casualty rate among merchant seafarers that was higher than those suffered by any of the armed forces,” he said. “On the eve of Anzac Day, and on behalf of the members of the Maritime Union of Australia, I wish to recognise and pay respect to all those that lost their lives in defence of our country, and particularly those that died plying the coastal and regional trade routes that were so vital to Australia during that time of massive conflict and threat.”