Clarence Dawes

Clarrie first joined the Merchant Navy at 14 years of age. Whilst sailing on MV Coorabie during 1942 the ship was acquired by U.S. Army and Clarrie was employed to crew her to Sydney. Upon arrival First Mate Bill Webster was recruited by Small Ships to assume command of a ketch and he asked Clarrie to join him as A.B.

The ketch was built in 1912 and in 1937 modified to become Leprena; soon after she was nicknamed ‘Leapin’ Lena’ due to frequent rolling.  S-64 Leprena was in dry-dock for several weeks before sailing from Sydney to Townsville loaded with medical supplies. Sailing on to Milne Bay Leprena arrived just after a failed Japanese invasion attempt and was welcomed by Japanese Bombers.

At 106’ long the Leprena was suited to carrying logs from a river on East Cape to Gili Gili for the construction of wharves. During the early actions at Buna, Leprena would visit the front lines every few days with ammunition and supplies, returning with wounded to a hospital near Oro Bay. Clarrie continued to serve on Leprena after Buna was taken, carrying supplies to various islands and ports.

Clarries next ship was S-131 Huanui, an 84’ wooden schooner from New Zealand; soon after he was reunited with Captain Webster on steel cargo steamer S-146 Maiwara.

Next assignment was to sail S-136 Noora back to Sydney to have a new engine fitted; then Clarrie was sent to Newcastle to crew a new ship called ST-68 and commenced towing barges to New Guinea. Later Clarrie was appointed to S-58 (CS-3) Harold as A.B. (Repair Crew) for a few weeks before flying to Sydney for a two week break.

Clarrie was next assigned to OL-1 as Bosun and has fond recollections of Arthur Morgan who was her Captain from August 1943 until July 1944. Arthur had previously served as Chief Instructor at the Apprentice Seamanship School at Walsh Bay. OL-1 was performing salvage work, when on a trip to New Guinea Clarrie went down with malaria and was left behind on Thursday Island. After several weeks Clarrie sailed as working passenger on a Liberty Ship to Brisbane then again back to New Guinea.

Clarrie was then assigned to LT-645. The large tug towed many damaged ships through the wreck strewn waters of Philippines and beyond.  Clarrie recalls being at sea when the A-bomb dropped on Japan and was discharged February 1946.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *