Interview with Barney French (When the war came to Australia)

Accession Number F04042
Collection type Film
Object type To be confirmed
Physical description Betacam SP/Colour/sound
Place made Australia: New South Wales, Newcastle, Australia: South Australia, Whyalla, Australia: Victoria, Melbourne
Date made 1991
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Period 1990-1999
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

Mr Barney French was a merchant seaman, working on the SS Barwon, a 6000 ton ship, running coal from Newcastle, NSW to Melbourne, Vic. The Barwon was nearly torpedoed, the torpedo just going under the ship. He describes the event, and comments that after this, the merchant ships sailed in convoys of 15-20 ships. The ships worked between Whyalla and Newcastle, carrying coal, iron ore and troops. The worst time Mr French remembers was June-July 1942 when the convoys needed extra air protection to help detect the Japanese submarines. The convoy was only as fast as its slowest member, therefore sometimes very slow. A convoy afforded greater protection, a single ship was a "sitting duck". The sinking of the hospital ship Centaur is described. Over the course of the war 37-40 merchant ships were attacked, and some were sunk, with some 4000 merchant mariners losing their lives. Censorship at the time suppressed this information. Mr French refers to the lack of recognition of the services of the Australian Merchant Navy, in comparision to that in Britain and Norway.

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