Byron’s Living Icons Tell
The Year World War II Came to Byron Bay and Dad's Army in Byron Bay
Interviews with Arthur Malin
I was down at the “New Jetty” fishing one morning. It was a very misty morning around 5.30 on 9 June 1945 when I saw this ship coming into the Bay. It turned out to be the Tassie III an American munitions ship on its way to New Guinea but I did not know that at the time. It was looking for safe anchorage at the jetty and went to the “Old Jetty” not the new one,
Due to poor charts or poor weather or just bad seamen ship the Tassie III tried to moor at the decommissioned Old Jetty instead of the New Jetty and as a result grounded and became wedged into the old jetty structure and subsequently sunk. No lives of the crew were lost but the story that developed from there is not so lucky.
I saw it pull up to the Old Jetty from where I was on the New Jetty a few hundred yards west up the beach and did not realise what had happened so I got on my bike and rode home to tell my dad. He must have already heard about it because he told me not to go near it because of some trouble or something.
They way I remember it a few kids who lived at the Bay, who I knew, got onto the boat after the crew had got off and gone into town and broke into the bridge and stole some stuff. One of the things they stole was the captain’s pistol. Well, the police got involved and were questioning everyone in town about it but no one was talking so, the police did not get the gun back. A few months later one of the kids who had taken the gun had a blue with his Dad about something or another and the Dad got really angry and said that he was going to call the police and set off on his push bike to go to the police station down Shirley Street. Well, the young fell who had the gun, he was a wild young bloke, he grabbed the gun which he had under the house and fired a shot or two at his Dad riding up the street. He did not hit his Dad luckily but I am pretty sure he ended up in Grafton jail because of it. Well, that is how I remember it anyway.
Another thing that happened with the Tassie III was some of the kids got hold of some of the munitions off the boat; a flare and some stuff and took it up to the back yard of one of their house. Kids being kids, they decided to try and pull it apart so with a whole lot of them sitting around the started to hit it with a hammer or something. Anyway, it exploded and injured some of them really badly after that the police went to every house in the Bay and questioned every one to make sure that no one else had any more explosives.
Army Target Practice – Julian Rocks Under Fire
Also during the 1940 war years, we had the army blokes always coming to town and they would camp at “The Pass” and up around the beach.
They had a Vickers machine gun and for some reason they decided to give the town a demonstration of how the machine gun worked. So they set up a target drum, painted white, in the surf off the middle reef and had shots at it with the machine gun. It was very impressive to see the machine gun fire so many bullets.
The army also had a cannon but I am not sure what size it was and it was to be used to shoot at any Japanese ships that might sail into the bay, so the army decided to have some target practice with this also and they put another drum target out off the reef and had a few shots at it also.
For some reason the Army also thought that it would be a great idea to have some night practice at the target so they got my father, who was one of the fishermen in the Bay at the time with a boat, to tow the target out to the reef at night and the plan was to give me and Dad (because I went out with Dad in the boat to help), about 10 minutes to get away from the target before they put a spot light on it and started shooting.
Well, when we dropped the target drum and starter to motor back to the jetty in no time at all they started shooting at it. Dad was really upset and I was pretty scared because we thought we could be in the firing line of the silly buggers. The army asked Dad if he would help them set buoys for target practice another time but after that scare he was not having any part of it.
Then because they had no other targets they had a few pot-shots with the cannon at the Julian Rocks. Not sure how many times they hit it but I would not like to be out there when they were shooting. They must have blown a few chunks off it, though.
ANZAC Day 2015 Speech
By Ella Whan, Byron Bay Public School
There is one member of my family who gets talked about a lot although no one has ever met him. This is my great great uncle, George Stent. He died at the age of 21 in the 3rd infantry brigade at Leans Trench, Anzac Beach. I'd like to share with you his story put together through his letters, his diary, and stories my grandmother has told me.
George Stent was born in 1894 in the gold fields of Central Victoria. He was the eldest of 5 children and had a difficult childhood as his mother died when he was only 11. After his mother’s death, his father migrated to the Kalgoorlie goldfields, Western Australia, to try and provide for his children. He took George and Ethel, leaving the three youngest behind with a Scottish lady. George left school when he was 14 and he began to work in the Kalgoorlie post office. In March of 1915 he finally passed his medical exam for the army. After getting knocked back three times because of a past injury to his leg. George was formally enlisted as Private 2220, into the Australian Imperial Forces on 7 April 1915.
He was sent to train at Blackboy Hill and in mid-May the troops were being prepared to go away. So before my great-great uncle went to war, he went back to Kalgoorlie to say goodbye to his friends and family. George's sister Ethel was sick with diphtheria and George was only able to say goodbye through the hospital window. When he returned to Blackboy Hill he stayed out late in Perth with his girlfriend Edie. This was probably one of the best nights of his life.
On the 7th of June 1915 George got on a boat to go to Gallipoli. He wrote in his diary…."The men were very pleased with the news, singing and cheering and when we were all ready and leaving Blackboy Hill we were cheered by the other recruits who were training there. There were people all along the railway line wishing us goodbye. Arrived at Fremantle and left the jetty at about 1.15pm amongst cheering and yelling of people….."
It took them 3 weeks to cross the Indian Ocean before they started traveling up through the Red Sea towards Port Suez, Egypt. The sites of Cairo were too hard to resist and George and some of his mates got into trouble for missing parade and going to the movies in Cairo one night. He was confined to camp for 7 days. They embarked for the Dardanelles on the 31st of July. George was issued with 150 rounds of ammunition, a hatchet knife and a cholera belt. They arrived at Lemnos Island at 6am on Tuesday 3rd of August. From there the troops were transferred to a mine sweeper. George's last diary entry says "Boys very happy, in good spirits. Destroyer accompanying us all the way. About 800 on board." On Wednesday 4th of August 140 men, including George, reported for duty at Anzac Cove. The men had a day to settle in before the events of the following day.
At 4:30 in the morning on the 6th of August the Turkish attacked in force at Leans Trench. They delivered a heavy bomb attack and the Anzacs tried to fight back but the Turkish were already in the trench. George was one of those killed. He was severely wounded by a machine gun fire. He died on Anzac beach and was buried at Shell Green Cemetery. He lies there to this day.
In his hometown of Kojonup there is a memorial plaque with George's name on it and the words "their names liveth for evermore". At home I have a memorial plaque that has been handed down to my dad and even though George never got to have a family or children the memory of George Stent is kept alive through the stories that have been told and handed down the generations and through his great, great nephew who was named George after him. On this Anzac Day, I would like to say in honour of my great, great Uncle George Stent - "Lest We Forget".