A piece of Australia’s military history is facing a watery demise at the bottom of Darwin Harbour after it sank last week.
The HDML 1321 was a boat used by Australia’s elite Z Special Unit during World War II.
After the war, the boat fell into private hands.
Its current owners Tracey Geddes and her mother Wendy had dreamed of running the boat as a tourist vessel, but its demise has left its future uncertain.
“It breaks my heart, this boat is a part of Australian history,” Ms Geddes said.
“We bought this boat because we wanted to save the history and we invested every cent, over $300,000 in the first two years just to save the history and now the boat’s potentially gone.”
Now the pair are under increasing pressure from the Darwin Port Authority to remove the boat in the next 14 days at a cost of $50,000-$100,000.
From battle to sunken treasure
The sunken boat sparked a campaign to save what is thought to be the last vessel of its kind in the country.
The Z Special Unit was an elite commando force established by the Australian Army during World War Two and is seen as the foundation of the modern SAS.
Soldiers relied on specially designed vessels like the HDML 1321 to allow them to undertake covert operations in the Pacific.
In 1945, eight commandos used the vessel to go behind enemy lines in Papua New Guinea as part of Operation Copper.
“Seven of the commandos lost their lives, one survived and had an unbelievable journey to get back to allied lines,” Norman Cramp from the Darwin Military Museum said.
“But the information he took back was vital in terms of the Japanese positions, they’re strength, their battle order and things like that,” he said.
Ms Geddes said she was not sure if the boat could be saved.
“I think if the boat gets out of the water and it’s left up to the corporation, the impression I got [is that] it is possible the boat would be broken up for scrap,” she said.
Norman Cramp from the Darwin Military Museum offered “moral support” to the boat’s owners.
“We’re not a position to give financial support, and we haven’t been asked to do that. In a nutshell, we don’t have the financial resources to help out,” he said.
But he conceded the boat should be saved.
“If this slips away, if this is allowed to disappear then that part of our history, our wartime history particularly our link with Z Commandos is gone forever”.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched in an attempt to raise funds for its retrieval and restoration.
– Dijana Damjanovic