Australian Ship Sunk by US Navy

by John

OK. Click bait title. But probably correct.

A few year years ago I made a model triple expansion steam engine with plans and castings supplied by EJ Winter P/L of Sydney. The details of the build were detailed on this blog. I found it to be a difficult build, but eventually got it running on steam, as shown in the following video…

Today I rang Ben deGabriel, the owner of EJ Winter P/L, the supplier of the plans and castings of the engine, to order some 10BA nuts and screws for my model Armstrong RML cannon. It is always a pleasure to chat with Ben. He is so passionate about model engineering, and a very knowledgable and reliable supplier. The chat turned to the triple, and he told me that he had found references on the original model engine plans, to SS Kuttabul, the engine of which was the basis for the model engine.

The SS Kuttabul was built as the largest K class ferry for Sydney Harbour, and first in service in 1922. Kuttabul is an aboriginal word meaning “wonderful”. The Kuttabul had a passenger capacity 0f 2250, which is the largest of any ferry ever in service on Sydney Harbour. It was 183′ long, beam 36′, and gross weight 448 tonnes. Steel construction, and with 18 water tight compartments was regarded as unsinkable. It had a 113hp triple expansion steam engine.

After the outbreak of WW2, the Kuttabul was requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy, and was moored at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour, and used as accomodation for naval personnel pending transfer to their ships.

Three Ko-hyotkei class Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour 31 May 1942, with the intention of sinking Allied warships. M-24 fired 2 torpedoes at USS Chicago, a heavy cruiser, but both missed. One torpedo ran aground harmlessly, but the other hit the breakwater against which HMAS Kuttabul, and a Dutch submarine were moored. An alternative conclusion is that shells from the USS Chicago which were mistakenly aimed at the Dutch submarine, hit the Kuttabul. In either case, the Kuttabul broke in two and sank, killing 21 sailors, and wounding another 10.

The engine of the SS and HMAS Kuttabul, was a 113hp triple expansion steam engine.

This history, whatever the exact cause of the sinking, makes me particularly glad that I modelled this particular steam engine.

If I find more information about the Kuttabul or her engines I will add to this post.