The Great War
In 1914, a resurgence of imperialism, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Germany’s military move on France via Belgium began the hostilities between England and Germany that was to last for over 4 years, originally known as the Great War and then later World War I. The casualties, were 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded and many, many more families destroyed.However, the war did not start in the Somme nor did it start on the borders of Belgium – the first shot of the war was in fact fired from Fort Nepean, Melbourne, Australia.
On 5 August 1914, the German steam ship Pfalz a 6,557 ton cargo steamer operated by the German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd was tied up alongside Victoria Dock. Fully aware at the time of the situation in Europe, Captain Kuhiken attempted to load enough coal to allow his ship to escape to friendlier waters.
Once under way, in an attempt to clear the Port Phillip Bay Heads, prior to the Declaration of War, Captain Kuhiken needed to obtain clearance to exit the Heads. He did receive such clearance however, prior to him exiting the bay Fort Nepean received word that War had been declared.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sandford, who was in-charge at Fort Queenscliff gave an order to Lieutenant C Morris, the Fire Commander at Fort Nepean, to “stop her or sink her”. The Pfalz ignored signals to halt, so a ‘heave to’ shot from B1 a 6 inch Mk VII gun fired across her bow. The pilot, Captain Robinson then convinced Captain Kuhiken that if he did not surrender his ship it would be sunk.
The Pfalz turned back to Portsea, where it was requisitioned for the Royal Australian Navy, refitted as a troop carrier and renamed HMT Boorara. HMT Boorara was a part of the 2nd Australian convoy and was involved in the transportation of Turkish prisoners from the Dardanelles. In July 1915 while serving in the Aegean Sea the ship collided with the French Navy cruiser Kléber and she was taken to Naples to be repaired. Later she was twice torpedoed in the English Channel. The first time, on 20 March 1918, she was stuck near Beachy Head and was towed to Newcastle for extensive repairs. The second time on 23 July 1918 she was struck near Whitby, and was again repaired. In 1919, the HMT Boorara was used to repatriate Australian troops back to Australia. After the war the ship was used by the Commonwealth Line for the transport of frozen cargo to the United Kingdom, using ports at Avonmouth, Liverpool and Glasgow.
In 1926, the E. Hadjilias shipping line from Athens in Greece bought her, renamed her Nereus and registered her on the Cycladean island of Syra in the Aegean Sea.
On the 8th August 1937 Nereus sailed in ballast from Moji in Japan for Port Alberni to load a cargo of lumber for the United Kingdom under charter to the Anglo-Canadian Shipping Co. On 8 August in heavy fog she ran aground on rocks approximately 300 m south-east of Cape Beale on Vancouver Island. The salvage steamer SS Salvage King from Victoria rescued her crew, however, within 48 hours of grounding, Nereus broke her back and was lost.
The First Shot
Tony Robinson in Australia
Stop the Pfalz 1914 – by Author Keith Quinton
SS Pfalz – Wikipedia
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Long Shot Project – Web Site
Herald Sun – 7th March 2014
Herald Sun – 19th March 2014
– Keith Quiton’s response on 3AW to Herald Sun story
– 3AW with Ross and John – Wednesday 23rd April 2014
The Age – 25th April 2014
The Sydney Morning Herald – ANZAC Day
The Today Show – ANZAC Day
Letter from the Prime Minister’s Office – 15th May 2014
Channel 7 News – Tuesday 29th July 2014
Mornington News – Tuesday 5th August 2014
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