Transcript of George Bennetts Discussing the SS Koombana

The audio on the interview wasn’t of the best of quality so I have transcribed what I could decipher. Parts I am unsure about I have put in italics. The interview can be found here. The interview is between George Bennetts and Norma King and was recorded sometime in the 1970’s

George Bennetts: “I came back again on the Kombanna. Now this is a little story now that has never been told before. And the Sunday Times printed an article one time that they never knew anything about how that ship went down. Now I was going to get in touch with Mr ? Davidson Dan?, I know him well, to tell him about it.

So on the boat, he told me, he said I’m going to leave this boat. He said This boat is the most dangerous boat that’s on the road?

He said, We went to Sydney? to have new plates put in. And he said she’s top heavy

Norma King: “after they got the new plates put in?”

George: “Yes. He said, what’s going to happen he sadi this boat is that in one of these cyclones this boat is going to tip over and that will be the end of it.

Noma “good god”

George: Now I don’t know whether he was on the boat or not, but he said I’m telling you that I couldn’t tell the captain, I couldn’t tell any ? . He said I haven’t said a word, but that is what will happen. And it did.

Norma: That was sad.

About SS Koombanna from Wikipedia

SS Koombana was a late Edwardian-era passenger, cargo and mail carrying steamship. From March 1909 to March 1912, she operated coastal liner services between Fremantle, Western Australia and various ports in the northwest of that State. She is best known for disappearing at an unknown location north of Port Hedland, Western Australia, during a tropical cyclone on 20 March 1912,[5] killing 74 passengers and 76 crew; in total, 150 people died.[4]

Other than a small quantity of wreckage, no trace was ever found of the ship, which was presumed sunk along with several other vessels during the same storm. At least a further 15 people died in other ships and near the cyclone. As accurate passenger lists were not kept at the time, the exact number of deaths is not known; however, all on board are presumed to have perished. The loss was almost certainly Australia‘s worst weather-related maritime disaster in the twentieth century.[5]

In her short career, Koombana also played a significant role in the public life of Western Australia. In April/May 1909, she carried the Premier of Western Australia, Newton Moore, on a tour of the northwest, which included the official opening of the jetty at Port Hedland,[6][7] now the highest tonnage port in Australia.[8] Koombana was also the first ship to berth at that jetty.[7] In November 1910, Koombana was part of a welcoming flotilla of vessels at Broome, Western Australia for the inaugural arrival in Australia of the Royal Australian Navy‘s first two destroyers, Parramatta and Yarra.[9] Twelve months later, in Fremantle, she was the subject of a divisive industrial dispute that had nationwide implications.[10]

Additionally, the loss of Koombana, and the associated withdrawal of her owner, the Adelaide Steamship Company, from the northwest coastal trade,[11] was a major impetus for the early development of the State Shipping Service of Western Australia, which was to dominate that trade for the rest of the twentieth century.[12]

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