SHF – John Oxley

Joe Metcalfe

Crew member on board John Oxley, 1945

From a phone interview of Joe by Andy Munns.

In 1945, Joe left SS Unan and commenced on John Oxley, relieving Nobby Clarke AB who was on sick leave for extended dental work. As John Oxley went out for two-week periods in Moreton Bay, a two-week period was the minimum time spent on board. Joe then completed some additional two-week periods as he replaced other regular John Oxley ABs who went on leave.

Matthew Flinders was engaged on far north work. John Oxley was on buoy work and pilot work in Moreton Bay closer in to Brisbane. John Oxley would collect buoys and beacons from a Harbours & Marine Board wharf and drop them in Moreton Bay where required.

In WWII John Oxley was also an inspection vessel and was manned by a Navy crew. Joe just remembers the Oerlikon gun on the stern but does mention that deck crew did not go aft into officers’ territory.

Master was Captain (Lieutenant) Goodwin (nicknamed “Sufferin”). Coxswain’s name was Curly. Lloyd Pomeroy AB ran a canteen on board and sold soap, tobacco, etc. The engine room was crewed by 4 to 5 ERAs (Engine Room Artificers) with 5 to 6 Navy stokers in the stokehold. Usually 4-5 pilots were on board at any one time. Their living conditions were quite good and they had steward service.

The ERAs and mates used the officers’ mess midships. The crew used the forward mess – one table only in 1945. Deck crew slept in the starboard forecastle, while stokers slept in the port forecastle. The canteen was located in the starboard forecastle.

Joe remembers coaling at a jetty opposite Brisbane Gardens. A crane was used to drop coal in – no chute was used. He cannot recall seeing any ash being disposed.

Joe recalls an incident where John Oxley was drifting down over a submarine during a pilot transfer. John Oxley “would not answer her helm” and could not stop drifting – if the engines were operated, John Oxley might scrape alongside the submarine. Just before a collision the submarine realised its predicament and went Full Ahead to get clear.