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April 15, 2010
MISS March was a four-
masted barquentine with a
funnel between masts two
and three photographed in
It was obviously an old image -- mon-
ochrome and a bit soft.
A number of mystery-shippers said
she was HMAS Tingira (nèe clipper
Sobraon) used as a boys' reformatory
before being commissioned as a RAN
junior recruit training ship moored in
Sydney's Rose Bay.
Tingira advocates included Geoff
Skelton of Navy Personnel and Training
Centre, Toni Munday of the HMAS
Cerberus Museum and Fred Gibbs of
the Royal United Services Institute in
"My first thoughts were immediately
cancelled by the Coathanger in back-
ground. However, was talking to Blue
Harvey and he reckons HMAS Tingira,
which could have had the Harbour Bridge
in background of photo before she was
BU," Fred says ... which just goes to
show you should not always listen to Blue
No Fred, Geoff and Toni, she's not
Tingira. Apart from other differences,
Tingira had three masts, not four and a
Eighty-three-year-old salt Mike
Pollard plumps for the WWI-vintage
sloop, HMAS Fantome. She certainly had
a funnel, Mike, but the wrong number of
John Partington bought in with the
Chilean Navy training ship, Esmeralda.
The beautiful four-masted barque is
not a bad 'best guess', but Esmeralda
had no funnel and Miss March was not
Two entrants, Dave Rickard and ex-
CPOUC Rob Sweet, thought Miss March
was the Japanese sail training ship, STS
Nippon Maru, another beautiful tall ship
last seen in Australian waters (as far as
I know) when she joined other tall ships
at Pier 1 in Sydney Harbour during our
No gentlemen, she was not Nippon
Maru. Had it been a ship that visited
within the last 30 years, the image would
have been better -- and there would have
been a bit more on the Sydney foreshore.
Three entrants to the Miss March
competition managed to come up with
the correct answer.
It was a difficult task and honours go
to all four.
Honours, in particular, go to first in
with correct identification, ex-RO 'Sandy'
McNab, who says: "Researching the
National Maritime Museum archives of
all things 'four-masted barques' and they
have hundreds themselves all awaiting
positive identification as part of a collec-
"Sensing I was on the right scent I
pursued and found what I believe the
mystery Miss March may be the Japanese
Government training ship Taisei Maru
visiting Sydney either before WWII or
perhaps in the 1950s on a goodwill visit."
In fact, Sandy sent in an electronic
copy of a moth-eaten old print from the
Australian National Maritime Museum's
Samuel J. Hood studio collection.
Steve 'Jaffa' Dixon used the process
of deduction to arrive at Taisei Maru: "I
noted certain 'recognition features' such
as it being four-masted (three square-
rigged and one gaff-rigged) with auxiliary
steam, Admiralty pattern anchor, a drop
in the gunwale level with the foremast
and a lift in the gunwale just in front of
the 'bridge' plus three boats on the port
side and a cruiser stern.
"I then went through every image of
rigged ships I could find until I was able
to narrow it down to a few Japanese
Ships. The Taisei Maru came out in front
as all its recognition features matched."
He and CENCAT sustainment officer
Gordon Branch both forwarded much
better pics of the Taisei Maru than I had.
Gordon said: "After lots of search-
ing the WWW I discovered there were
(and still are) lots of four-masted barque
training ships. Even trying to restrict the
search to Sydney Harbour didn't work
"Finally I decided to have a look at
the State Library of Victoria collection
and BINGO! I found the attached pic-
ture; which looks like a match to me.
The tall thin auxiliary funnel is a particu-
larly defining feature.
"I could not find another reference to
a ship of this name on the internet other
than this one picture on the Victorian
Library site (and an associated Picture
Another creditable effort was made by
'Guns' Manolas who also deduced from a
wide variety of clues that she was Taisei
Maru. Congratulations. Information with
the pic is that it was taken in 1934.
Finally, I'd like to acknowledge cor-
rect identification by Canberra-based
naval historian, Ian Reynolds, of the pre-
vious month's mystery ship as the slowest
ship in the fleet, HMAS Kinchela. His
email arrived after we went to press.
Obviously nettled by not seeing his
name, Ian wrote: "It appears you are
either censoring those correct answers
you do not like or you are very care-
less with attention to detail. I suspect the
latter. This is very dangerous in a naval
officer of your rank, specially if you are
seamen officer who keeps watch.
"I have been to Antarctica seven times
from Antarctic Peninsula to Mawson I
have a complete set of charts for all the
coast line above which I used to plot the
ship's position and other details every
four hours. So I know how important
attention to detail is. You fall down here."
Thanks Ian. I am suitably chastened.
As you can see from the pic (above
right) Miss April is an aircraft carrier.
Please email the results of your investiga-
tions to tony.underwood@defencenews.
gov.au by April 28.
It's character-building to admit you were
wrong. The fact that I and one of the respond-
ents to Miss March were somewhat remiss. In
the case of the correspondent, it was a sin of
commission; in my case, a sin of omission.
It stems from a remark from regular SA
mystery-shipper Dave 'Don't call me English'
Rickard who said he had been "...browsing
through the late Ross Gillett's superb book
Australian and New Zealand Warships...".
Assuming Dave knew more than I did, I let
it through to the keeper.
On March 4, I had an email which sug-
gested any report of Mr Gillett's demise was
Ross said: "I wish to advise that I am
indeed alive and well, maybe walking a bit
slower than usual, but still walking."
Ross, our apologies.
-- LCDR Antony Underwood
Miss March -- Taisei Maru
Hunting for the truth
MISS APRIL: Best guesses to tony.
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