HMAS Yarroma Postscript


It was a beautiful Canberra autumn day in 2019, when I visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.  During the morning I discovered a manuscript prepared by Frederick Horace Doyle. (510)  He had served on HMAS Napier for nearly a year in 1941, including when she had been straddled by enemy bombs whilst evacuating forces from Crete.  His shaky hand-writing prompted me to realise he may well have been in his eighties when he wrote his document.  That afternoon I read of his experience on HMAS Yarroma during the Battle of Sydney Harbour, and his story of how on the morning of 1 June 1942, her engines had been lifted off their mounts because of the explosion of her first depth charge she dropped in Taylors Bay.  Doyle referred to Yarroma being disabled from making a second run.


This was new information, never revealed in Muirhead-Gould’s reports, that Yarroma had been disabled, and had only dropped one depth charge.


But I could not believe what I read next, where he described the work undertaken at Garden Island later that morning to reposition the engines back onto their mounting blocks;


On the lifting of the port engine I noticed a brass plaque with the name ‘Athacia:’.  I thought that name rings a bell.  I could not remember what.


Later that night while home I remembered the ‘Shark Arm Boat’ was the ‘Athacia’.  I have always wondered if they were the same craft.  One of the few incidents that have received so much publicity.


If Athacia was the ‘Shark Arm Boat’ it would have been Reginald Holmes’ speedboat on which he shot himself and later avoided the police pursuit for four hours.  Despite an extensive search, I have no evidence of a speedboat of that name.  


However, weeks later I was in the library leafing through journals searching for information on the vessels of the Hollywood Fleet.  I came across an advertisement for Wright and Company for their Monel products.  What struck me, was the name of the vessel in the advertisement – Ithaca, and its similarity to the name of Doyle’s vessel, Athacia.  However, what also struck me, was that she was constructed by W L Holmes.



The International Power Boat and Aquatic Monthly – Feb. 1940, (Monel Advertisement).


Could Doyle’s recollection over the years have transposed an ‘A’ for an ‘I’?  And in any event, why would there be a ‘brass plaque’ with the name Athacia or Ithaca of another large motor cruiser, in the engine room of Yarroma?  As I pondered the possibilities, it struck me, the vessel in the advertisement I was looking at was familiar.  I quickly found another advertisement that included Yarroma.  It was in the very same edition of the magazine.  It was certainly a different photograph, but both vessels were the same - exactly the same in every detail!  



The International Power Boat and Aquatic Monthly – Feb. 1940, (W L Holmes Advertisement).


With some more searching, I found Ithaca had been launched a few months before Yarroma to the same owner – Philip Bevan! (511)



A CHEERY PARTY which watched the launching of Mr. Philip Bevan’s new motor yacht Ithaca, at Holmes’ Boat shed, McMahon’s Point, yesterday.  Mrs. Bevan (third from left) endeavoured to break a bottle of champagne over the bows in the traditional manner – but missed.  Also in the picture:  Misses Marjorie Nall (left), Mayvery Bevan, Lieut.-Commander J. C. Morrow, Miss Ann Bevan.


For me, it was unbelievable there could be two advertisements in the same edition of a magazine, with photographs of the same vessel, but with two names – Ithaca and Yarroma.  It also seemed unbelievable Ithaca had been launched on 27 June 1939, followed a few months later on 24 September 1939 by Yarroma! (512)  Whilst the launch of Ithaca was reported in the media, (513) there was no mention of the later launch of Yarroma in any media.


I was left wondering, why Bevan would want to own two luxury motor cruisers, that appeared from the photographs, to be exactly the same, and launched within three months of each other?


I wondered if the vessel the Navy acquired had not been Yarroma, but was Ithaca, and for some reason, the Holmes shipyard had renamed her, or perhaps done a ‘switcharoo’ – a swap – but had forgotten to remove the brass identification plate found by Doyle and the Garden Island dockyard staff?  


Or perhaps if there really was only one vessel and Ithaca had been renamed, that would not explain why Bevan had told the Navy, Yarroma had been launched in September 1939 when the newspaper confirmed the earlier launch of Ithaca?


Certainly a mystery, yet to be resolved!

510 See Footnote 14.

511 The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 28 June 1939, p.12

512 Letter dated 22 September 1941, signed by Philip Bevan in NAA: MP138/1, 603/246/5464: Yarroma, Purchaser Std Vacuum Oil Co

513 The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 28 June 1939, p.12