Engine Room Artificer Fourth Class William Robson MOFFITT

Service No: 24501 (Royal Australian Navy)
Born: Lockhart NSW, 23 August 1918
Enlisted in the RAN: 16 July 1940 (at Melbourne VIC)
Unit: HMAS Patricia Cam
Died: Air Raid: Wessel Islands NT, 22 January 1943, Aged 24 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Joseph Henry and Ethel Lucy Ray Moffitt, of Corowa, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Lockhart NSW
Remembered: Panel 83, Column 2, Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon UK
Remembered: Panel 5, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

It was while engaged on an outlying station supply operation that the auxiliary minesweeper H.M.A.S . Patricia Cam was sunk by a Japanese float-plane on 22nd January. Patricia Cam, a motor vessel of 301 tons, was based on Darwin (where she arrived on 5th April 1942) as a general – purpose vessel, used mainly for carrying stores to outlying stations on the north and west coasts of Australia. She left Darwin on such a mission on 13th January 1943, and on 22nd January sailed from Elcho Island Mission for Jensen’s coastwatching station on Marchinbar Island. Her complement was two officers and 17 ratings, and she had as passengers five natives, and the Reverend L. N. Kentish, chairman of the Methodist Northern Australian Mission District. At 1 .30 p.m. on 22nd January, when the ship was just to the west of the Wessel Islands, a Japanese float-plane dived from out the sun with engines cut off, passed over the ship from stern to stem at a height of about 150 feet, and dropped a bomb which landed amidships in the centre of the cargo hatch and blew a hole in the bottom planking. Patricia Cam sank in about one minute. One of the crew, Ordinary Seaman Penglase, went down with the ship. The survivors got away on the only remaining raft, and on wreckage. The aircraft then returned and dropped a second bomb which killed Able Seaman Nobes and two natives, and fatally injured Stoker Cameron and a third native. The aircraft circled the area for half an hour, machine-gunned survivors (ineffectually) and then alighted on the water near to Mr Kentish, who was ordered by the pilot to swim across. He was questioned, and taken on board the aircraft, which took off and was not seen again. It was subsequently learned that the missionary was executed by the Japanese at Dobo, in the Aru Islands, on 5th February.

The remaining survivors drifted southwards in a strong current, and finally a landing was made on a small islet at 3 .30 a.m. on Saturday, 23rd January. All but two—E .R.A. Moffitt, and Ordinary Seaman Johnston who were last seen at dusk on the 22nd clinging to some wreckage —got safely ashore . Here Cameron and the third native died. The survivors had no food other than oysters and some edible roots shown to them by the two native survivors, and on Monday morning, the 25th, Lieutenant Alexander Cecil Meldrum (RAN) (Discharged: 15 June 1945) set off with some natives by canoe for Marchinbar where, after walking 25 miles barefooted, he reached Jensen ‘s coastwatching station at 9 p.m. on the 26th. Jensen sent natives with food, first-aid kit and other items to the island, and a message was teleradioed to Darwin next morning. Kura rescued the survivors at 8 p .m. on the 29th, and landed them at Darwin at 10 a .m. on 1st February.

Extract from Gill, G.H. (G. Hermon) Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1968 – Pages 265-6

The Patricia Cam crew members and passengers lost were:

Stoker Second Class Percival James Cameron (S6670) Fatally injured, Died: 23 January 1943
Ordinary Seaman Andrew Alexander Johnston (B3815)
Reverend Leonard Noel Kentish Captured, Executed: 4 May 1943 (Date of death revised after publication of the Official History)
Engine Room Artificer Fourth Class William Robson Moffitt (24501)
Able Seaman Edward David Nobes (PA2319)
Ordinary Seaman Neil Gray Penglase (PA2516)
Unidentified Australian
Unidentified Australian
Unidentified Australian, Fatally injured: Died 23 January 1943


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A6770, MOFFITT W R

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