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Why Should The HDML 1321 Be Saved?

WWII ship to be destroyed for salvage if Darwin Port gets it's way - Fundraiser hopes to save historic ship

Why should Harbour Defence Motor Launch 1321 be saved?

by Tracy Geddes

In 2006 I had no idea that the adventure about to unravel was to take place so far from the comforts of home, nor that it would cost so much.

There was a opportunity to purchase the ex-warship Harbour Defence Motor Launch -1321. The ship was advertised as 'full of history's of times long past', and as 'A chance to become custodians of a legacy of the ill fated (at times) Z Force Commandos.'

The Z Force were a band of courageous men that fought in the most gruelling conditions, men who gave their lives so that you and I might have a future in this land, our Australia.

This roller coaster ride took us (Geddes' family) to Gove Peninsula in the top end of Australia.

I recall the excitement as the plane circled. Which little dot down there was our warship?

We had invested $140,000 in purchasing the ship and an inheritance meant we had over $160,000 in funds to spend on bringing the boat back to it's WWII shape and take it back to its birthplace off Battery Point in Hobart, Tasmania.

The ship was not at all as described (in the sales advertisement). The HDML-1321 needed a lot of work on the engines and it took all our funds to make it ready to sail.

Harbour Defence Motor Launch 1321 aka: MV Rushcutter photo by Ron Reynolds, radio operator aboard HDML 1321

Through perseverance and dogged determination we had it ready to motor to Darwin (home to the Geddes family), all the while our funds were rapidly dwindling. In spite of this I became more and more attached to the wonderful story of the HDML-1321 and its colourful history of the motley crew who against all odds delivered men to behind enemy lines to observe and report and who delivered hope to the men and women whose job it was to protect this country from the threat of total annihilation.

As every obstacle took more of our funds I gained a dogged determination that this ship, this living legacy, would survive.

We made Darwin. By now it became apparent that sheer determination was not enough. I tried to gain interest (in the restoration of HMDL 1321) but was not able to convince anyone to help.

What followed was a desperate effort to make the ship ready to sell with the express desire that it would be restored and eventually find its rightful place in a a museum.

We had a brief window of hope (that HDML 1321 may be saved) when the federal police became involved in foiling a plot to use the ship for unlawful practices. We had the hope that after the event the federal police might pass the ship on to an authority with the wherewithal to restore it.

This fell through but with a good outcome for the police, thank goodness!

As every hope of saving this piece of history was slipping through our fingers, a last minute sale could have saved the ship. An offer of $25,000 was an assurance that the 1321 would be saved, but that was a thwarted by its devastating sinking (19 Oct 2016).

This ship was my chance to save an important part of history, my love of things past. The crew who inhabited this wooden ship may be gone, if it is lost then my desire to save it for future generations will be lost also.

We deserve to know what happened way back in 1944 with this ship and its missions to save our forefathers.

That we can touch the hull, see the portholes they looked out of, and in some small way connect across the years, their sacrifices were not in vain!

That is my wish, my desire, my hope!

Tracy Geddes the current owner of MV Rushcutter / HDML 1321. The two diesel engines are the original Buda motors used throughout the war, one still performing perfectly. #saveHDML1321

PS: Not only did the sinking dash my hopes of saving her but it also meant that the harbour authorities will make a demand of us that all salvage costs are borne by us, this is impossible, we have few assets, no equity in our house, and are facing bankruptcy and losing everything.

Good buy and good luck HDML 1321.

Tracy Geddes
img src: Flikr also view at AWM
Tracy Geddes was prepared to save our history for us throwing a great deal of her own funds into the the project and she is now facing losing everything for her efforts.

If we can raise the funds to lift this old ship out of the harbour so the cost does not have to be borne by Geddes family it will save not only the HDML 1321 but also save Ms Geddes from bankruptcy and keep her dreams alive by giving this ship a second chance to be restored.

I have not met Ms Geddes however she is not alone in her dreams of saving this ship, my father-in-law, Bro Palmer, is the son of the 1321's captain, Lt Ambrose Ernest Palmer, better known as Ernie.

Lieutenant Ernie Palmer, 1943

Bro has also been involved in the efforts to restore her and is running the funding campaign. Since Wednesday when the HDML 1321 sunk many people have been working day and night to find a way to rescue this important piece of our heritage before it is too late and she just becomes a pile of salvage scrap.

How You Can Help #SaveHDML1321

You can help us to save her by donating the cost of your next coffee to the Save 1321 - Our Military Heritage gofundme campaign and by getting the word out there simply by sharing on your favourite social media platforms - just click the share buttons down below.

Comments and likes on any posts and articles help too.
Stay appraised of updates on the Save HDML 1321 Fundraiser,  Save HDML 1321 Facebook Page or by using the hashtag #SaveHDML1321

Learn more about the adventures of HDML 1321 and her men in the novel The Guns of Machu.

Update: Tuesday 25 October 2016

An inspection of the sunken boat was done this morning, the Member for Darwin, Luke Gosling, and an ABC film crew were taken out by Rex Mitchell a local businessman with equipment that could raise the ship.

They met up with Tracy Geddes who was interviewed for a second time by Dijana Damjanovic.
This interview along with one with Luke Gosling will apparently be aired on the ABC tomorrow night.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

The Darwin Port Authorities have only given until the 6th November 2016 to rescue 1321. That means she could be in the scrap yard by Remembrance Day on the 11th November.

News Articles: 

Royal Australian Navy: HDML 1321

The New Daily: Uncertain future for sunken WWII boat in Darwin


NT NEWS: We must save historic boat

MFAME:World War II Boat HDML 1321 Sinks Off Darwin

NichiGoPress: 第二次世界大戦中のボート、ダーウィン港で沈没 (Boat during the Second World War, sank in Darwin harbor) (in Japanese)

E-News: History Sunk

HDML 1321 | MV Rushcutter | Darwin Harbour


  1. This story has definitely grabbed my attention. As an American, it *could* be easy to overlook this part of history... Mostly because Australia's involvement in WW2 was non-existent during my education in "world" history class.
    But I spent many years listening to the stories of my neighbor, a WW2 veteran, before he passed. He showed me a firsthand perspective of what soldiers faced, and taught me the importance of preserving as much of history as possible. The men that sailed the 1321 played a major role in the war, and they deserve to have the ship raised in their honor. I can't spare much, but I'll be donating in small amounts when I can. Good luck to this mission!

    1. Oh Jenny, thank you so very much! We have such a short time frame to keep her from the scrap heap and every little bit matters at this point. If she hadn't sunk last week things would be different but it's a race now.

  2. It was so interesting and saddening to read about the fact this piece of history could become scrap metal! I'm so sorry to hear it's going that way and while I don't have anything spare to donate at the moment, I have shared the link on my Twitter profile in hopes it gains some more attention for you. It's so important we keep pieces of history like this alive to be admired and understood for future generations and the stories they hold from that time. All the best with this! - Tasha

    1. Thank you so much, every share really does help. Negotiations with the port authorities and local government are underway in the hopes that a bit more leeway will be given to this unique ship.

  3. Stella, how exciting that the Geddes family have made it their personal mission to save the ship. Then, how devastating when it sunk.
    I sure hope y'all can save it!

    1. I'm working hard at getting the news out there. There was a news crew on site yesterday and we hope they will air the story today. If we can make enough noise hopefully we can get a bit more time to raise funds.

  4. Good luck!
    Thanks for sharing at

  5. If Darwin Port Authority follow through with that date then they have a lot to answer for. What is tghe AWM saying about this?

    1. I would like to know the answer to that too!

  6. Thanks to everyone for the help and support, especially purfylle.

    heres hoping the NT government gives the extension required to make this happen

    1. If we can get enough people asking then surely they will extend the time?

  7. What an amazing thing to do. I do hope the ship can be saved.

    1. Thank you Lyn. We are hoping Darwin Port Authority will give an extension of time.

  8. Beautiful collection of photos and good luck

    Thank you for linking up

    1. I love old photos. These days I can take a hundred shots to get just the right photo should I need to, but taking photos back then required so much more care to get the shot right first time.

  9. A big thank you to Purfylle and everyone else for your help and support. The more people that know about this the better our chance of saving this important piece of Australia's maritime has such an interesting story to tell

    1. I'm ever so grateful to live the lifestyle Australia offers today. A lifestyle that we may never have had if it had not been for the missions undertaken by heroes like the crew of the HDML1321.

  10. Good luck with the selvage operation, I hate to think a piece of history will be lost forever.

    1. It would be a terrible shame and all for lack of time.


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