Built as an auxiliary schooner at Huskisson, New South Wales in Australia. Completed as a as a two masted schooner in 1923 for the Anglican Mission in Papua. Named "Maclaren King" in honor of two pioneer Australian missionaries in New Guinea: Reverend Albert Maclaren and Reverend Copeland King. Also known as "M. K." or "MK".
In 1923, departed Huskisson to Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville then across the Coral Sea before arriving at Samurai Island to supporting missionary activities in Papua and New Guinea.
This schooner operated between Samurai Island, Milne Bay, Dogura, Buna and Oro Bay and other locations. During this period, Maclaren King delivering mail, supplies and transported passengers including both Europeans and local people. The crew included Fred Rennels (later captain) and a crew of natives.
New Guinea Reminiscences by Fred Rennels:
"Prior to the coming of the Maclaren King, the Anglican Mission had been served by a sailing schooner and motor launch. These did not run to a time-table, with the result that in the calm season the sailing schooner would come in sight, and then be taken out of sight by the tide, to be sighted again the next day, perhaps, being assisted by boys in a dinghy acting as a tug. Now the "Mac", as she was soon termed, was to run to a time-table so that all would know the day and the hour she was due. She was to leave Samarai with stores, mails and passengers at 6 a.m. on the Friday before the fourth Sunday. Almost always she carried some European passengers--mission folk, Government ladies and traders or their wives. The Bishop (Bishop Newton) was very lenient in giving folk a lift on a comfortable boat. There were usually a lot of natives, too, returning to their villages. These all came on board early in the morning, so that we left approximately on time.
At the start of the Pacific War, Maclaren King was requisitioned by the Australian Army and armed with a .50 caliber machine gun and 20mm cannon for anti-aircraft defense. During late February to early March 1942, Maclaren King continued to operate on the north coast of New Guinea to deliver supplies to the Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB) stationed in the area.
On February 28, 1942 aboard was Bishop Strong who to meet Mr. Anderson, a government official and intended to proceed up the coast to Mambare to visit Duvira Mission.
On March 10, 1942 while anchored off Buna, the ship was unsuccessfully bombed and strafed by a Japanese seaplane. Another account states the Japanese plane only dove down toward the ship and did not attack.
Bishop Strong's Diary
"[March 10, 1942] As we drew near Buna about 9.45am saw an aeroplane, looking as if it was coming down on the sea. Duffil said it was one of ours. I had my doubts. Did not come come down but flew round and round and was going over the MK, from which we were about half a mile away [in a launch]. Then it made a dive towards us and came very low over us and I saw the rising sun mark and knew it was a Jap 'plane. Fortunately, it did not attack us, otherwise we should have been helpless and probably doomed in the small launch."
Eighty Three Years of Memories by Allan Champion
"In mid July [sic March 10], 1942 we heard an aeroplane approaching Buna. It
was a Japanese floatplane. He circled the station and tried to bomb
the mission vessel Maclaren King which was at anchor in the harbor.
The first bomb exploded in the water between the vessel and the shore,
the second bomb exploded on the road leading up to my office [on land]. I was
sheltering behind a coconut tree when the second bomb exploded. A
hunk of jagged metal the size of a dinner plate struck the tree I
was sheltering behind. I then hoped into the radio shack and sent
a message in clear language, there was no time to code it, telling
HQ what twas happening. The plane then landed in the water and started
to machine gun the radio shack. I got the message away and then took
a flying leap through the window and into a slit trench. Just at that
moment Bishop Strong rounded the point, in his launch (the one I had
borrowed to search for the Americans) the Japanese then took off and
went after Bishop Strong, they machine gunned him and sank his launch,
there were no casualties. The Bishop then walked to Buna and spent
the rest of the day with me. He showed me his bible with was in his
breast pocket. a machine gun bullet had gone halfway through it. The
plane then disappeared to the north."
Reverend Romney Gill diary extracts 1942
"11.3.42 News came through that Buna was attacked by a Japanese plane yesterday; also that the M. K. [Maclaren King] as machine-gunned; that the Bp [Bishop Strong]. who was in a small launch (probably the Gona launch) was also machine-gunned, but was unharmed. No casualties at Buna or on the M.K.
1.4.42 A circular letter from the Bp. had a hole through it, caused by a Japanese machine-gun bullet; it had been in an attache case along with many others when they were attacked at Buna on March 10. "
After the Japanese landing on the north coast of New Guinea in late July 1942, Maclaren King approached the Buna area, but spotted the Japanese invasion fleet and turned around and avoided detection. It managed to land at Oro Bay and unload 15 tons of cargo then departed back to Dogura.
On October 14, 1942 while Maclaren King was transporting twelve engineers and equipment and rescued 1st Lt. Fred Burnam Shifflet, Jr. who ditched P-38F Lightning into the sea. At 5:45pm, arrives at Wanigela and is unloaded at 6:00pm by Australian Army 2/10 Infantry Battalion soldiers.
During November 1942 Maclaren King opens fire with her .50 caliber machine gun and drives off attacking Japanese aircraft, claiming one shot down off Goodenough Island.
The ultimate fate of this vessel is unknown.
Eighty Three Years of Memories by Allan Champion mentions Japanese Seaplane Lands At Buna
Reverend Romney Gill diary extracts 1942, March 11, 1942 and April 1, 1942
New Guinea Reminiscences by Fred Rennels, Captain of the Diocese of New Guinea ship, The Maclaren King, 1923-1938
My Brother Vivian pages 37-39, 45-46
AWM "2nd Australian Imperial Force and Commonwealth Military Forces unit war diaries, 1939-45 war - 2/10 Infantry battalion July - December 1942 - October 14, 1942 (AWM: AWM52 8/3/10/24 - July - December 1942)
"14 [October 1942] 1745 McLaren [Maclaren] King anchors at Wanigela with 12 engineers and equipment. A [2/10 Infantry Battalion] coy commences unloading at 1800 hrs. McLaren King also rescued flying officer who had been forced down in sea - plane Lockheed Lightning unsalvageable - pilot hurt and brought to Bn RAP."
To Find a Path Volume I | Chapter 16 Buna-Kokoda page 156 [PDF]
Jervis Bay Maritime Museum - Launch of the Maclaren King 1923 April 9, 2014
Jervis Bay Maritime Museum - Auxiliary Schooner Maclaren King January 20, 2017
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May 22, 2017