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23 March 2015

An exciting incident and and Accident. 1909


Jervis Bay was one of the Navy’s favourite places of call in the early 20th century.
fishing and shooting were all enjoyed on the bay and in the wild bush surrounding the bay.
I came across this amusing article in the Evening News 1909, dealing with a visit to the bay by the flagship Powerful, the object of her visit was to carry out the annual gun layer’s test with small quick firing guns.

Trying to shoot, “THE THING”


The day following the ship’s arrival being Sunday,  and a splendid day,  as many as could availed themselves of these pastimes.  Some small parties betook themselves to the bush with guns,  others went snapper fishing and a large party dug out the ships seine,  and proceeded to the beach, The net,  which is some hundreds of feet in length,  was cast several times and a fairly good haul resulted.  The party afterwards repaired to the beach,  where the camp fires,  boiling billies,  and the gambol of the Jack Tars,  like children at play,  made a picturesque scene,  in striking contrast of the bush- fringed solitude of Jervis Bay.

Among those who were attracted by the mysterious bush,  was a party of about half-a-dozen.  They mustered a revolver and a catapult,  the latter promising to come in handy when one reflects upon the stories told of the rabbits being so numerous in Australia that it is difficult to avoid tripping over them.

Dodging in an out among the gum trees,  gathering wild flowers and occasionally taking an erratic pot at an elusive quail,  the conversation had drifted on to the man-eating tiger,  of which a good deal has been read recently,  when suddenly it was rudely interrupted by a cry “There e Is!”
”There e is!”
  from one of the number,  who had caught sight of something and was pointing at it.

All eyes and ears were alert.    ‘Where is it?”  inquired a sepulchral voice.  “Why,  just behind that tree; It’s a  wot-you-callum!”   “A wot?” testily queried the catapulteur,   “Tiger!”  hoarsely came the reply,  “Garn!  Wot ya call Tiger?    There aint none ere.”   “Ain’t there by gum!  What about that one we see in Norfolk Bay, eh?'”    “That wasn’t a Tiger:   it was a Wallaby!”

At that moment the “thing”  showed up clean and abruptly ended the discussion.  Bang! rang out the angry revolver,  and as the smoke cleared the ‘Thing” was,  climbing up the gum as nimbly as a cat,  perhaps more so.

It was described as having eyes like a searchlight,  and the body the size of a dog (whether Newfoundland or Toy Terrier was not stated)  It clambered right up to the top most bow,  along it ran,  stopping half way,  where it lay crouched down  glaring and grinning savagely at the intruders.

The revolver man “Flapper”  was the hero of the moment,  and,  as he propped himself against and adjacent gum,  and took aim,  all hearts ceased to beat,  with suppressed excitement,  only to thump again with the startled vigor,  as bang went the second shot,  hitting the underneath bough plump 10ft wide.

Fourty-five rounds were thus expended,  and still the “thing.” tiger or whatever it was,  lay there grinning fiendishly.  In justice to the marksman,  it must be admitted that once,  at the least,  the “thing” moved.  It lifted up one hind foot,  and rubbed it against the other.  Some declared it was hit,  and cheered Flapper on his luck.

The last round having been fired a suggestion was made by Flapper which was as practical as it was obvious.   ‘Don’t let’s shoot the poor thing;  Lets catch ‘im and take ‘im ome to the Zoo!”

A volunteer was soon forthcoming,  and while the remainder spread round the gum to hem the “tiger” in,  he shinnied up the gum in a manner to rouse the thing’s envy,  until at last puffing and blowing,  he reached a bough immediately beneath the one upon which the ‘tiger” crouched,  and here he hove to,  to take bearings.

The intrusion greatly upset the “thing” and it’s attitude became suspiciously aggressive.  The Jack Tar looked first at the ‘tiger” then at his mates some 30ft below.  The ‘thing” stood up-urg!.   The sailor winced and the bough bent and cracked,  it was rotten and hollow as as an empty beer bottle,  and down it toppled with able seaman Charley Healy, R.N landing with a sickening thud on the ground a sheer drop of 30ft.

With some sticks and a couple of sailors jumpers,  a rough stretcher was made and the disconsolate hunters conveyed their injured shipmate to the beach,  where he had to lie until the arrival of the ships boats,  when he was tenderly conveyed to the ship,  and found by the doctor to be suffering from a nasty shaking.  It was a miracle he was alive.

Meanwhile an office with a gun hove in sight. His attention was excitedly drawn to the “blooming thing” up the gum tree.

‘Ere ye are, sir.  Yer’ll git a good shot from ‘ere”  aim high and maneuver round that lower bough,  and yer’ll out im!'”  advised Flapper, of the 44 misses – one doubtful.

The officer cast his eye gumwards.  “Sorry.”  he remarked,  with an amusing smile,  ‘but there is a very heavy penalty for shooting native bears.”

So ended one phase of the Powerful’s shooting.  It was an experience,  however,  and provided just a little taste of the real original Australia,  of which the average sailor experienced only to little.

The young sailor Healy,  of the tiger episode is progressing favourably,  and although not sufficiently recovered to resume his work on deck,  is up and about again.

flagship powerful
Ref: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/302241/
HMS Powerful was Australia’s new flagship and replaced the aging H.M.S Euryalus.
Meaning: Jack Tar (also Jacktar, Jack-tar or Tar) was a common English term originally used to refer to seamen of the Merchant or Royal Navy.

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