The SS Bantam (3322 gross weight, built in 1930 ) was one of the original twenty-one KPM vessels that took refuge in Australian ports after the fall of Java that Dutch officials requested be put into service for the war effort. The ship, as well as other Dutch merchant ships, was chartered by the Chief Quartermaster, U.S. Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA) on 26 March 1942.
It was consequently chartered by the Chief Quartermaster, U.S. Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA) on 26 March 1942.
After escaping numerous times, the KPM-ships finally had to give up one of their own. The SS Bantam was operating as part of Operation Lilliput in Milne Bay. On March 28, 1943, the Bantam was unloading in Oro Bay, but was disturbed by two Japanese dive bombers which straddled the ship with several near misses. Although she wasn’t hit directly, the fragments and air pressure caused damage to several steampipes in engineering and petrol-loaded lighters alongside. They also caused several fires, which did serious damage on board. After the crew had fought the flames and she was towed to a place where she was out of the way, she had to be abandoned. After another hit placed in the steering cabin by bombers during the night, she was a total loss. Luckily, there were no casualties.
The Bantam was sinking and it was decided to beach her and a couple of large motorboats assisted in pulling the ship away from the wharf. HMAS Bowen went alongside and began to fight the fires. SS Bantam was beached at the head of Oro Bay. The wreck was raised and towed to Sydney, where she was scuttled 36 miles off Sydney on 24 September 1946, after being filled with unwanted chemical warfare agents.
Ship details: Stichting Maritiem-Historische Databank