Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum president Clem MacMahon (left) and assistant curator Neil Halliday with the Sampson post in the sand dunes on Angels Beach. The maritime relic is believed to be off the MV Limerick, a merchant vessel torpedoed off Cape Byron in 1943.
Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum president Clem MacMahon (left) and assistant curator Neil Halliday with the Sampson post in the sand dunes on Angels Beach. The maritime relic is believed to be off the MV Limerick, a merchant vessel torpedoed off Cape Byron in 1943. David Nielsen

New bid to save WWII ship debris

A VANDALISED maritime relic, probably from a merchant vessel torpedoed off Cape Byron in 1943, is wasting away on Ballina’s Angels Beach.

The six-metre Sampson post, thought to be from the MV Limerick which was torpedoed by the same Japanese submarine that sunk the hospital ship Centaur, washed up at Ballina after cyclonic weather in the early 1990s.

The post is being progressively destroyed by people cutting steel out of it – either for war trophies or possibly even just for barbecue plates.

Angels Beach resident Neil Halliday, a former Able Seaman in the British and Australian merchant navy, remembers the post turning up in Ballina River.

“I was home from sea at the time so I remember it well,” he said. “It must have come from the Limerick as that was the only vessel sunk around here that was big enough. It certainly wasn’t off a fishing boat.”

A Sampson post, or Sampson lifter, is a heavy structural post that was used to lift cargo on and off ships of that period.

The post was a serious danger to shipping and was towed to Angels Beach and left there. Subsequent king tides and cyclonic seas washed it high up on the dunes, where it remains to this day.

Despite several representations to Ballina Shire Council from the Ballina Naval and Maritime Mus-eum, the Richmond River Historical Society and Angels Beach Dunecare, no salvage action has beentaken. Interest groups have been reluctant to advertise the whereabouts of the relic for fear of attracting more vandals or relic hunters.

In light of the interest created by the recent discovery of the Centaur, and the article on the Limerick in last Friday’s Northern Star, Dr Lee Andresen, from Ballina Coastcare, now believes the time is right torevisit the issue.

Along with the naval museum and heritage groups, he believes it is vital to ‘conserve what is presumably a significant item of the shire’s, and the whole country’s, naval heritage’.

“Perhaps a public announcement this Australia Day would be a good start to making amends for thisapparent neglect,” he said.

Ballina mayor Phillip Silver was surprised the issue of the Limerick’s Sampson post did not appear on the council’s 2008 heritage study.

“Heritage preservation is part of our role,” he said. “We have the equipment to und-ertake such a retrieval and we will definitely look into it.”



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