Coal Hulk Hankow

Coal Hulk Hankow
Builder
Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland
Fate
Sunk by HMAS Albatross’s 4-inch guns on 18 September 1932

The coal hulk Hankow, formerly the clipper ship City of Hankow, was acquired by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in July 1913. Built as a composite clipper ship (iron frame with teak planking), the City of Hankow was constructed at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1869 by Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd for George Smith & Sons of Glasgow. She operated on the England to India run for several decades carrying passengers and cargo. In 1900 she was sold to GJ Robertson & Partners of Sydney who continued to operate her as a trading vessel. Her last journey was in 1903 when she transported a cargo of timber from Eureka, California, to Sydney. She was then stripped down and sold in 1904 to the Royal Navy for use as a coal hulk and stores ship in Sydney Harbour by the Australian Squadron.

 

City of Hankow was constructed at Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland in 1869 for George Smith & Sons of Glasgow. She was first used to carry passengers and cargo, then as a trading vessel, before becoming a coal hulk for the Royal Navy and then the Royal Australian Navy (Image courtesy of www.clydeships.co.uk ).
City of Hankow was constructed at Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, in 1869 for George Smith & Sons of Glasgow. She was first used to carry passengers and cargo, then as a trading vessel, before becoming a coal hulk for the Royal Navy and then the Royal Australian Navy (Image courtesy of www.clydeships.co.uk)

She was transferred to the RAN following the departure of the Royal Navy from the Australia Station in 1913. Contrary to some descriptions she was never a commissioned vessel but she was crewed by uniformed members of the RAN Auxiliary Service who were full-time, non-seagoing personnel. Hankow was based in Sydney from 1913 to 1923 to service the RAN's coal-burning vessels, including the battlecruiser HMAS Australia and the light cruisers HMA Ships Adelaide, Brisbane, Encounter, Melbourne, Pioneer, Psyche and Sydney as well as other auxiliary vessels. During World War I other visiting Allied vessels from the Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy also coaled from Hankow. The quality of Australian coal was always a concern for the RAN so higher-quality Westport coal from New Zealand was frequently imported and stored on board Hankow.

In October 1923 the Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliary collier Biloela towed Hankow to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait to service transiting RAN vessels. The light cruisers Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney often operated in northern waters or on showing the flag cruises to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides so a coaling facility in northern Australia was essential. The survey vessels HMA Ships Geranium and Moresby, operating frequently in northern waters, were also coal-burners requiring a regular supply of coal. Hankow received a regular resupply of coal from civilian colliers under contract to the RAN.

On 3 October 1927 HMAS Geranium departed Thursday Island with Hankow in tow for return to Sydney for maintenance. They arrived at Gladstone on the 20th where Hankow was moored due to the possibility that Geranium may be required to proceed to the Solomon Islands at short notice. Geranium sailed from Gladstone on 22 October and arrived at Brisbane on the 24th; however, her stay there was short as Hankow broke adrift from her mooring at Gladstone on the 27th and drifted on to a sandbank. Geranium returned to Gladstone to tow the hulk free. HMAS Sydney was then dispatched from Garden Island to take over the tow and arrived at Gladstone on 6 November. The two ships arrived back in Sydney on the 11th.

Hankow was refitted in Sydney during 1927-28 and in late December 1928 was towed back to Thursday Island by HMAS Platypus. This was a period of transition for the RAN as many older coal-fired ships were being decommissioned and replaced by modern, larger fuel-oil powered ships. There were, however, still a number of smaller coal-fired vessels. Many RAN vessels were also laid up in reserve during the Great Depression (1929-1932). In 1932 the decision was made to dispose of the vessel noting she was due for another refit and her hull timbers were now in excess of 50 years old.

On 29 August 1932 the seaplane tender HMAS Albatross collected Hankow from Thursday Island and towed her to Darwin arriving there on 2 September. The two ships left Darwin on the morning of 17 September and Hankow was towed out of the harbour and anchored offshore away from the shipping lanes. Demolition charges were then placed on board and, aided by a few shells from Albatross's 4-inch guns, she was sunk on 18 September 1932. In 1974 Hankow's anchor was recovered by divers and is currently on display at the Darwin Ski Club.


Coal Hulk Hankow