Vale John Bird: Last survivor of SS Fingal

Posted on: Mon 26 Jul 2021

Sadly, John Bird passed away recently at his home in Cooktown, Far North Queensland.  We pay tribute to John today by returning his 2019 interview to the airwaves.  

Off Nambucca Heads, New South Wales on 5.5.1943, two torpedoes fired from a Japanese submarine struck the hull of SS Fingal, a small steamer sailing from Sydney to Darwin shipping cargo and ammunition for WW2. Fifteen year old crewman John Bird had just finished his chores and for the first time in his very short sea life had been feeling a little sea sick. He took a chance to have a five-minute spell in his bunk, hoping the Bosun wouldn’t come down and find him.  He’d just climbed into his bunk when a terrific explosion occurred.  The Fingal sank within a minute. 

There were just 19 survivors from a crew of 31, but even those were lucky to survive.  If it hadn’t been for an RAAF Avro Anson from No. 71 Squadron chasing the USS Patterson to turn and pick up survivors, many more lives could have been lost.  John tells us about living through this and serving on other ships throughout the war. 

Interviewer Helen Meyer

US Army Small Ships Association Inc

SS Fingal_303287 wikimedia commons

John Bird, Burrard Inlet Vancouver. Photo provided by US Army Small Ships Association and used with permission

Nuolja. Photo provided by US Army Small Ships Associationa and used with permission.

Main Photo:  SS Fingal article provided by US Army Small Ships Association and used with permission

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