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SYDNEY, Friday. '
An Australian ship was mined and sank in three minutes off the New South Wales coast yesterday afternoon. Seven men are missing. It is almost certain that they were killed instantly.
The explosion ripped away the after section of the ship. When she went down 13 survivors, four of them injured, were left struggling on timber in the sea. Fortunately they were sighted by the pilot of an R.A.A.F. amphibian which brought a rescue ship but they were in the water for over two and a half hours before they were saved. The missing men are the skipper, Captain W. Bysant son, of Manly; A. McAllister, the third engineer, of Lind field; Charles Chapman, the chief officer, of Petersham; E. Carlson, greaser, of Glebe; N. Hutton, greaser, of Sydney; E. Hallett, greaser, of Stanmore; and W. Corry, able sea man, of Kensington.
The survivors said today that they had no doubt that the ship struck a mine. It is feared that a German raider slipped into the coastal waters in darkness, laid mines and sped away ' to sea before dawn. The Navy Department has closed the port of Newcastle to shipping until further notice. No Warning Seated in a wharf shed early today clad in borrowed flannels and old blue trousers, Stuart Kennedy, chief engineer of the ship for five and a half years and a sailor for 21 years, gave a vivid description of the tra gedy. 'We had not a second's warning,' said Kennedy. '1 was in the mess room having a cup of tea at 3.25 p.m. when there was a deafening explo sion just aft of the engine-room. 'I would say that the whole after section of the ship was blown away. 'I didn't see much. I scrambled out of the messroom and the next moment I was struggling in the
water. 'Timber and debris shot into the air and oil from the fuel tanks spurt ed up like a geyser. Luckily the oil didn't catch fire. 'Seconds later, I found myself in the calm sea with my mates strug gling around me grasping bundles of plywood six feet long and three feet wide which were scattered over a fairly wide expanse of sea. Saved By Plywood 'The bundles of plywood saved us, for we had no earthly chance of even getting near the life-boats, let alone launching any of them. 'We had been carrying pigs on deck. They went up in the air and slithered over the side like we did. One managed to get on a bundle of plywood but then it lost its balance, toppled into the sea and was drowned.' Kennedy said that the men spoke to each other as they clung to the plywood awaiting rescue. There was no panic and the in jured men just 'cracked hardy.' . Although there had been no chance of sending out a wireless distress call, within ten minutes an amphibian sighted them and came down on the sea near the debris. The amphibian took off again within a few minutes and they saw it flying over the sea to the north, apparently looking for a rescue ship. Rescue Ship Arrives After two and a half hours they saw a rescue ship from the north heading towards them at full speed. The rescue ship promptly low ered one of her boats and within a few minutes 13 men had been picked up from the water and taken on board. Survivors said that the lost ship's stem was poised upright before she took her final plunge in a flurry of foam. Captain Bysantson had gone to his cabin and nobody could recall see ing him after the explosion. McAllis ter had been in the engine-room with several of the greasers and had no chance of escape. Humphrey, the second mate, was on the bridge at the time of the explo sion and he was among the survivors but nobody could recall having seen Chapman.