Limerick | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Newly arrived Japanese submarine I-177 is credited with sinking the British steamship Limerick off Cape Byron on 26 April 1943. The single torpedo struck amidships as the 140-metre long Limerick when travelling in convoy. Two of the 72 crew were killed and the 8,724–ton steamship took three hours to sink.

I-177 is famously remembered for sinking the hospital ship Centaur the following month off Brisbane (14 May 1943).

When Limerick was under attack, the silvery wake of the torpedo was seen by two crew members about 500 metres off. As was commonly the case, the torpedo struck at night around midnight when most of the crew were asleep. There was a card game in progress, and one of the players Donald Stewart rushed to his cabin for a lifejacket. On the way back he scooped up the money lying on the card table and this reminded him that he had 36 pounds in his cabin. He rushed back and got that too before getting into a lifeboat. This must have been something of a feat, because the ship was struck amidships on the port side and immediately developed such a sharp list to port that many men could not keep their feet and a number dived overboard when the lifeboats jammed.

The Limerick  was travelling in a convoy and survivors spent eight hours in the water blowing the whistles on their lifejackets to attract attention. The ship took three hours to sink (Sydney Morning Herald, 8.5.1943). (The above is an extract from 'After the Battle of Terrigal: merchant navy losses off the New South Wales coast in World War II', Patricia Miles, Curator, Australian National Maritime Museum.)

This 8724 ton steel screw steamer was built in Port Glasgow in 1925 with a length of 140.3 metres and a beam of 19.11 metres. 

PHOTO: Multibeam image of the wreck site undertaken by Australia's Marine National Facility MV Southern Surveyor in January 2012.  Note that the vessel is lying upside down on the seabed.
Multibeam image of the wreck site undertaken by Australia's Marine National Facility MV Southern Surveyor in January 2012. Note that the vessel is lying upside down on the seabed.


Site information

Site ID: 990
Type: Steamer screw Construction: Steel
Primary industry: Sub-industry:
Gross tonnage: 8724 Net tonnage:
Length (mtrs): 140.3 Beam (mtrs): 19.11
Draft (mtrs): 10.72 Cargo:
Country built: UNITED KINGDOM State built:
Port built: Port Glasgow builder:
Port registered: London When built: 1925
Registration number: Official number:
Sources: SMH 8/5/1943 Marcus, A, 'Dems? What's Dems?', Boolarong Publications, 1986, p 252, 253
Comments: Steamship sunk by a torpedo fired from the Japanese submarine I-177.
The wreck has been declared as Historic Shipwreck after being discovered by Forfar and Sally Petrie and Neville Poynting in April 2012.

Lost event

When lost: 1943/04/26 Where lost: Cape Byron, 35 kms NE
Wrecked/Refloated: Torpedoed Sinking: Torpedoed
From port: To port:
Master: Owner:
Crew: 72 Passengers:
Crew deaths: 2 Passenger deaths:
Total deaths: 2


Maximum latitude: -28.9414325410121 Minimum latitude:
Maximum longitude: 153.79501142048 Minimum longitude:
Datum used: WGS84
  Datum    Latitude    Longitude    Zone    Easting    Northing
AGD66 -28.94143710597500 153.79501142048000 56 577479.27745033300000 6798231.40443198000000
AGD84 -28.94143710597500 153.79501142048000 56 577479.27745033300000 6798231.40443198000000
GDA94 -28.94143256719320 153.79501142048000 56 577478.99996195300000 6798242.99438090000000
WGS84 -28.94143256639360 153.79501142048000 56 577478.99996225000000 6798242.99437664000000


Found: Yes Inspected: NO
Protected: Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 Jurisdiction: Federal
Protection notes: Wrecks Specifically Declared as an Historic Shipwreck in 2012
Signage: Web address: