The ‘On active service’ stampless cover was postmarked with a black A.I. FORCES POSTAGE FREE/ 24 NO.17/ VIC which partially obscured a purple double oval handstamp, (----) AUSTRALIAN HOSPITAL SHIP/ KANOWNA. It was addressed to Mr. D.O. McIntyre, Estate Agent, Ryrie St, Geelong, Victoria, Australia. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).
My first thought was that the cover was addressed to the father by a daughter who was a nurse on the ship, but this has not been confirmed by the website for the Australian War Memorial (AWM), as I write. However a review of the ca. 300 McIntyre’s that were in the Australian armed forces in World War I (1914-1918), only two possible candidates were found likely for the sender of the cover: Sister Annie Elizabeth McIntyre and Nurse Daisy Florence McIntyre, both of whom were shown as being in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), and both returned to Australia safely from the combat zone. A request for further information, in particular their next of kin and domicile in Australia, has been sent to the AWM .
TSS Kanowna also known as HMAS Kanowna, was an Australian steamer built during 1902. The 126 metre long TSS Kanowna was constructed by Brothers of Dumbarton, Scotland and W. Denny, and it had a twin screw design. It was operated by the Australian United Steam Navigation Company (AUSNC) and it served the Sydney to Fremantle, Western Australia route.
Kanowna was controlled by the Commonwealth of Australia between 8 and 21 August 1914 when it was used to transfer troops for the Australian World War I involvement in German New Guinea. An undated photo of the Kanowna is seen in Figure 2.
It was again requisitioned on 1 June 1915 by the Commonwealth, and was transferred to England where it was converted to a hospital ship that could accommodate 452 patients. It was used to transfer ill and injured people between the United Kingdom and Australia for 3 years, during which time it was known as HMAS Kanowna. Twelve nurses aboard the requisitioned Kanowna who served on the floating hospital are seen in Figure 3.
The steamer was returned to AUSNC on 29 July 1919, after it left England just prior to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which formally concluded World War I. It resumed a passenger and general cargo route, with varied routes. On 18 February 1929, Kanowna ran into rocks between Sydney and Melbourne near Cleft Island, south of Wilson’s Promontory. Passengers were transferred to the SS Mackarra prior to its sinking. The steamship Dumosa was used to transfer its officers and crew. The Sydney Morning Herald on 19 February 1929, p. 5 showed a series of photos of the rescue. The top photo shows the Cleft Island, better known by mariners as Skull Rock, and the bottom photos show the passengers’ rescue (Figure 4).
Originally it was believed that the ship could be moved and saved and moved to the beach but this was unsuccessful. Fog was believed to have been a major factor in the incident. On the 23 April 2005, four explorers found the shipwreck, located 50 kilometers into Bass Strait. A fortnight later a group of divers successfully reached the wreck, which was identified as the Kanowna.