Phil Orchard's story

Phil Orchard joined the Merchant Navy in Melbourne in November 1941. He attended an anti-aircraft gunner's course and initially served in that capacity, later becoming a radio operator.

Peter's first trip was from Australia to Egypt and Lebanon with 9000 tons of wheat to feed the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He served, usually as the only Australian on board, on MV Tienza and MV Ettrick in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean.

In New Guinea, Phil then served on SS Anhui and on small coastal vessels.

Phil recalled sailing along the west coast of the United States (US) early in the war, before the Americans had introduced the convoy system. Single ships would zigzag their way up and down the coast from the Caribbean to northern harbours, such as New York.

While in the US,Phil saw a tanker blown up off Miami and dozens of masts and funnels close inshore from other ships that had been sunk by German submarines. He also remembered picking up seamen from sunken ships. He reported that, such was the constant fear of sinking, some seamen slept in their life jackets.

Later, Phil participated in some of the large trans-Atlantic convoys from Halifax in Canada to Liverpool in the United Kingdom (UK).

Phil had good memories too, of the strong bond among the ship's company and of the amazing hospitality he and his shipmates received when on shore leave in the UK and the US.

Later service in New Guinea took Phil to Milne Bay, Oro Bay, Goodenough Island and Buna, where his ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft.

Phil was discharged from the merchant marine in September 1945, but stayed at sea for another 10 years. This wartime radio officer later became a keen amateur radio operator.

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Phil Orchard's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 18 May 2024,
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