Lifebuoy from XLCR; 1926; 2014/405


Mid North Coast Maritime Museum


Lifebuoy from XLCR

About this object

This lifebuoy is associated with the XLCR, an offshore fishing trawler that was based in Port Macquarie from 1926 to 1962.

The XLCR had been built by Gus Green at Iluka and was used for trawling in the open ocean waters between Tweed Heads and Moruya from 1903 until 1926. New life-saving devices were fitted and labelled with her new location when she was brought to Port Macquarie.

The XLCR was initially purchased by local residents Claude Radley, Francis Cochet and Jack Woodcock, but Claude Radley subsequently bought the trawler outright. She was used for offshore fishing by members of the Radley family, in and around Port Macquarie waters for the next 40 years, and was a very familiar vessel on the Hastings River during that period. The Radley families were well known and highly regarded not only for their innovative fishing practices and their leading role in the development of the local the fishing industry, but also for their involvement in many local community events.

In the years between 1926 and 1962, crew members of the XLCR were often called upon to utilize the trawler as a safety boat at sailing regattas held on the Hastings River and at surf carnivals conducted on the local beaches. She was also used on numerous occasions as a rescue boat when there were accidents at sea, or when vessels got into difficulties whilst crossing the notorious bar at the Hastings River entrance.

The XLCR rose to national prominence on 29 April 1943 when Claude Radley and his crew, Mervyn, Tom and Russell Radley, and Arthur Beatie and Raymond Smith rescued five crew members from the Wollongbar after she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off Crescent Head during World War II. The Wollongbar was a refrigerated vessel which was being used to transport goods and produce from the north coast of NSW to Sydney to replenish supplies for Sydney residents during the early years of World War II. She was struck twice and destroyed, killing 32 of the 37 crew members on board.

Given her numerous safety and rescue missions it is likely that this lifebuoy was used on many occasions to save people who were in trouble at sea. It is also highly likely that it was used in the rescue mission to save the crew members on the ill-fated Wollongbar during World War II. There is evidence of water contact which has caused discolouration.

It appears that the lifebuoy was retrieved from the XLCR before the Radleys sold her in 1962. After some time in Victoria, a group of marine enthusiasts brought the XLCR back to Port Macquarie in 1997. She was relaunched in September 2005 and is now used as a training vessel and floating classroom helping senior high school students learn skills and crafts associated with the marine industry.

There is no doubt this lifebuoy, from the XLCR provided an invaluable service during the XLCR’s many rescue missions at sea, but it is also associated with the highly respected Radley family who, as well as being involved in the many rescue operations and other community activities, made important and lasting contributions to the development of the fishing industry in Port Macquarie over many decades during the 1900s.

Zsolt Newby and Margaret Blight
30 September 2014

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