"They mark our passage as race of men.
Earth will not see such ships as these agen." - John Masefield
Lionel (Mort) Allen jpg

Lionel (Mort) Allen
Joined the navy at the age of 14

HMAS Tingira Research

My father, Lionel (Mort) Allen, did not often talk about his 39 years of service in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). One exception to this occurred when I was a young teenager with a keen interest in sailing and sailing ships in general. Dad was motivated to speak briefly about a training ship on which, at the age of fourteen, he had begun his naval career. That ship was a retired square rigged clipper ship that had been renamed HMAS Tingira when commissioned by the RAN. Dad referred to it incorrectly as "Tingara", but he was not alone in making this error because I also came across this incorrect spelling in an archived RAN file and in a publication more specifically about the clipper ship Cutty Sark.

My Dad passed away some years ago, and while preparing an obituary, I recalled this conversation about the training ship and tried to find out more about this ship. Initially I did not have a lot of success, partly because I had the name spelled incorrectly. Some years later, I happed to meet the renowned Australian painter and sculptor Dennis Adams, OAM. Dennis had been an official world war II artist and his paintings from that conflict form part of the Australian War Memorial collection. He also proudly proclaimed himself to be a genuine 'Cape Horner' having sailed to England as a passenger on the windjammer Herzogin Cecilie via Cape Horn in 1935. In 1938 he returned to Australia on board another windjammer called the Lawhill.

SS Sobraon jpg

SS Sobraon under full sail
Oil on canvas by Dennis Adams

I asked Dennis to paint a picture for me of a ship at sea under full sail. Dennis suggested that we select a real ship as the subject of the proposed painting. To make this selection we consulted one of his prized possessions - a book about clipper ships, the cover of which had been repaired with genuine windjammer sailcloth. One particular picture in this book grabbed my attention and I knew instantly that this had to be the subject for the painting. The ship was called the Sobraon, a name which at first did not mean much to me, but Dennis was clearly excited by my choice. He told me that this ship had a special connection with Australian maritime history and that after a distinguished career as a 1st class passenger ship on the English-Australia run, and then later as a home for wayward boys on Sydney Harbour, she was eventually commissioned as HMAS Tingira - a Royal Australian Navy training ship, The realisation that this was the ship in which my father had started his navy training, provided a strong motive to revive my research. In fact Dennis very kindly assisted me with my research and provide a significant amount of the initial research material including plans of the ship that he acquired from the NSW Government. Even years later Dennis would phone me with a new snippet of information that he had come across. Sadly, Dennis passed way several years ago. I miss his friendship and input to this research project greatly.

The research is ongoing, although somewhat sporadic. I have spent many hours researching my subject in archives and libraries in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. I may publish some of my research work in future updates to this website.