Not at all discouraged the following January I decided I could still be of combative value to my country and joined the Merchant Navy. My first trip was on S.S. Mungana, a 1,921-ton rust-bucket that set out on the seventy-mile trip from Sydney to Newcastle one night in February. She was so unseaworthy that what should have been a routine passage of a few hours developed into a nightmare of forty-eight. Her rudder fell off outside Newcastle and we wallowed in mountainous seas until a tug came to unceremoniously drag us into port. The tug was delayed for the Harbour Master had closed the boom following the bombardment of an enemy ship that had tried to slip out of harbour in a fruitless attempt to break her internment. The Newcastle survey authority withdrew her seaworthy licence and I was on the beach. It was difficult to find even a smidgen of affection for this hell ship and I scrambled down the gangplank with undisguised glee and hard-pressed to outrun my captain.
The Mungana episode hardened my entrails and never again did I suffer mal de mere in boat or plane.
The "S.S. Mungana" in February 1941 looking benign and innocent yet this was an angelic illusion. The open sea made her as spiteful as a witch with haemorrhoids. Her details were official number 137221, registered tonnage 1921, and a rated horsepower of 231. Her licence to operate Australian Trade shows the depths that our Government had plumbed to get anything and everything on a war time footing.