A rare maritime discovery for Port Stephens

RARE FIND: At the presentation were PSYC commodore John Townsend (with compass), members Greg Cumberland and David Simm holding the telescope and Ben Van Der Wijngaal with the sextant.
RARE FIND: At the presentation were PSYC commodore John Townsend (with compass), members Greg Cumberland and David Simm holding the telescope and Ben Van Der Wijngaal with the sextant.

A cache of rare military maritime instruments found buried in the office of a Port Stephens clubhouse has local historians abuzz with excitement as they seek their origins and place in history.

The nautical items include a WWII Japanese telescope with gun view finder, an antique sextant and two binnacle compasses - all in extremely good condition and in working order.

The discovery was made by members of the Port Stephens Yacht Club (PSYC) who were cleaning out office spaces in the decades-old clubhouse located in Soldiers Point.

In a small ceremony last Friday, the equipment was handed over to the Marine Rescue Port Stephens (MRPS) to be displayed in their Nelson Head Heritage Inner Lighthouse Reserve Museum.

On hand to accept the donation was John Reid, chairman of the Lighthouse Trust.

"These are rare instruments and we are appealing to anyone who may be able to provide us with more information and how these historic items got to be stored at the yacht club," he said.

"A note with the telescope indicates it was liberated by the secretive Z Special Unit during Operation Jaywick in Singapore Harbour on September 26, 1943, but we have have no information on the antique sextant and the binnacle compasses."

The typed note written on paper accompanying the telescope reads: 'This telescope was captured from the Japanese in Singapore behind the enemy lines by Rory Lofts who was a member of the Z Force during the war. Donated to the Squadron by Rory Lofts (dec).'

COMPASS POINT: Marine Rescue Port Stephens' longest serving member (35 years) Harold Gibson with the binnacle compass inside the Lighthouse museum.

COMPASS POINT: Marine Rescue Port Stephens' longest serving member (35 years) Harold Gibson with the binnacle compass inside the Lighthouse museum.

However, Dr Karl James, head of the Military History Section at the War Memorial in Canberra, was unable to substantiate these claims.

"As far as the Memorial is aware, no 'Rory Lofts' participated in the Jaywick raid in Singapore in September 1943. There were only three "R. Lofts" who served in Australian forces during the Second World War. The service records for these three men are not digitised but they don't seem to have served with Z Special Unit or the Services Reconnaissance Department/Special Operations Australia during the war," Dr James said.

PSYC commodore John Townsend said that club members were pleased the maritime instruments would remain in Port Stephens.

"We thought it was only right that the items are displayed for all to see in a museum with a rich maritime background," he said.

MRPS unit commander Ben Van Der Wijngaart said they were grateful for the donations and that the instruments would take pride of place in the Nelson Bay museum, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The telescope is believed to be a Nikon (formerly Nippon) brand.

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