1970: An Australian Tugboat is Retired from Service

September 28, 1970

More than four decades after her debut, the steam-powered Australian tugboat named Forceful was officially retired from service. This seagoing vessel had been constructed by the shipbuilding company Alexander Stephen & Sons Limited and launched in Scotland in 1925. Forceful subsequently sailed from the River Clyde in Scotland to her assigned homeport at the city of Brisbane in the Australian state of Queensland.

Along with being used on a regular basis for ship-berthing duties in the port of Brisbane, Forceful was used as needed as a salvage tug for vessels along much of the remainder of the Queensland coastline. In the early part of 1942, this tugboat was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) for service during World War II.

As HMAS Forceful (W126), she was initially used for towing and ship-berthing work at the RAN shore establishment HMAS Leeuwin in the city of Fremantle in the state of Western Australia. Forceful was then transferred to the RAN base HMAS Melville at the city of Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory to perform various harbor-oriented and salvage duties in that vicinity.

During her time at HMAS Melville, Forceful was used at one point to rescue an American B-26 bomber crew that had ditched west of Bathurst Island (one of the Tiwi Islands located just north of Darwin). Forceful was also stationed at Thursday Island, which is located about 24 miles (39 kilometers) off the coast of Queensland, as another one of her military tours of duty.    

In the fall of 1943, Forceful was decommissioned from the RAN and returned to Brisbane to resume regular commercial service. By 1964, Forceful was the last coal-burning steam tugboat still operating on the River Brisbane. Several months after being retired from service, this tugboat was handed over to the Queensland Maritime Museum and remains on exhibit there today.

The ongoing status of Forceful as a longtime and revered treasure in that region of Australia was amplified in 2018 by Madelaine Blythe, a 90-year-old Queensland Maritime Museum volunteer whose father had been part of that tugboat’s original crew. She explained in an interview, “My association [with that vessel] is very personal because I’ve known it all my life.”

Photo Credit: Nick Dowling (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)

For more information on the seagoing tugboat Forceful, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forceful_(tugboat)

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