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Basil Helm by Rupert Blunt

Date: 1932
Overall: 252 x 202 mm
Medium: Ink, pencil on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Margaret Royds
Object Name: Drawing
Object No: ANMS1128[035]

User Terms

    A head and shoulder portrait of Basil Helm depicing him smoking a pipe. Date 1932, the image was drawn by the Second Officer, Rupert Mafeking Blunt.
    Although notes made by Basil Helm read 'B Helm 1932, drawn by R M Blunt 3rd Officer Killed Manunda1942', Rupert Blunt is actually reacorded as dying in 1940 after falling through an open hatch aboard MANUNDA whilst at Cockatoo Island.
    Crashed to Death Down Hold Soon After Warning Workmen
    SYDNEY, July 31.— A few minutes after warning workmen on the hospital ship MANUNDA yesterday of the danger of open hatches. R. M. Blunt.' the second officer, crashed 25 feet to death down the hold.
    "Remember, the hatches are open and be careful where you step." Blunt told a party of six workmen at Cockatoo Dock.
    Workmen called Blunt when they could not see him in the hold. One climbed down the hold and found the officer critically injured. Blunt was taken to Balmain Hospital suffering from severe head injuries. He died an hour later. He was 42, married, and lived at Fiddens Wharf Road. Killara. He was the eldest son of Mr. R. R. Blunt, of Bulimba, Brisbane."
    The Telergraph Brisbane 31 July 1940

    SignificanceThis drawing is part of the Basil Helm collection which has considerable significance in the commercial area of Australian maritime history. Along with the Burns Philp shipping company, the Helm's collection contains a superb record of the celebrated Queensland Coast and Torres Strait Pilot Service. This important organisation was closely connected to Burns Philp, from which several of its pilots, including Helm, came.
    HistoryIn May 1940, it was announced that the Burns Phillip Line ship MANUNDA would be converted into a hospital ship.

    "HOSPITAL SHIP MANUNDA to Leave for Overseas Work.
    MELBOURNE. Friday.

    The early commissioning of the coastal steamer MANUNDA (9,115 tons) as Australia's first hospital ship in this war, was announced by the Prime Minister Mr Menzies this week!-.
    The Department of the Army announced to-day that the vessel, which is one of the
    most modern of the interstate liners would leave for its work overseas complete with the most recent developments in hospital practice. It will be painted white with a green band 18 feet wide running around the hull some feet above the water-line It will carry distinguishing red crosses common to all hospital ships, as well as red crosses painted on the deck and on the funnel. So they will be clear and unmistakable from the air they will be lit at night.

    Considerable structural alterations will be required, one being the provision of a lift large enough to convey cot cases fiom deck to deck. Bunks will be taken out and specially designed beds provided for patient.s These beds will be arranged in double rows inwards ranging in size from four beds to 7 beds the small wilds being kept for perhl cases. Major surgical operations will be executed on board in a theatre embodying the latest ideas in construction and equipment X-ray room, darkroom, pathological laborotory and dental surgery will also be provided.
    Living room will be made for 322 patients, a staff personnel of about 8O, including nursing sisters, orderlies and technicians. "
    [Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May 1940]

    Despite the precautions taken to ensure MANUNDA was recognised as a hospital ship, on the morning of 19 February 1942 the ship was damaged during the Japanese air raids on Darwin. Twelve members of the ships' crew and hospital staff were killed. It is likely that it was this incident that Basil Helm presumably thought Rupert Blunt was killed in.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Basil Helm by Rupert Blunt

    Collection title: Basil Helm collection

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