July is a significant month in Martindale history. It was in July 1944 that HMAS Martindale left Sydney for service in New Guinea waters. This year it is 90 years since Martindale was launched.

Building Martindale

In the late 1920s, John T Mortlock, a grazier of Port Lincoln, S.A., commissioned R.T. Searles & Sons of Birkenhead, S.A. to build Martindale. She was Searles’ first major boat and the first at their Birkenhead boat yard.

This Martindale was the second of that name owned by Mortlock. Ben Weir of Port Adelaide built the first Martindale some time in 1918. It was approx. 56 ft and was fitted with a Vickers Petters twin gas engine.

Launching Martindale

The new Martindale was a completely new design of approx. 66 ft. Martindale was launched on 19 July 1932 by Mrs. Rosina Mortlock, John's mother. With her in the photo are E.E. Scarfe (left) and John. The old Vickers engine was replaced after approximately 12 months with a Gardiner 6L3 diesel engine.

The name Martindale came from the family home Martindale Hall in Mintaro S.A. (Something you may not know - Martindale Hall was used as the school in the 1975 movie Picnic at Hanging Rock.)

After her war service Martindale was returned to Adelaide where Searles refitted her and restored her to original condition. Three men took six weeks to French polish all wood work. Rasch Motors rebuilt the engine, the RAAF flew all spares from the U.K.; all parts except the crank case and major blocks were replaced. Total bill from Searles was £26,000.

After John Mortlock died in 1950 Martindale was sold to Robert Barr-Smith who renamed her Watgania and took her to Victoria. Subsequently she returned to South Australia where she was renamed Martindale. She spent the early 1960s in Port Lincoln S.A. Around 1965-66 she was in N.S.W. being used for cruises on the Hawkesbury River. Little is known of her fate up until she was sold again in about 1980. Later she fell into disrepair and the Martindale Trust was formed in 2012 to restore her.

One of the major projects was to replace the engine that had been damaged by salt water. Thanks to the Noakes Group the replacement engine, a Gardner 8L3B, was restored and installed by the Sydney Heritage Fleet. Other work included fitting the galley, installing two masts, countless hours of varnishing and painting. The restoration work continues.


South Australian State Library for the photos.
Colin Fraser - History of Martindale