Over 120 people attended a successful Project Longshot information afternoon at the Ranelagh Club, in Mt Eliza on Saturday,
Project Longshot is the mission the find the first Allied shot of the Great War: a 40 kilogram steel shell that Australian forces fired at the German cargo ship SS Pfalz from Fort Nepean on August 5th, 1914
The two-hour presentation introduced the First Shot story to Ranelagh Club members and guests from across the community.
Ranelagh Club president Lawrence Henderson opened the day with an emotional tribute to the Ranelagh Club’s longest-serving member and Kokoda veteran, Lionel Smith, before former Victorian Premier and Chair of the Victorian Anzac Day Committee, Mr Ted Baillieu spoke about his passion for Melbourne, its history and the global significance of the first shot.
Major Bernie Gaynor, Chair of the First Shot Committee eloquently recounted the events of August 5th, 1914 and entertained the audience with his enthusiasm and knowledge of the first Allied shot of the Great War.
He described the ill-fated life of the SS Pfalz. After Australian forces seized the ship, the Pfalz became the HMAT boorara and served as an Australian troop-carrier in the Dardanelles and the North Sea. She was twice torpedoed and ended her life as a shipwreck off the Vancouver coast.
Margaret Robinson, grand-niece of Montgomery Robinson, the Australian pilot who allegedly scuffled with German captain Kuhiken for control of the Pfalz, shared some papers and cartoons of her famous relative with audience members.
Ken Penaluna, Grandson of gunner Edward Quirke, also attended with memorabilia.
Mount Eliza Secondary College students Harry Maxwell and Josh Daly built an information display for the event, centrepiece of which was a beautiful replica shell that Josh Daly and his grandfather made during the recent school holidays.
Project Longshot Team Leader Mark Ryan outlined a timeline for the mission and spoke about the technical difficulties of searching for a small object in such a vast area and the equipment they will need to find a six-inch shell under a metre of sand. Mr Ryan is founder of Souther Ocean Exploration, Australia’s moct successful shipwreck discovery team.
Filmamker Terry Cantwell spoke about the importance of local stories and closed the day with a call for community involvement in Project Longshot.
On August 5th, 2014 a special commemorative event will be held at Point Nepean fort, which is open to all Australians.