Melbourne pays last respects

Published on LCDR Scott Carter (author), LSCSO David Bolger (photographer)

Topic(s): Ceremony and Traditions, HMAS Melbourne (F05)

The commital of the remains of Petty Officer Telegraphist Keith Henry Conway, Ordinary Seaman Telegraphist Keith James Walter Smith and Ordinary Seaman Signalman Ronald Arthur Hankin at sea aboard HMAS Melbourne.  (photo: LSCSO David Bolger)
The commital of the remains of Petty Officer Telegraphist Keith Henry Conway, Ordinary Seaman Telegraphist Keith James Walter Smith and Ordinary Seaman Signalman Ronald Arthur Hankin at sea aboard HMAS Melbourne.

The ship's company of guided missile frigate, HMAS Melbourne have delivered the parting wishes of three Navy veterans, scattering their ashes at sea.

Petty Officer Telegraphist Keith Henry Conway, Ordinary Seaman Telegraphist Keith James Walter Smith, and Ordinary Seaman Signalman Ronald Arthur Hankin were committed to the deep in a ceremony on the flight deck of Melbourne whilst off the New South Wales south coast.

Commanding Officer Melbourne, Commander Charles Bourne said the solemn occasion was a chance for his crew to reflect on their own service and the tasks of generations of Australian mariners.

"The service was fitting recognition of the contribution these fine men made to the nation, and showed the deep connection the Navy maintains with those who have served," he said. 

The three men were driven to join the Navy after exposure to the Second World War, one also serving in the Army, but for two of the men, short careers were obviously life-changing, as decades on, they requested the most-martime of farewells.

The ship's company assembled on the flight deck and saluted as the ashes were scattered at sea.

Petty Officer Conway joined the Navy as a 20 year old in March 1946. He served in HMA Ships Australia, Cerberus, Harman, Lonsdale,and Sydney before leaving the Navy to join the Army as a Sergeant in February 1957. He continued to serve in the Army until October 1974.

Ordinary Seaman Smith joined the Navy in December 1941 serving until April 1946. He saw service in HMA Ships Australia, Brisbane, Cerberus, Kybra, and Lonsdale as well as HMS Suffolk. 

Ordinary Seaman Hankin joined the Navy in May 1943, serving in HMA Ships Cerberus, Huon, Ladava, Lae, Lonsdale, Madang, Magnetic, Manoora, Penguin, Terka, Warego, and Warramunga. He left the service in June 1946.

Navy ships routinely assist in meeting the final requests of former service personnel, pausing to undertake committal ceremonies at sea on behalf of Navy families.