Tribute to brothers in arms

This article has photo gallery Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), ABIS Cassie McBride (photographer), LSIS Paul McCallum (photographer)

Location(s): Vacuous, Mauritius, Hobart, Tasmania

Able Seaman Musician Dorian Broomhall performs the Last Post during a ceremonial planting of a symbolic Lone Pine Tree at the Crib Point Cemetery, Victoria. (photo: ABIS Cassie McBride)
Able Seaman Musician Dorian Broomhall performs the Last Post during a ceremonial planting of a symbolic Lone Pine Tree at the Crib Point Cemetery, Victoria.

A Navy Band bugle, dedicated to Second World War Bandsman Arnold Partington, has become a cherished item for one Navy musician.

Melbourne-based Tasmanian, Able Seaman Musician Dorian Broomhall is the current custodian of the ‘Partington Bugle’.

Bugles the Navy Band use are all inscribed with a fallen bandsmen's details.
 
Of three Tasmanian brothers who joined the Navy as bandsmen in 1938, two died seven months apart in 1941, and one became a Prisoner of War of the Japanese three months later.
 
Bandsman Perce Partington, the youngest of the three brothers, was the first to enlist, followed eight weeks later by middle brother Arnold, and then oldest brother Les seven months after that.
 
Arnold was posted to HMAS Canberra I and died from acute appendicitis four days after his 25th birthday, off the east coast of Africa, on 6 April 1941.
 
He is the sole Second World War Australian serviceman buried on Mauritius and is interred in the Phoenix Cemetery, near the town of Vacaos.
Members of HMAS Anzac II’s ship’s company held a commemorative service at Arnold’s grave last July.
 
His niece, Jenni Chinner, Perce’s daughter, flew to Mauritius to take part.
 
She said the trip was incredibly special to her and one of the most emotional moments was Anzac’s arrival at Port Louis.
 
“It brought all three brothers really close to me,” she said. 
 
“They all loved their ships, Dad particularly, as he had been one of Perth’s commissioning crew that went to England to pick her up.
 
“The Mauritius Police Band was playing on the wharf and it was quite emotional.
 
“The ceremony at the cemetery was also moving, and the fact we, as a nation, have been commemorating those who lost their lives in both World Wars is a special acknowledgement they have not been forgotten by their nation or their Navy.”
 
Hi brother Les was posted to HMAS Sydney II and was listed as killed on 20 November 1941, following the ship’s sinking off the coast of Western Australia by the German raider Kormoran.
 
Perce fared only slightly better, becoming a prisoner of the Japanese after his ship, HMAS Perth I, was sunk during the Battle of Sunda Strait on the night of 28 February 1942. 
 
“Former Chief Petty Officer Musician Dave Hardstaff researched the Partington brothers and when he heard Arnold Partington was going to be honoured in this way he lobbied for the bugle to be assigned to Royal Australian Navy Band Tasmania,” Able Seaman Broomhall said.
 
“The true significance of the bugle wasn’t properly made known to me until the then commander of Navy Headquarters Tasmania, Commander Tony Vine, took an interest in the story and did some research of his own, unearthing Arnold’s service record.
 
“Then I began to realise how lucky I was to share some history with another bandsman from Tasmania, and I decided to make sure I held on to this particular bugle.
 
“I felt I had a connection with the story behind it, perhaps more so than other buglers and their inscribed instruments.”
 
Able Seaman Broomhall said this connection was accentuated when he met some of Arnold’s family recently.
 
“I don’t want the instrument to end up in a storeroom somewhere at the end of its service,” he said.
 
“There was some talk of donating it to a museum when the instruments are replaced, and that will be a conversation I will have with both the family and the Director of Music – Navy at the time.”
 
Ms Chinner said her father Perce didn’t talk much about his war experiences at all.
 
“What they went through was beyond the comprehension of most people. Even the officers at Changi didn’t believe how bad it was on the railway when some of the survivors were sent back there after the line was completed,” she said.
 
“Dad joined the Navy after losing his job at a Hobart hardware store for taking the afternoon off to watch Don Bradman play cricket.
 
“He died aged 80, on 30 March 2001, a few days after being hit by a car in Adelaide on the day of Don Bradman’s funeral.”
 
Ms Chinner spent a lot of time with her grandparents as a child.
 
“I don’t know how my grandmother coped,” she said, “because for six months after the sinking of Perth she didn’t know if my father was alive or not, until a Red Cross card came through saying he was a Prisoner of War.
 
“Dad was aware, before Perth was sunk, both his brothers had died; indeed he had Arnold’s ivory mah-jong set on board when his ship sank, to his regret.”
 
Ms Chinner said her family was pleased to hear of the Navy’s Partington Bugle.
 
“Nobody in the family knew anything about it until I stumbled across mention of it,” she said.
 
Able Seaman Broomhall joined the Navy Reserve in 2008 when he was looking for a part-time job and considering a career in music.