Seventy-five years to the day since she sunk below the surface of the Indian Ocean, V-class destroyer HMAS Vampire (I) was commemorated at a memorial service at Garden Island.
The Royal Australian Navy warship and her crew fell victim to Japanese bombers off modern day Sri Lanka while escorting British light aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, which was also lost in the attack on 9 April 1942.
Commanding Officer of Sydney base HMAS Kuttabul, Commander Andrew Fraser was the master of ceremonies at the memorial service.
He reflected on how Vampire served with distinction in the Mediterranean and Pacific during the Second World War.
“Today we reflect on the bravery of those who served on Vampire and the sacrifices of the eight Australians who lost their lives as a result of the action,” Commander Fraser said.
“Vampire was one of five destroyers built by the Royal Navy but transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in the 1930s.”
The five ships were named the Scrap Iron Flotilla by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
In the early phase of the war, British and French naval supremacy in the Mediterranean meant that Vampire was called on for routine escorts, patrols and exercises.
That changed when Italy entered the war and the French resistance collapsed.
“For more than a year Vampire and the other destroyers in the Scrap Iron Flotilla took part in the struggle for the ancient sea route across the Mediterranean,” Commander Fraser said.
“While the Flotilla was pitted against newer and more powerful ships, the Australian ships made their mark.
“Vampire was awarded battle honours for her service in Italy, Libya, Greece and the Indian Ocean between 1940 and 1941.”
Vampire’s demise occurred while escorting off Batticaloa when she was attacked by sixteen Japanese dive-bombers. While the destroyer made a valiant effort fighting off the aerial attack with her anti-aircraft guns, five bombs hit their mark.
Commanding Officer Vampire Commander William Moran ordered the ship to be abandoned. Personnel made it to life rafts and floats before Vampire sank.
British hospital ship Vita picked up 590 survivors from Hermes and Vampire, taking them to Columbo.
Commander Moran is remembered with a Division named in his honour at the Royal Australian Naval College, HMAS Creswell.