Remembering Canberra, 71 years on

Published on

Location(s): Solomon Islands, at sea

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (I), Commemoration, Battle of Savo Island

The Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, His Excellency Matt Anderson lays a wreath over the site where HMAS Canberra (I) was lost. (photo: )
The Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, His Excellency Matt Anderson lays a wreath over the site where HMAS Canberra (I) was lost.

On 9 August, service personnel, Dignitaries and local expatriates gathered onboard the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Maritime Vessel Lata for the commemoration of the sinking of HMAS Canberra (I).

Guests, included the Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary for Police, National Security and Correctional Services, Edmund Sikua, Acting Commissioner of Police, Juanita Matanga, Australian High Commissioner, Matt Anderson, United States of America Ambassador, Walter North, Great Britain High Commissioner, Dominic Mieklejohn, New Zealand High Commissioner, Mark Ramsden and Rear Admiral James Goldrick, AO, CSC. Together, they paused to remember those who gave their lives onboard Canberra 71 years ago. 

The service included readings, hymns, a moving minute of silence and a wreath laying ceremony during which guests, diplomatic representatives, and members of the public paid tribute to the lost crew. 

Able Seaman Gunner Donald Leslie, who was wounded in the Battle of Savo Island, had his final wish realised when the service included the interment of his ashes. 

Defence Advisor Honiara, Commander Geoff Turner scatters the ashes of Able Seaman Gunner Donnald Leslie while Rear Admiral James Goldrick, AO, CSC, and Lieutenant Colonel Brenton Gasteen RFD pay their respects.

Defence Advisor Honiara, Commander Geoff Turner scatters the ashes of Able Seaman Gunner Donnald Leslie while Rear Admiral James Goldrick, AO, CSC, and Lieutenant Colonel Brenton Gasteen RFD pay their respects.

On the evening of 8 August, 1942, Canberra was struck by two torpedoes on her starboard side. When she eventually sunk on 9 August, she was the largest ship ever lost at sea by the Royal Australian Navy. 

The Australian warship had a crew of 819 and 193 of them became casualties.  

Those who were confirmed as killed in action were the ship’s Commanding Officer, Captain Getting, and nine ratings, including one Royal Australian Air Force airman. 

Those who went missing, believed killed, included nine officers, including one from the Royal Australian Air Force and one from the United States Navy, and 65 ratings, including three from the Royal Australian Air Force and two from the Royal Navy.

Ten officers, including one from the Royal Navy, were wounded, as were 96 ratings. They included AB Gunner Donald Leslie, two Royal Australian Air Force airmen, one Royal Navy sailor, two United States Navy sailors and three civilian Canteen Staff. 

In his address at the Service, and on behalf of the Australian Defence Force, Rear Admiral James Goldrick paid tribute to his forebears, saying they had set standards that have inspired their countrymen for generations. 

“It is part of who and what we are, and what we strive to be as countries, and as individuals,” RADM Goldrick said.