Captain Stevenson's ashes committed to the sea

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Josh Goener (author), LSIS Kieran Dempsey (photographer), ABBM Daniel Goodman (photographer)

Location(s): Gabo Island, Vic

Topic(s): HMAS Melbourne (F05), Commitment of Ashes Ceremony, HMAS Melbourne (II)

Kerry, the daughter of Captain John Stevenson OAM, addresses the crew of HMAS Melbourne after scattering Captain Stevenson's ashes to sea off Gabo Island, Victoria. (photo: ABBM Daniel Goodman)
Kerry, the daughter of Captain John Stevenson OAM, addresses the crew of HMAS Melbourne after scattering Captain Stevenson's ashes to sea off Gabo Island, Victoria.

HMAS Melbourne (III)’s final cruise has also served as a fitting final voyage for the ashes of Captain John Philip Stevenson.

Captain Stevenson was a Commanding Officer of the previous warship to carry the name Melbourne, and passed away in February this year at the age of 98. 

Among Captain Stevenson’s final wishes was for his ashes to be scattered near Gabo Island, off the coast of eastern Victoria, where he’d scattered ashes of his father - Rear Admiral John Bryan Stevenson.

A ceremony was conducted on Melbourne’s flight deck while the ship was in transit to Hobart, and was attended by the late Captain’s children: Bryan and Kerry Stevenson and Henry Innis.

Melbourne’s Commanding Officer, Commander Marcus Buttler, also attended Captain Stevenson’s funeral at Garden Island in Sydney earlier this year, and said it was fitting to pay strong tribute to his legacy.

“It’s always an honour and a privilege to celebrate the life and service of such a significant member in the history of both Melbourne and the Royal Australian Navy,” Commander Buttler said.

“The crew and I are always grateful for the opportunity to continue the story of HMAS Melbourne, and build on the legacy left by great Australians such as Captain Stevenson,” he said.

Captain Stevenson’s 35-year career began when he entered the Royal Australian Naval College as a 13-year-old Cadet Midshipman in 1934.

He saw war service in HMA Ships Canberra (I), Nestor, Napier and Shropshire and was at Yokohama Bay for the Japanese surrender in 1945.

He was loaned to the Royal Navy as a young Lieutenant in the late 1940s and saw operational service in the early days of the Malayan Emergency.

In 1969, he was in command of HMAS Melbourne (II) when the United States Navy destroyer USS Frank E Evans turned under the Australian aircraft carrier’s bow and was cut in half.

Despite being cleared by a Court Martial, Captain Stevenson subsequently resigned from the Royal Australian Navy - bringing his distinguished career to an end.

Captain Stevenson received an official apology from the then Minister for Defence, the Honourable Stephen Smith, MP, in 2012, in which the Minister stated that Stevenson was not treated fairly by the government of the day and the Royal Australian Navy following the collision.

Minister Smith described Stevenson as “a distinguished naval officer who served his country with honour in peace and war.”

Following a successful civilian career, Captain Stevenson continued to work with service charities and was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2018 Australia Day Honours List.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: https://images.navy.gov.au/S20191931.