It’s been 30 years since Adelaide woman Chloe Humphreys lost her father Able Seaman Quartermaster Gunner Gordon Shane Rae to a tragic motor vehicle accident shortly after drafting to his first ship, but the Navy family hasn’t forgotten his service to the nation.
Each year on Father’s Day, Ms Humphreys reflects on her father’s short yet adventurous life and this year was no different, however a subsequent chain of events led to her being presented with her father’s Australian Defence Medal before a number of his ex-shipmates.
In what she described as a tough Father’s Day this year, Ms Humphreys said she was going through her father’s pictures and certificates when she came across the certificate from June 1987 when he had successfully completed the Basic Quartermaster gunner course.
“He was 18 when he enlisted, such a young age to make such a big decision but this is what he wanted to do, so he went for it,” Ms Humphreys said.
“As a parent it got me thinking about my 13 year old son Samuel who is just five years younger than his grandfather.
“I decided to post a picture of dad’s certificate online on the Flinders Naval Depot history Facebook page because I was so proud, so very proud that my father had served in the Royal Australian Navy.
“This led to the post being shared to the Royal Australian Navy Gunnery page where it caught the attention a few more ex-Navy members and out of nowhere I was contacted by Peter, one of my father’s best mates,” she said.
From there the Navy network worked overtime, with a number of ex-shipmates and former members rallying around Ms Humphreys sharing stories and photos whilst also helping her complete the picture of an important part of her father’s life, his Navy service, something that she knew little about.
“Over the years I have tried so hard to piece together what I could to find out who my dad was, and from what I have heard since connecting with his shipmates, it has reinforced to me he was an absolutely amazing man that was loved and well respected by all,” Ms Humphreys said.
Acknowledging the emotional roller coaster of the past three months, Ms Humphreys said she couldn’t have wished for a more rewarding outcome, when she was presented with her father’s medal before family, friends and her dad’s ex-shipmates under the Australian National Flag on the grounds of the Marion Returned and Services League Club.
In acknowledging the support and endeavours of her father’s shipmates and the ex-Service community, Ms Humphreys said that this was without doubt, the best thing that has happened on the day of her father’s anniversary, and she was proud to accept the medal on his behalf.
Commanding Officer Navy Headquarters-South Australia, Commander Andrew Burnett said it was a privilege help recognise the late Able Seaman Gordon Rae.
“Whilst his career was brief, it’s important to remember he died in service, and the medal will serve as a fitting reminder to his family that his service will not be forgotten,” he said.
“The reflects dedication and a commitment to duty in ensuring the security of Australia and through ceremonies such as these we ensure we remain engaged with our extended Navy family and the broader community.”
As a fitting postscript to the formal presentation of the Australian Defence Medal, Ms Humphreys was also presented with a unique ship’s plaque commissioned by her late father’s shipmates from the decking of the decommissioned HMAS Sydney IV.