Historical links help Canberra stay competitive

This article has photo gallery Published on LSIS Helen Frank (author and photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), HMAS Canberra (I)

Lieutenant Commander Stephen Hurd of the Naval Association of Australia, Launceston South sub-section presents the Commanding Officer of HMAS Canberra, Captain Chris Smith with the Athol Ewington Shield to honour the last Tasmanian surviving member of HMAS Canberra (I) which was sunk in 1942. (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Lieutenant Commander Stephen Hurd of the Naval Association of Australia, Launceston South sub-section presents the Commanding Officer of HMAS Canberra, Captain Chris Smith with the Athol Ewington Shield to honour the last Tasmanian surviving member of HMAS Canberra (I) which was sunk in 1942.

While Athol Ewington’s service in HMAS Canberra (I) ended nearly 73 years ago when Canberra was lost in the Battle of Savo Island, his name will now live on in Canberra (III) with the introduction of the Athol Ewington Shield.

The shield was created when the Naval Association of Australia, Launceston South Sub-Section wanted to commemorate Mr Ewington’s service in a manner associated with his ship. 

It was made out of Tasmanian Huon pine by a member, putting to use the skills he acquired when formerly serving as a shipwright.

The concept of the commemorative shield was proposed to Chief of Navy and it was agreed that the Athol Ewington Shield would become the trophy for Canberras annual inter-departmental sports competition.

Mr Ewington joined the Navy in August 1941 and was seriously wounded on 9 August, 1942 while manning the forward 4-inch gun on Canberra (I). He continued his naval service until February 1946.

The Sub-Section recently presented a shield bearing Mr Ewington’s name to the Commanding Officer and ship’s company of HMAS Canberra (III). Mr Ewington was the last Tasmanian survivor of the sinking and was invited to the commissioning of Canberra (III) but sadly died just days before. His funeral was on the same day and time as the commissioning on 28 November, 2014.

Lieutenant Commander Stephen Hurd and fellow members of the Sub-Section travelled to Sydney with some friends and family of Mr Ewington to deliver the shield.

“I only had the pleasure of knowing Athol in the last few years of his life, however he was held in very high regard by all those who knew him,” Lieutenant Commander Hurd said.

“It was a great honour to present the shield; Athol was an esteemed life member of our Sub-Section and I am sure he would have been humbled to have his name connected with Canberra in this way.”

Canberras Petty Officer Physical Trainer Nathan Adamson said he was looking forward to the day the shield would be presented for the first time. 

“Athol Ewington dedicated his life to the Navy, to have his name kept alive onboard for interdepartmental sporting excellence is an immense honour for myself as the Physical Training Instructor onboard,” he said.

“Keeping Canberra's traditions alive from previous ships of the name is fantastic for the ship’s company as there are opportunities to meet some and hear of the influential people who contributed to this great name in the past.”

Mr Ewington’s long term friend and companion Marie Brearley, his daughter and granddaughter Wendy and Emma Lacey also attended the presentation of the shield which followed a service at the Garden Island Naval Chapel. At this service, memorial plaques were dedicated to Mr Ewington and several others, in the Chapel of Remembrance.