Immortalised in art – Navy’s gallant Warrant Officer

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), CMDR Chloe Griggs (author), POIS Kelvin Hockey (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Albatross, Honours, Awards and Trophies, HMAS Stuart (F153)

Commodore Chris Smallhorn, RAN, Warrant Officer Ben Sime, MG, Stacie Sime and Keith Payne, VC, appreciate the portrait of WO Sime which was revealed at the Centenary of Australian Naval Aviation Dinner Dance. (photo: POIS Kelvin Hockey)
Commodore Chris Smallhorn, RAN, Warrant Officer Ben Sime, MG, Stacie Sime and Keith Payne, VC, appreciate the portrait of WO Sime which was revealed at the Centenary of Australian Naval Aviation Dinner Dance.

One of Navy’s most highly decorated serving sailors has been honoured with a portrait by one of Australia’s leading military artists.

The larger-than-life-sized depiction of Warrant Officer Aircrewman Ben Sime, MG, was unveiled recently at a function celebrating the centenary of naval aviation, at HMAS Albatross.

Past and serving members of the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Air Arm were on hand for the reveal of the visage.

Artist George Petrou has painted historical and modern military figures, sporting greats, and abstracts but said he considered the commission for Warrant Officer Sime’s portrait an honour, but an intimidating one.

“I was a little bit nervous, I have enormous respect to anyone who goes to war and puts their life on the line,” Mr Petrou said.

“They are amazing dedicated people and I’m thankful for their sense of duty and dedication in protecting and looking after us.

“Ben’s is an amazing story of heroism and selflessness so I really wanted to convey that.”

“I didn’t meet Ben, I worked from photographs, but I sensed he was a quiet achiever, who doesn’t seek the limelight so I focused a lot of attention on his actual medal, concentrating on the brightness and symbolism and I hope that conveys Ben’s strength.”

The event was held at the Fleet Air Arm Museum and marked 100 years since a Sopwith Baby N1014 embarked on HMAS Brisbane in May 1917 at the height of the First World War.

The Sopwith’s pilot, Flight Sub Lieutenant Alfred Clemson made daily flights attempting to locate the German Raider Wolf.

Signicantly this was the first time an aircraft was used as an integral part of an Australian ship's weapon system and was the start of the Royal Australian Navy’s path toward a Fleet Air Arm.

Warrant Officer Sime, who had not seen the portrait until it was unveiled before the 300 guests, said it was an absolute honour.

I felt privileged, not only to have the portrait presented at such an historic event but to have people in attendance, such as my wife Stacie, and of course the artist, Mr George Petrou,” Warrant Officer Sime said.

“My wife was extremely proud and honoured to have been there. She’s a police officer and so is presented with situations everyday that have the potential to escalate and I am just as proud of her and what she does,” he said.

Warrant Officer Sime received his Medal for Gallantry for his actions in 2004 as a Leading Seaman Aircewman in the Seahawk crew embarked in HMAS Stuart in the Middle East. He courageously entered the water from the air to support a sailor injured in a explosive dhow attack on the USS Firebolt crew.

Typically modest Warrant Officer Sime said he didn’t see the portrait as a reflection of his own deeds.

“I don't see me, I see an image of a sailor who is extremely proud to wear the uniform and someone who is grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded as a result of being in the Navy,” he said. 

“Someone who is proud to say that they are a Navy Aircrewman and that they serve their country with pride.”

Also on show was a display honouring Commander Fred Sherborne (Retired), a former Commander Air at HMAS Albatross who was shot down in his Grumman Wildcat over the south of France in 1944.

For more information about Warrant Officer Sime visit http://www.navy.gov.au/biography/warrant-officer-benjamin-sime