Perth (I) survivor’s ashes committed to sea as three navies commemorate Battle of Sunda Strait

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), LSIS Kayla Jackson (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Perth (I), Commitment of Ashes Ceremony, Battle of Sunda Strait, Commemoration

Sub Lieutenant Liam Whitfield presents the Australian White Ensign to Ms Dawn Manning following a service to commemorate the 77th Anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Perth (I). (photo: LSIS Kayla Jackson)
Sub Lieutenant Liam Whitfield presents the Australian White Ensign to Ms Dawn Manning following a service to commemorate the 77th Anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Perth (I).

Officers and sailors from HMA Ships Diamantina and Leeuwin were joined by their counterparts from Indonesia and the United States to mark the 77th anniversary of the loss of HMAS Perth (I) and the USS Houston during the Battle of Sunda Strait.

The service aboard the Indonesian patrol corvette KRI Usman Harun was held off the coast of Java over the wrecks of both ships, which were sunk by Japanese forces in the early hours of 1 March 1942.

A wreath was laid for each ship and the ashes of Perth survivor David Manning, who passed away last year, were committed to the sea.

Mr Manning was an 18 year old Gunner on board the Leander Class cruiser during the battle and manned his gun against the enemy strike group until the ammunition was gone. 

He was blown into the sea when a fourth torpedo struck the ship, and was then captured and forced to work as a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma railway.

His daughter, Dawn Manning, attended the service on board Usman Harun and said her father’s wishes shortly before his death were to be with his shipmates again.

“He would just be absolutely thrilled to be back with his ship and to be with three navies today is a great achievement,” she said.

“As a loving daughter, to sail with my father on his last voyage is a profound moment.”

“It’s been a completion of his journey.” 

George Hatfield Jnr also attended the service to pay his respects to his father, Petty Officer George Hatfield Senior, who was lost during the battle. 

“My father died two months before I was born, so this is the closest I’ve ever been to him.” 

“I kind of imagine he’s down there. It was sad but wonderful,” Mr Hatfield Jnr said. 

Of the Perth’s 681-strong company, 324 survived the battle with many being taken prisoner. Only 218 men returned home at the end of the Second World War.