Committal of ashes at sea

This article has photo gallery Published on LSIS Jake Badior (author), CAPT James Hook (author), LSIS Steven Thomson (photographer), LSIS Kylie Jagiello (photographer), ABIS Kieren Whiteley (author)

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), Commitment of Ashes Ceremony

Personnel of Joint Task Force 661 gather to pay their respects at a committal of ashes ceremony for five former Royal Australian Navy sailors, onboard HMAS Canberra while at sea during INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2019. (photo: LSIS Steven Thomson)
Personnel of Joint Task Force 661 gather to pay their respects at a committal of ashes ceremony for five former Royal Australian Navy sailors, onboard HMAS Canberra while at sea during INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2019.

The ashes of five former sailors have been committed to the Indian Ocean in a moving ceremony held aboard HMAS Canberra.

Navy, Army and Air Force personnel gathered on Canberra’s quarterdeck to pay their respects as the Navy’s flagship sailed from Fremantle to Colombo in Sri Lanka.

Among the sailors honoured was Ernie Rudland who survived the sinking of the World War II heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra (I) at the Battle of Savo Island in 1942.

Rudland and his fellow survivors then formed the crew of the sister ship HMAS Shropshire, gifted by Britain to Australia to replace Canberra.

Rudland was joined aboard Shropshire by his childhood friend Jack Gallagher, whose ashes were also scattered in Canberra’s wake.

Gallagher’s widow Rose said her husband loved the Navy and always regretted leaving the service after the war.

“Jack would have been so proud to be part of the ceremony,” Mrs Gallagher said from her home in Perth.

“I’m disappointed I couldn’t be there, and I got emotional when I handed him over, but I know I have done the right thing.

“Jack’s on his last journey now…he can rest in peace.”

Gallagher and Rudland were aboard Shropshire as she won five battle honours, including Leyte Gulf 1944 where she helped to sink the Japanese battleship Yamashiro.

The pair were in the Philippines when Shropshire’s captain piped news of the war’s end and ordered: “All hands to dance and skylark.”

Canberra’s Chaplain Paul Stuart said he was honoured and moved by conducting a scattering of ashes at sea.

“They have given so much and sacrificed so much,” he said.

“This is our chance to thank them and show our gratitude.”

Canberra’s Command Warrant Officer, Warrant Officer Tim Badger had the honour of casting two of the five men’s ashes into the sea.

“It was a privilege to be a part of the service,” he said.

Canberra is sailing as part of Joint Task Force 661, which consists of four ships and more than 1000 ADF personnel.

JTF661 aims to strengthen relationships and promote security and stability with Australia’s key regional partners including Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

IPE 19 will encompass a wide range of activities including disaster recovery planning, multinational naval manoeuvres and land-based training activities with partner security forces.

IPE 19 also delivers on the promise of the 2016 Defence White Paper, to deepen Australia’s engagement and partnerships with regional security forces.

Rest In Peace:

George Wilfred Richardson 1920-2006

Ernest Henniker Rudland 1923-2019

Francis John Gallagher 1925-2016

Roy Douglas Scott 1930-2018

Peter Wynne Cosson 1934-2018