Survivor of Canberra (I) makes a trip down memory lane

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Natalie Staples (author)

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (I)

The last Tasmanian survivor from HMAS Canberra I, Mr Geoffrey George Cooper (centre) made a trip down memory lane, when he visited HMAS Canberra III, during her first visit to Hobart. (photo: Unknown)
The last Tasmanian survivor from HMAS Canberra I, Mr Geoffrey George Cooper (centre) made a trip down memory lane, when he visited HMAS Canberra III, during her first visit to Hobart.

One of the last survivors from the sinking of HMAS Canberra (I), Geoffrey George Cooper made a trip down memory lane, when he visited HMAS Canberra (III), during her first visit to Hobart.

The 92 year-old former Able Seaman Gun Layer, was working in the shell-room below the B 8-inch gun turret, when the 10,000 tonne heavy cruiser was struck and sunk by Japanese torpedoes on 9 August 1942.

In what later came to be known as the Battle of Savo Island, 84 of Able Seaman Cooper’s shipmates died and another 109 were injured.   

“It happened that quickly you didn’t have time to think.  

"The destroyer (USS Blue) came alongside and we jumped off,” Mr Cooper said.

 92 year-old former AB Gun Layer Mr Geoffrey George Cooper made a trip down memory lane, when he visited HMAS Canberra III, during her first visit to Hobart.

92 year-old former AB Gun Layer Mr Geoffrey George Cooper made a trip down memory lane, when he visited HMAS Canberra III, during her first visit to Hobart.

After the sinking, 20 year-old Able Seaman Cooper was posted to HMS Shropshire, which was gifted by the British Government to Australia after the loss of Canberrathe third Royal Australian Navy cruiser to be lost within a two-year period.

Able Seaman Cooper served out the war and returned to Australia in HMAS Hobartdischarging in 1945.  Daughters, Helen Scott and Dorothy McDermott accompanied their father on the tour, along with a number of his four grandkids six great-grandchildren. They said Mr Cooper did not often talk about his service.

“Like many men of his generation, Dad didn’t talk much about the war.  

"He joined as he saw it as his duty to the country, it was his job to go,” Mrs Scott said.

“Visiting today is important to us.   

"Dad is proud, but as I said to him – we’re proud of you too!

"We’re here as his legacy and it’s important for us to find out more and to thank him for what he did in the war,” she said.

Mr Cooper and his family were given a private tour of the Landing Helicopter Dock by Commander Logistics, Commander Nathan Robb.  Mr Cooper couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the Canberra he knew and the new ship.

“I’m amazed at the size of her, you’d have trouble finding the crew.  

It’s so different to the first one – it’s not like a ship, it’s like a house – it’s so clean and polished,” Mr Cooper said.

HMAS Canberra (I) was in Royal Australian Navy service from 1928 until 1942.  Canberra (II), an Adelaide class frigate entered service in 1981 and decommissioned in 2006. Canberra (III) commissioned in November 2014 and has been undergoing First of Class trials with a view to completing Unit Readiness mid year.