A former Royal Australian Navy Clearance Diver has been posthumously commended for his bravery, for making safe a box of volatile leaking explosives in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia in 1975.
A potentially disastrous situation was averted by the quick thinking of Harold Leslie Bingham who drew on his Navy training in explosive ordnance disposal, putting himself at risk to save others.
Mr Bingham’s family were on hand at an Australian Bravery Award ceremony held at Government House in Perth recently accepting the honour from the Governor of Western Australia, Her Excellency the Honourable Kerry Sanderson.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Stirling, Captain Brian Delamont attended on behalf of the Royal Australian Navy.
Late one March night, the explosives expert got a knock on the door by an old Navy mate and local policeman, to investigate a box of approximately 50 sticks of gelignite that had earlier been discovered in a shed by the Nanutarra Roadhouse Manager.
Aware that the bomb squad in Perth were 1300 kilometres away, Mr Bingham, aware of the risk of people around the roadhouse, removed the leaking gelignite along with the presence of safety fuses and detonators in the same box from the shed.
The area was cleared and he began taking the dangerous box and other contents out of the cupboard.
Once the items had been removed, he then dismantled the cupboard and placed it with the explosives about 300 metres from the Roadhouse.
Mr Bingham then detonated the gelignite and the area was made safe.
The act of bravery may have gone unnoticed had it not been for Mr Bingham’s neighbour, Tom Keatley who had been assisting his friend to write the memoirs of his life.
Mr Keatley was compelled to write to the Governor General to recommend Mr Bingham for a bravery award but unfortunately Mr Bingham passed away before the honour could be bestowed.
His son Shane Bingham said that his father was a man that took action, a “genuine straight-up bloke” that would speak his mind.
“Growing up with my Dad involved heaps of camping, fishing and talking about the good times he had with his mates – he would shy away from discussing his achievements,” Mr Bingham said.
“He never wanted recognition or reward though and was a very modest person and my best friend.
“He did so much in his life, from the night-time recovery searches carried out on ships’ hulls during the Vietnam conflict through to the recovery of bodies in aircraft crashes in Australia,” he said.
Mr Bingham also received a British Empire Medal in 1961 and an Order of Australia Medal in 1990.
Navy Clearance Divers are trained in complex diving, demolitions, explosives ordnance disposal, expeditionary reconnaissance and mine clearance which are essential to Navy’s amphibious capability.
For more information about the role visit http://www.defencejobs.gov.au/navy/jobs/ClearanceDiver/