Brunei's last mission

Published on CMDR Geoff Fiedler (author), ABIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Location(s): Guluwuru Island, NT

HMAS Brunei serves as the home base for the traditional land owners, archaeologists and crew during the search for Stoker Percival Cameron who was buried at Guluwuru Island during the Second World War. (photo: ABIS Richard Cordell)
HMAS Brunei serves as the home base for the traditional land owners, archaeologists and crew during the search for Stoker Percival Cameron who was buried at Guluwuru Island during the Second World War.

HMAS Brunei, has completed her last mission prior to decommissioning, finalising the last job for the landing craft in Royal Australian Navy service.
 
In late October, Brunei embarked a team in Gove, Northern Territory, before heading to the Wessel Islands to support a search for the remains of Stoker II Percival (Percy) Cameron who was believed to be buried on one of the islands.

(L-R) Traditional land owners James and Richard discuss the effects of the weather on Guluwuru Island with Archaeologist Dr. Marc Oxenham during the search for Stoker Percival Cameron who was buried there during the second World War.

(L-R) Traditional land owners James and Richard discuss the effects of the weather on Guluwuru Island with Archaeologist Dr. Marc Oxenham during the search for Stoker Percival Cameron who was buried there during the second World War.


Stoker Cameron was onboard HMAS Patricia Cam when it was sunk by a Japanese float plane on 22 January 1943. A number of survivors landed on the island early the next day and later that morning, Percy Cameron died from his wounds. Percy was buried on the beach above the high water mark. Later that day, an aboriginal boy, also died and was buried alongside Percy. Historical and anecdotal evidence suggested there was a possibility both sets of remains were still in location, despite the almost 72 years since they were buried.
 
The search team was led by experts from Unrecovered War Causalities - Army and included Australian Public Service and Army Reserve case mangers, a Navy Reserve forensic odontologist and a civilian archaeologist and forensic anthropologist. Supporting the team was an archaeologist from the Northern Territory Heritage Branch, two traditional owners of the land, an Imagery Specialist sailor and a Navy Strategic Command representative. All of the team got their hands dirty shovelling tons of sand in efforts to locate the remains.
 
Brunei provided an ideal platform to support the mission. In addition to transport, accommodation and domestic support, Brunei’s ship’s company enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to engage in the physical aspects of the search for a fellow sailor.
 
“After the ship’s long and distinguished service, it was a very worthy last mission to conduct this important search for a fellow sailor who has been lost for over of 70 years,” Commanding Officer Brunei, Lieutenant Commander Matt Richardson said.

Executive Officer HMAS Brunei, Lieutenant Brenton Glover, and Northern Territory Heritage anthropologist David Steinberg (right) discuss the area being searched near the beach on Guluwuru Island, as the crew assist with the heavy lifting, during the search for Stoker Percival Cameron who was buried there during the Second World War.

Executive Officer HMAS Brunei, Lieutenant Brenton Glover, and Northern Territory Heritage anthropologist David Steinberg (right) discuss the area being searched near the beach on Guluwuru Island, as the crew assist with the heavy lifting, during the search for Stoker Percival Cameron who was buried there during the Second World War.


While unfortunately the team was not able to locate either Percy Cameron or the aboriginal boy, the mission would not have been possible without the successful coordination between a number of diverse organisations and individuals including; Mrs Jan Braund - Percy’s daughter, Mr Kevin Slade - Researcher, the Australian Army, NT Government particularly the Heritage Branch, the Northern Land Council, Traditional Owners, the Defence Community Organisation, Office of Australian War Graves, Navy Strategic Command and HMAS Brunei.
 
HMAS Brunei also passed the northern most point of the Australian mainland, Cape York, on her way to Guluwuru Island.
 
Brunei, and HMA Ships Tarakan and Lauban will be decommissioned in Cairns on 19 November, concluding over 40 years of distinguished service to the Royal Australian Navy.
 
More imagery of the mission can be found at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20143382.