HMAS Larrakia commemorates Leyte Gulf Battle 70 years on

Published on LEUT Gary McHugh (author), LSIS Yuri Ramsey (photographer)

Location(s): Palo, Philippines

A sailor from HMAS Larrakia unveils the memorial to Australian Servicemen who lost their lives in the defence and liberation of the Philippines during World War II. From foreground: Ambassador of Australia to the Philippines, His Excellency Mr Bill Tweddell, General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Chief of Staff of the Armed forces of the Philippines, and Lieutenant Commander David McPherson, Commanding Officer HMAS Larrakia. (photo: LSIS Yuri Ramsey)
A sailor from HMAS Larrakia unveils the memorial to Australian Servicemen who lost their lives in the defence and liberation of the Philippines during World War II. From foreground: Ambassador of Australia to the Philippines, His Excellency Mr Bill Tweddell, General Gregorio Pio Catapang, Chief of Staff of the Armed forces of the Philippines, and Lieutenant Commander David McPherson, Commanding Officer HMAS Larrakia.

Armidale Class Patrol Boat HMAS Larrakia has honoured the 92 Australians who gave their lives during the liberation of the Philippines during World War Two, by participating in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

A memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives in the battle was unveiled in Palo, Philippines on 19 October.

Crew from HMAS Larrakia at the memorial to Australian Servicemen who lost their lives in the defence and liberation of the Philippines during World War II.

Crew from HMAS Larrakia at the memorial to Australian Servicemen who lost their lives in the defence and liberation of the Philippines during World War II.

The maritime engagement, which is arguably the largest naval battle in history, consisted of four separate maritime engagements between the Australian and United States navies, and the Imperial Japanese Navy and is regarded as a pivotal turning point in the balance of power in the region during the conflict.

Larrakia, with patrol boat crew Attack Four embarked provided a Catafalque Party for the unveiling, and Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander David McPherson said it was an honour to be involved in such an event.

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Justin Haynes stands vigil as part of the Cenotaph Guard during the dedication of the memorial to Australian Servicemen who lost their lives in the defence and liberation of the Philippines during World War II.

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Justin Haynes stands vigil as part of the Cenotaph Guard during the dedication of the memorial to Australian Servicemen who lost their lives in the defence and liberation of the Philippines during World War II.

“The RAN’s role in the engagement, in particular in the Surigao Strait, helped turn the tide of the war in this region,” he said.

During the course of the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, the United States lost six frontline ships, while the Japanese lost a staggering 26 warships, including four aircraft carriers.

HMAS Australia was damaged by kamikaze attack, killing 30 crew members, including Commanding Officer Captain Emile Dechaineux.

Following the battle and the subsequent heavy losses inflicted upon the Japanese, the Japanese Navy would never again sail with a force as large as it had committed to the Leyte Gulf engagement.

Catafalque Guard member Seaman Gareth Baker said he was proud to have participated in this momentous and historical occasion, and it would go down as a highlight of his naval career.

“To think that this is where General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore all those years ago is amazing,” he said.

“And to be able to see our ship at anchor in the background really added something to the moment.”

Following the unveiling of the memorial, Larrakia’s ship’s company laid wreaths on behalf of the ship, and the HMAS Arunta, Bataan and Warramunga associations.

The memorial to Australian Servicemen who lost their lives in the defence and liberation of the Philippines during World War II.

The memorial to Australian Servicemen who lost their lives in the defence and liberation of the Philippines during World War II.

Speaking at the event, Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines His Excellency Mr Bill Tweddell said Australia’s contribution to the liberation of the Philippines was significant, and this memorial was a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in the battle.

The following day saw another big event marking the commemoration of the landing, this time presented by the Philippines Armed Forces.

Those in attendance included President Benigo S Aquino III, Commander of the US Seventh Fleet Vice Admiral Robert Thomas, USN, Philippines Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces General Gregorio Pio Catapang and all three Filipino Service Chiefs.

Larrakia is currently undertaking a six-week South East Asian deployment and will return to her homeport of Darwin on completion.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20142549.