HMAS Newcastle’s crew have held the inaugural Australian Defence Force memorial service in Diego Suarez, Madagascar, for a Royal Australian Navy sailor lost during the Second World War.
Able Seaman Steward John Frederick Ellis is the sole Australian buried at the city’s war cemetery after dying from illness in 1940.
The service was led by Newcastle’s Chaplain Cornelius Bosch, with prayers read by ship’s company.
The service was followed by a minute of silence and the laying of wreaths on his grave.
“We gave thanks for John’s devotion to duty during his service, and the support of the local military and community was very much appreciated,” Chaplain Bosch said.
Members of the ship’s company were joined at the service by Her Excellency Jenny Dee, Ambassador to Madagascar, local military and policy, and members of the community.
After holding the first Anzac Day service at the Diego Suarez cemetery earlier this year, the High Commission in Mauritius advised Newcastle that an Australian sailor had been laid to rest on the island, and avid historians on board began to research the sailor’s story.
Assistance was given by the Australian War Memorial and the Scrap Iron Flotilla Association to piece together the story of how an Australian sailor came to rest in such a remote place.
Newcastle has been deployed in the Middle East and is the first ship deployed on Operation MANITOU to visit Diego Suarez, and the first Royal Australian Navy warship to conduct a port visit to the country since 1939.
Commanding Officer Newcastle, Commander Mark Sirois, said that it was timely to remember the sacrifices of Australians on far shores as his own crew were undertaking operational service thousands of nautical miles from home.
“It is important that we recognise Able Seaman Steward Ellis and his family for their sacrifice and the loss that his young wife of only one year must have felt when she was told of his death,” he said.
HMAS Newcastle has been undertaking maritime security and counter-piracy patrols in Middle Eastern waters as part of Australia’s contribution to the Combined Maritime Forces in the region.