Family accepts Unit Citation for Gallantry from Chief of Navy

Published on CAPT Will Martin (author), Unknown (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Yarra (II), Unit Citation for Gallantry

Mrs Yvonne Coughlan, her daughter Suzanne Ward, grandson Samuel Ward, and his son Evan Ward, with Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett and Commanding Officer HMAS Watson, Captain Will Martin. Vice Admiral Barrett holds a photograph of the late Able Seaman Leslie Smedley, whom he awarded a Unit Citation for Gallantry for his actions as part of the crew of HMAS Yarra II.  (photo: Unknown)
Mrs Yvonne Coughlan, her daughter Suzanne Ward, grandson Samuel Ward, and his son Evan Ward, with Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett and Commanding Officer HMAS Watson, Captain Will Martin. Vice Admiral Barrett holds a photograph of the late Able Seaman Leslie Smedley, whom he awarded a Unit Citation for Gallantry for his actions as part of the crew of HMAS Yarra II.

On a magnificent August day in Sydney recently, a special award was presented to the family of Able Seaman Leslie William Smedley - a Stoker who was killed in action in HMAS Yarra (II), south of Java, on 4 March, 1942.
 
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, presented the family with a Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG), awarded to the crew of HMAS Yarra (II) earlier this year for their “extraordinary gallantry in action off Singapore on the 5th of February 1942 and in the Indian Ocean on the 4th of March 1942.”
 
In his remarks, Vice Admiral Barrett said he was honoured to be able to personally present the Citation to Mrs Yvonne Coughlan and her family.
 
He also quoted portions of his predecessor’s response to the Governor General’s speech at the national presentation of the Citation, which was held in Melbourne on 4 March 2014:
 
“Collective gallantry is the most prized achievement in Navy. A ship’s crew are all of one company. They go to sea together, go into action together and, we pray, they come home together. Although of course, this has not always been, and in particular in Yarra’s circumstance, was not the case,” Vice Admiral Barrett recited.
 
Mrs Coughlan, the niece of Able Seaman Smedley, humbly and graciously received the Unit Citation and told the small audience how proud her Uncle would have been, had he known that one day the Navy’s Chief would make such a presentation in his honour.
 
“Today made me feel very proud of my uncle, a lovely young and unassuming man of 19, who loved the Navy and gave his life for what he believed in. He would have been overwhelmed at the honour the Navy has given him,” Mrs Coughlan said.