Platypus history preserved

Published on Department of Defence (author), Unknown (photographer)

Location(s): Neutral Bay, NSW

Topic(s): Naval History

Senator the Hon Marise Payne Minister for Defence pays her respects during the dedication ceremony for HMAS Platypus. (photo: Unknown)
Senator the Hon Marise Payne Minister for Defence pays her respects during the dedication ceremony for HMAS Platypus.

A ceremony to remember lost Australian submariners was held at the former HMAS Platypus submarine base on Sydney Harbour on 18 August.

The dedication of a submariners’ memorial to honour the 42 submariners who died while serving as members of the Australian submarine force also marked five decades to the day of the commissioning of Platypus.

In his keynote address, Vice Admiral Ian MacDougall (retd) – a former Chief of Naval Staff who was Executive Officer of HMAS Oxley, the first Australian Oberon class submarine to berth at Platypus 50 years ago – paid tribute to those submariners who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“There is a measure of sadness that many who were here 50 years ago have passed away,” Vice Admiral MacDougall said.

“In submarine parlance, they are still on patrol.

“They are not forgotten and are owed a debt of gratitude for building the foundations upon which the submarine force of today grew and will continue to do so.”

Defence Minister Marise Payne said those foundations were solid.

“While the future submarines will provide sovereign capabilities beyond anything imagined when Platypus opened in 1967, they will continue in the same role the Oberon and Collins class boats and their crews have filled for the past 50 years – a powerful instrument for deterring conflict and a potent weapon should conflict arise,” she said.

The President of the Submarine Institute of Australia, Commodore Mark Sander (retd), said he was fortunate enough to spend the best part of two decades serving in submarines operating out of Platypus.

Platypus was our home, a place synonymous with submariners,” Commodore Sander said.

“We remember the good times, but also remember those who lost their lives in submarines in the service of their country.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Michael Noonan for sailors who died while serving in Oberon class submarines.

“We come together to remember those who served and died in the service of our country while in the submarine service, especially Able Seaman Underwater Weapons Submariner Christopher Passlow, Able Seaman Underwater Control Submariner Hugh Markcrow and Seaman Underwater Control Damien Humphreys,” Rear Admiral Noonan said.

“Each of these sailors demonstrated their readiness to serve their mates, their boat and their nation. It is their spirit of sacrifice and dedication that we honour and give thanks for, as individuals, as a community and as a nation.

“The memorial dedicated today will remind all Australians of their sacrifice.”

The memorial features the names of all six Oberon class submarines, HMAS Oxley, HMAS Otway, HMAS Ovens, HMAS Onslow, HMAS Orion and HMAS Otama.

Recognition was also given to Australia’s first submarine, HMAS AE1, which was lost without trace off the coast of Papua New Guinea in 1914, with all 35 crew members thought to have died. The search for this lost submarine continues.

Vice Admiral MacDougall said the arrival of Oxley marked the genesis of Australia’s contemporary submarine capability.

“This day 50 years ago was a gala day with Platypus commissioning our first Oberon, Oxley, arriving after a 68-day passage from the UK,” he said.

“The Commanding Officer of Oxley, Lieutenant Commander David Lorrimer, drove the boat into Neutral Bay with great elan.”

Several members of Lieutenant Commander Lorrimer’s family attended the ceremony.

The former Platypus site has been closed to the public for 15 years following the relocation of the submarine squadron to Western Australia.

The site, now managed by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, will be redeveloped as a waterfront park.