Perth (I) survivor David William Manning remembered

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), LEUT Ben Willee (author), POIS Nina Fogliani (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Cerberus, VIC

Topic(s): HMAS Perth (I), Battle of Sunda Strait, Commemoration

Royal Australian Navy Chaplain Shaun Foster, reads a prayer during the memorial dedication for HMAS Perth (I) survivor David Manning at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria. (photo: POIS Nina Fogliani)
Royal Australian Navy Chaplain Shaun Foster, reads a prayer during the memorial dedication for HMAS Perth (I) survivor David Manning at HMAS Cerberus, Victoria.

A new plaque has been unveiled during a ceremony at HMAS Cerberus in memory of the late Mr David William Manning, a survivor of the sinking of HMAS Perth (I) in 1942 during the battle of Sunda Strait. 

The ceremony was attended by family and friends, including Mr Manning’s widow Mrs Audrey Manning.

Commodore Malcolm Wise, a former Commanding Officer of HMAS Perth (III), wrote of Mr Manning: 

“Dave was like many of the Perth (I) survivors, one of those people who seemed to exude a quiet calm and confidence about him as he went through life. He was a true gentleman and on the few occasions that I met him he spoke of the events of 1942 and beyond as if they had happened yesterday, and with a clarity and gentleness that was hard to believe given both the time that had passed and the horrors involved. I do know that all the survivors were very fond of Red Lead the cat and they also played a lot of Chinese checkers in the POW camps. As Fred Skeels tells the story, Fred was the champion but I am sure David would have had a view on that.”

Mr Manning was an 18-year-old Able Seaman gunner aboard Perth (I) when the ship was lost during the Battle of Sunda Strait along with the USS Houston, in the early hours of 1 March 1942.

He had manned his gun against a Japanese strike group until the ammunition was gone and was blown into the sea when a fourth torpedo, fired from one of the many enemy ships in the battle, struck the Leander Class cruiser.

“I'd climbed over the guard rails and I have no recollection of an explosion or anything like that, it was just - suddenly I was corkscrewing in the water,” Mr Manning told the ABC in 2013.

“I was a non-swimmer, but I found myself in very close proximity to a floating net which was a life-saving device from the ship and it was pretty well full of people.”

Of a crew of 681 souls, 324 survived, including Mr Manning, but they were taken as prisoners of war by Japanese Imperial Forces.

Mr Manning was forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway during his time as a prisoner and was one of only 218 from Perth’s ship’s company to return home at the end of the war. 

Commanding Officer HMAS Cerberus Captain Michael Oborn reflected the solemnity of the occasion.

“We were fortunate to have members of the Manning family here today to unveil a plague dedicated to Mr David William Manning,” he said.

“This is an important opportunity for us, the HMAS Cerberus personnel, to remember and honour the service of our forefathers in World War II and particularly those who fought at sea in our ships.”

Prior to the ceremony, Mr Manning’s family were able to watch the graduation of Navy’s newest recruits in Emms Division. After the unveiling they took the opportunity to tour the HMAS Cerberus museum and donate memorabilia for future generations of sailors and visitors.

The plaque is placed in the sun garden opposite ‘Our Lady Star of the Sea’ Chapel and reads: 

David William Manning

PM/3925

1923-2018

1937 Midshipman at Flinders Naval Depot / HMAS Cerberus

HMAS Perth 1942: Battle of Sunda Strait

Proud RAN man grown from HMAS Cerberus