The ‘Shark 02’ Memorial at HMAS Albatross, home of Navy's Fleet Air Arm, provided a particularly poignant setting for a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the loss of one of Navy's Sea King helicopters.
In December 2004 the helicopter was embarked in HMAS Kanimbla which had been tasked to provide humanitarian support to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, following a tsunami which killed over 200,000 people.
Over 10 intense weeks aid and medical assistance were delivered to thousands of desperate people. Mission complete Kanimbla was returning home when an earthquake occurred on the island of Nias.
Kanimbla arrived off Nias on the morning of 2 April 2005 to provide aid to the thousands of displaced and injured people. On its third flight of the day a mechanical failure caused ‘Shark 02’ to crash on approach to the small town of Tuindrao. Nine Australian Defence Force personnel were killed.
Four of the nine casualties, Lieutenants Paul Kimlin, Jonathan King, and Mathew Goodall, and Leading Seaman Aircrewman Scott Bennet were aircrew from 817 Squadron and their loss is still keenly felt by many in the close knit naval aviation community.
The Albatross Memorial resonates on many levels. Its location outside the Chapel in the home of the Fleet Air Arm serves to remind the friends and colleagues of the ‘Shark 02’ crew of their personal loss and, for future generations of aircrew, it will be a touchstone to Navy’s history of service and sacrifice.
The memorial also has an enduring connection with the ‘Shark 02’ families who were involved in every stage, from the design through to the physical construction, of the memorial when it was refurbished and rededicated in 2014.
The memorial centrepiece is a replica Sea King tail rotor blade which was placed at the site of the crash by the personnel of HMAS Kanimbla which links Nowra to Nias, where the site was cared for by the people of Tuindrao.
Commander Fleet Air Arm Commodore Vince Di Pietro encouraged everyone entering the gates of Albatross to look towards the monument and reflect on its significance.
“Today’s Fleet Air Arm is working very hard and producing outstanding results.
"We have amazing and enthusiastic people, who understand their duties and responsibilities and take pride in doing their best,” Commodore Di Pietro said.
“We must never lose sight of the lessons and hard work of those before us - it is important that we look at the monument to the Shark 02 crew, think about them and how serious our business is and how much everybody’s professionalism and attention to detail is to it.
“And in doing the best we can each day, a short reflection of this crew and passengers’ sacrifice ought to serve as a reminder of why our focus and attention to detail is so crucial to our profession.”
Delivering the Commemorative Address Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, said the 10th anniversary offered the opportunity for families, colleagues and Fleet Air Arm personnel to gather in remembrance and tribute.
“That memory of the mission they were on does not fade or change with the passage of time,” Vice Admiral Barrett said.
“They were a group of skilled professionals bringing humanitarian assistance to the people of Nias.
“They were proud of what they were doing and we are proud of them. That is an important part of their legacy.
“I require you all to continue to remember the responsibilities that you carry as members of the Fleet Air Arm as you go about your duties and I ask you to carry in your hearts and minds those nine colleagues and friends who died ten years ago in Shark 02.”
A ceremony was also conducted at Russell Offices in Canberra, where the Governor-General, current and former Defence and Service Chiefs gathered to pay their respects 10 years on.
Lest We Forget.