The sinking of HMAS Vampire (I) and the loss of nine of her crew has been commemorated during a small ceremony at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
Personnel from HMAS Cerberus, including a catafalque party and bugler, and members of the Naval Association of Australia came together at the shrine to mark the 76th anniversary of the battle that claimed Vampire, a ship of the famous Australian ‘Scrap Iron Flotilla’, off the northeast coast of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on 9 April 1942.
Commanding Officer HMAS Cerberus, Captain Tim Standen attended the ceremony to lay a wreath and remember the sinking of the V Class destroyer.
“The loss of Vampire was a sad ending for a brave ship that started her war service as part of the renowned ‘Scrap Iron Flotilla’ in the Mediterranean,” Captain Standen said.
“HMAS Cerberus was Vampire’s home port from 1933 to 1938, so it’s significant to me as the Commanding Officer of Cerberus today that we pause to remember the contribution and sacrifice made by the ship and her crew during a time of tumultuous worldwide conflict.”
HMAS Vampire and HMS Hermes of the Royal Navy had departed Trincomalee on the north east coast of Sri Lanka following a series of raids on Allied targets by a carrier strike force of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The two ships had put to sea the previous night to avoid an expected attack but were intercepted by Japanese bombers the following morning as they returned to port.
The carrier-based enemy aircraft quickly sank Hermes, resupplied and returned 20 minutes later to bomb Vampire heavily.
Despite Vampire successfully shooting down one enemy plane, the ship was overwhelmed, broke in half and sank.
Vampire’s Captain, Commander William Moran and eight members of the ship’s company were lost.
Survivors from Vampire and Hermes were rescued by the hospital ship Vita and taken to Colombo.
Originally laid down as HMS Wallace for the Royal Navy in 1913, Vampire was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in 1933.
The ship carried escort and anti-submarine duties in the Mediterranean - as part of the ‘Scrap Iron Flotilla’ - and the East Indies, and earned five battle honours between 1940 and 1942.
While the ship’s wreck has never been found, it has been designated a Commonwealth War Grave.