Every day at 4:55pm, the Australian War Memorial has a Last Post Ceremony to remember one of the 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations. A member of the Australian Defence Force tells the story of a particular person, giving an insight into the names that are listed on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour.
On 9 August, Lieutenant Commander Greg McTernan had the special duty of remembering one particular sailor killed in action when HMAS Canberra (I) was sunk on the same day, during the Battle of Savo Island in 1942.
Supply Assistant Horace Russell Keats was one of 819 men on Canberra, a County class heavy cruiser that was struck by two torpedoes and over 20 salvos of shell-fire and sunk by Japanese forces. He was one of 74 men listed as missing, assumed killed in the action.
Lieutenant Commander McTernan said it was an honour to be involved in the ceremony and share the story of a sailor involved in such a significant day in the Royal Australian Navy’s history.
“I joined the Navy as an apprentice in 1967 and it is a personal honour to tell Supply Assistant Keats’ story.
“It is a privilege to be a part of the Last Post Ceremony - I am sure it is the same for each of us who undertakes this special duty to pay tribute to those who have served before us,” he said.
Supply Assistant Keats hailed from a musical family in Sydney, known on the ship for hosting a weekly music program that played records over the internal broadcast system. He was also a French speaker, assisting shipmates when on shore leave.
He died just before his 21st birthday, and is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Britain. After his death, his father composed the song ‘Over the quiet waters’ in his memory.
For more information on HMAS Canberra (I) visit the Royal Australian Navy website at http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-canberra-i.