HMAS Armidale (I) remembered in solemn ceremony

Published on Mr Andrew Bujdegan (author), LSIS Ernesto Sanchez (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Stirling, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Armidale (I), Commemoration

Able Seaman Musician Kellan Starkie sounds the reveille during a HMAS Armidale (I) 77th anniversary commemorative service held at the HMAS Stirling Chapel, WA. (photo: LSIS Ernesto Sanchez)
Able Seaman Musician Kellan Starkie sounds the reveille during a HMAS Armidale (I) 77th anniversary commemorative service held at the HMAS Stirling Chapel, WA.

In a solemn ceremony held at the HMAS Stirling Chapel, members of the Remembering HMAS Armidale Association came together to honour those lost when Japanese aircraft attacked and sunk the Bathurst class corvette off Betano Bay almost 80 years ago.

Being the only Bathurst class corvette to be lost to enemy action, HMAS Armidale (I) was one of 60 corvettes constructed during World War II.

She was manned and commissioned solely by the Royal Australian Navy and launched in early 1942, when she was assigned to convoy escort duties operating out of Darwin.

President of the Remembering HMAS Armidale Association, Mr Angus Callander, said the attendance at the service showed that the ship and her crew were still in the hearts of many people.

“There’s significant history and grief associated with the sinking of HMAS Armidale on this day 77 years ago.

“Displays of heroism, endurance and survival are all part of Armidale’s history and the Association will ensure the 40 crew and 60 embarked men of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army will not be forgotten,” Mr Callender said.

The ship was hit on the port side by two torpedoes, launched during a raid by 13 Japanese aircraft. The first hit the crew’s mess deck and killed many of the personnel there. The second torpedo struck the engine room.

As the soldiers and sailors began to evacuate into the water and it was clear the ship was going down, the aircraft ceased their attack on the vessel.  However, they then began strafing runs targeting the men in the water.

Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean, who had been wounded in the initial attack, strapped himself into one of Armidale’s 20mm Oerlikons and opened fire on the aircraft.

Sheean continued to provide covering fire for his shipmates until he sank below the water, as Armidale succumbed to the damage inflicted by the enemy.

In 2001 Sheean was honoured by being first sailor to have a Royal Australian Navy vessel named after him when Collins class submarine HMAS Sheean was commissioned.

Lest We Forget.

More of HMAS Armidale's history can be found at https://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-armidale-i.