Two of just six surviving members of HMAS Perth (I), together with descendants of other Perth sailors and Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Michael van Balen RAN gathered at the Australian War Memorial today to commemorate the ship’s loss 72 years ago.
Perth (I) saw more action during World War II than any other Australian warship, and was sunk by a superior Japanese force in the Sunda Strait, off Java on the night of 28 February and 1 March 1942.
Lieutenant Gavin Campbell (Ret'd) who turned 93 on February 25, only joined Perth ten days before she was sunk, but still had vivid memories of the night.
He later finished up a Prisoner of War on the infamous Burma Railway, where he met up with his brother Ian, who had been captured in Singapore with the 2nd Australian Imperial Force.
Also present was Gordon Steele, also 93, who was more fortunate, he’d been posted off Perth while she was still in the Mediterranean.
Christine Courtenay, widow of well-known author Bryce Courtenay, and daughter of a Perth sailor, spoke.
“I stand here before you not having ever served my country in the Armed forces, nor as a naval historian, or author. I am simply the daughter of the late Alan Howard Gee, ‘Elmo’ to his shipmates, who served as an Able Seaman on board HMAS Perth and who survived the sinking of Perth (I) 72 years ago and as a prisoner of war. As you know Perth (I) saw more action than any other vessel in Australian naval history.
Today we honour their true heroism, of having participated in no less than eight tumultuous battles in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean including Malta, Crete, Greece and in the Pacific,” said Mrs Courtenay.
Several members of the HMAS Perth Association who had served in HMAS Perth (II) in Vietnam also attended the commemoration ceremony.
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20140449.