Arctic Star awarded to Navy veteran 75 years on

This article has photo gallery Published on WO Martin Grogan (author), SBLT Samuel Penfold (author), LSIS Nina Fogliani (photographer)

Topic(s): Honours, Awards and Trophies, Naval Heritage and History

L-R: Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Ret'd); Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, AO, CSC, RAN;  Mr Ken Brown; and Commanding Officer HMAS Cerberus, Captain Stephen Bowater, OAM, RAN. (photo: LSIS Nina Fogliani)
L-R: Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Ret'd); Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, AO, CSC, RAN; Mr Ken Brown; and Commanding Officer HMAS Cerberus, Captain Stephen Bowater, OAM, RAN.

During a ceremony at HMAS Cerberus late last year, retired Lieutenant Commander Ken Brown was awarded the Arctic Star for his service north of the Arctic Circle during the Second World War.

Lieutenant Commander Brown was serving in HMAS Nestor as part of an escort for British Battlecruiser HMS Hood, in its search for German Battleship Bismarck. Nestor was the only Royal Australian Navy vessel in the hunt for Bismarck.

During one of Nestor’s scheduled refuelling runs separate from the escort, Hood was engaged by Bismarck and sunk with only three survivors.

The Bismarck was eventually sunk south of Iceland in May 1941. During these missions 19-year-old Sub Lieutenant Brown was continually firing his Oerlikons gun.

In the Mediterranean on 15 June 1942, Nestor was bombarded by aerial attacks, and received critical damage from three 1000 pound bombs that broke the back of the ship.

The ship was completely disabled after the boiler rooms were flooded, wherein four members drowned.

Sub Lieutenant Brown was still firing his Oerlikon gun at the dive bombers that were aiming for the ship’s gun positions.

As one of the bombs exploded nearby, he was thrown from his gun platform and received knee and back injuries. After receiving initial first aid, he got back on the gun and kept firing, in spite of the pain he was still in.

HMS Javelin arrived at Nestor’s position after dusk to help tow the crippled ship. Three attempts failed, and with dawn approaching, both ships would be sitting ducks.

The Commanding Officer of Nestor ordered the crew to abandon ship, and Sub Lieutenant Brown was ordered to dismantle the Oerlikon guns.

Once all the crew were onboard Javelin, several depth charges were detonated to ensure the sinking of Nestor, meaning the enemy could not get a hold of the ship.

After arriving in Alexandria in Egypt, Sub Lieutenant Brown and the other injured members were moved to 64th Army General Hospital. After two days, however, with the threat of the hospital being attacked too high, they were transported to Royal Navy Depot HMS Phoenix on the outskirts of Alexandria, where tents were erected in the desert to treat patients.

Of the 50 Arctic Stars awarded to Australian personnel, only five have been awarded to the actual recipient themselves.