Australia’s Submarine Squadron and the evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk during World War Two are unusual associates, but past and present have combined for one evening at Old Parliament House.
The nation’s capital recently played host to a special meeting of an exclusive band of Navy officers. The 2018 Frank Getting Perisher Dinner is named after Captain F.E. Getting, RAN, the first Australian officer to pass the Royal Navy’s Submarine Command (Perisher) Course in 1926. The dinner is open to all Royal Australian Navy officers who have passed a Perisher course and are therefore qualified to command a submarine.
The event, which is held every two years, hosted a very special guest. Commodore Peter Dechaineux, AM, RAN (Rtd) is the son of Captain E.F.V. Dechaineux, after whom the Collins class submarine HMAS Dechaineux was named. Despite having served with great distinction in the Navy for more than 40 years, Commodore Dechaineux focused his remarks on his father. Commodore Dechaineux’s address provided a unique insight into Australia’s naval heritage and was profoundly appreciated by all those present.
It was with rapt attention that the assembled officers listened as he read a letter from his father to his mother chronicling Captain Dechaineux’s involvement in the evacuation of Dunkirk, when he was in temporary command of the destroyer, HMS Vivacious (D36).
The account was a poignant blend of professional observation and personal reflection. It gave an insight into the man himself against the backdrop of one of the most significant events in World War II.
Dechaineux’s (the senior) sentiment that “Never shall I forget my first time taking a ship alongside” was one shared by all the command qualified officers present, as was his relief that he was “presenting his stern rather than bow” when a piece of shrapnel went through his uniform pants!
The chance to have past and present Commanding Officers of Dechaineux meet with Commodore Dechaineux and share some mutual experiences was another of the evening’s highlights, as was reaffirming a commitment by the younger generation to ensure that the spirit of Dechaineux is carried forward, and that his legacy is never forgotten.