Of the hundreds of visits that HMAS Creswell hosts each year, one group is particularly special – the return of the 50th anniversary graduating class.
As the Navy’s newest officers prepare to graduate from the New Entry Officers’ Course each November, Creswell plays host to a group of officers who attended the Royal Australian Naval College half a century before.
Each year the returning graduates gather to relive old glories (and ‘warries’), remember mates who have passed and catch up on their individual journeys post Navy.
For the graduating class of 1963, the gathering at Creswell in late November was especially poignant as they paused their reunion to honour the memory of eight classmates.
Eight Midshipmen who graduated on 19 July 1963 perished in two separate incidents within a year of leaving the college. Their surviving classmates unveiled a plaque on a memorial stone so their mates would not be forgotten by those who follow.
On 17 October 1963, Brian Mayger, Graeme Pierce, Peter Mulvany and David Sanders were lost at sea during a sailing exercise near Hayman Island, Queensland, while they were posted to HMAS Sydney (II).
Then on 10 February 1964, four colleagues, Barton Lindsey, Ronald Maunder, Kerry Marien and Frank Morgan were killed in the collision between HMA Ships Voyager (II) and Melbourne (II).
Midshipman Marien was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal in 1965 for his efforts to save others who were involved in the incident.
Commander Kingsley Perry, RAN (Ret’d), who was also a Midshipman in Sydney and in Voyager when his friends were lost, coordinated the event overlooking Jervis Bay. The Melbourne-Voyager collision occurred off Jervis Bay.
“It was important for us all to go to Creswell and remember our mates; it was just a pity that Ms Yvonne Marien, Kerry’s mother, was not well enough to join us as the sole surviving parent of those lost,” he said.
The service was brief, but each element was chosen with meaning - Psalm 23 was read on 21 February 1964 at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, at the Memorial Service for the 82 who died in HMAS Voyager - this time it was read from a bible that the classmates presented to the college in 1962 (before their 1963 graduation).
That bible is inscribed with their names, and is now part of the College’s Historical Collection.
A reflection by Lieutenant Commander James Plunkett-Cole, RAN (retired), helped the assembled crowd to understand the men behind the names, referring to their sporting prowess, academic achievements and manner in an extremely personal address.
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, AO CSC RAN, dedicated the memorial stone, whilst Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AC DSC, and members of graduating classes 50 years apart looked on.
The 50th anniversary of the Melbourne-Voyager collision will occur on 10 February this year and is expected to be marked by a memorial service in Jervis Bay.