A contingent of Royal Australian Navy personnel has visited Lord Howe Island 75 years on from a whole of Defence effort that saved the life of a resident.
In May 1942, the late Mrs Maude Payten was evacuated by Royal Australian Air Force Catalina flying boat to access lifesaving medical support on the mainland, previously only accessible by sea.
The Australian Defence Force has had a long association with the tiny Australian island in the Tasman Sea, 586 kilometres east of Port Macquarie, north of Sydney.
The island is a renowned tourist destination, most often described as ‘a timeless paradise, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the mainland’.
With seclusion, however, comes challenges and limitations; such as limited access to support infrastructure. Lord Howe is strongly associated with flying boats post the Second World War, bringing holidaymakers and supplies, but the flying boats played a big role in the lives of the islanders themselves, serving as their quickest connection to the mainland.
In the 75 years since that first aero-medical evacuation from the island, the Australian Defence Force has maintained civic duty and continued to support to the self-described ‘ship in distress’ with the small community of some 360 residents.
The Australian Navy’s Master Attendant Commander Brendan O’Hara was part of the delegation on the invitation from the Lord Howe Island Naval Agent, Clive Wilson.
"The Australian Navy has had a long history with numerous ships visiting over the years,” he said.
“As the local Naval Agent Mr Wilson provides a vital role in supporting visiting ships.
“Whilst small, it is an important part of Australia’s sovereign territory and it’s not often that we get to come this way.
“By visiting in person, I was not only able to support the commemorative activity, but to meet with local officials and re-enforce Navy's ongoing commitment in supporting Lord Howe Island.”
Noting the commemoration focussed on evacuation by air, representatives of the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm also attended with others from the Royal Australian Air Force and Australian Regular Army the group travelled courtesy of an Air Force 37 Squadron C130J Hercules.
Fleet Air Arm Chief of Staff, Commander Paul Hannigan had the privilege of making a short address where he spoke of the strong relationship between the Defence and the community.
“In 2011, two Sea King helicopters were deployed to Port Macquarie in support of the rescue of an injured climber from Mount Gower, the Island’s highest mountain,” he said.
“This is one of many occasions where we in Defence have supported this far flung pocket of Australians, who may be remote but are just as entitled to our assistance as those on the mainland.”