Commodore Geoffrey Ledger, DSC, AM

Published on Sea Power Centre - Australia (author)

Commodore Geoff Ledger recieving the salute from the HMAS Albatross Divisions Guard during HMAS Albatross Navy Week Ceremonial Divisions (photo: ABPH Neil Richards)
Commodore Geoff Ledger recieving the salute from the HMAS Albatross Divisions Guard during HMAS Albatross Navy Week Ceremonial Divisions

The Australian International Airshow 2015 pays tribute to Anzac and the heroes of military aviation.  It is the major theme of the event and as such will be the first significant observance of the Gallipoli campaign in its centenary year.  The airshow features an emotional and moving tribute to our aviators from Gallipoli to the present day. During the Australian International Airshow, Navy Daily will highlight the significant contribution of naval aviators from the First World War to the present day.

Commodore Geoff Ledger was born in Melbourne in 1955 and joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1972. He participated in relief operations in Darwin in the wake of Cyclone Tracy and flew helicopters for the second United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt before undertaking a two-year exchange with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) in the early 1980s.

On the evening of 29 January 1983, the Panamanian registered oil drilling vessel, Eniwetok, passed beneath the Singapore Cable Car system when the ship’s derrick struck the cable running between the Jardine Steps and Sentosa stations. Two cable cars plunged more than 60 meters into Keppel Harbour killing seven people, including two Australians, and seriously injuring a young boy. Four cars with thirteen passengers aboard remained stranded on the cable. The then Lieutenant Ledger, who had been involved in training RSAF helicopter crews and the development of Search and Rescue techniques, commanded the second of two Bell 212 helicopters which rescued all thirteen people from the stricken cable cars; Ledger’s aircraft responsible for seven of them. Ledger had to hover his aircraft above the cable cars in high wind while the winch man, Lance Corporal Selvanathan Selvarajoo, had to persuade the passengers to jump into his arms and hold on while they were winched up. Ledgers later described the rescue;

There were ten to fifteen knot winds and the downwash from the rotor blades buffeted the cable cars, making the winch man and the cars swing wildly. The wind was coming from the wrong direction for the operation and it was very difficult to get a hover reference. The aircraft was in danger as well as the winch man.

The winch men were swinging around in darkness about sixty meters above the water trying to find the door handle to get into the cable cars. They did not know what to expect once they opened the doors. Some of the passengers could have been hysterical. They knew some were injured and they had two children to look after. In fact one eight year old boy did become hysterical and refused to leave the cable car. He changed his mind after being smacked by his aunt.

The entire rescue operation lasted some nine hours and all involved received commendations from the Singaporean Government.

Commodore Ledger went on to command the Australian forces in the Middle East Area of Operations in Operations CATALYST and SLIPPER for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and was made a Member of the Order of Australia for exceptional service to the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Defence Force as Director of the Aviation Capability Improvement Team and Commander Australian Navy Aviation Group.