A sailor who sacrificed his life to evacuate his mates during a fire at sea 18 years ago has had his courage recognised with a posthumous Bravery Medal.
A Government House announcement on 17 March stated Leading Seaman Marine Technician Bradley Meek would receive the award for “bravery in hazardous circumstances, thereby losing his life, following the outbreak of fire in the main machinery space aboard HMAS Westralia on May 5, 1998.”
Leading Seaman Meek’s father, Vic, said although his son received a Chief of Defence Force Commendation and a Group Citation for Bravery shortly after the incident, some of his son’s mates were amazed he didn’t get a higher award.
“The family is happy he’s got something on top of what he got before,” Mr Meek said.
“We’re looking forward to visiting Government House later in the year to receive the medal on Brad’s behalf.”
Mr Meek said one of his son’s Navy mates had become part of their family since the fire.
“Paul Corcoran was on another ship at the time, but he’s kept in touch and is like a son to us,” he said.
Leading Seaman Meek, who joined the Navy in February 1990, served in HMAS Tobruk during Operation SOLACE in Somalia, as well as HMA Ships Kanimbla (II), Otway, Kuttabul, Penguin and Stirling, before posting to Westralia (II) in December 1997.
At the time of the fire he was a watch keeper in the ship’s engine room when a fuel leakage from the port main engine was reported.
Leading Seaman Meek responded by laying out fire hoses within the affected area in accordance with safety procedures.
A short time later, when a fire erupted at the starboard main engine and noxious smoke and flames began to engulf the main machinery space of the ship, Leading Seaman Meek alerted his colleagues and called for everyone to evacuate.
After pushing a colleague up the port ladder to safety, he stayed behind in the hazardous conditions and helped others leave the area, but collapsed after becoming overcome by fumes.
Three other members of Westralia’s ship’s company, Midshipman Megan Pelly, Petty Officer Shaun Smith and Able Seaman Phillip Carroll, also lost their lives. An inquiry into the fire found inappropriate flexible fuel hoses had been fitted to the engines during a refit, and one of those leaked, spraying vaporised fuel onto the hot engine, which caused a huge fireball to engulf the engine room.
The Bradley Meek Perpetual Shield is presented annually in his memory to the best Royal Australian Navy School of Survivability and Ship Safety instructor, which includes staff at HMA Ships Creswell, Cerberus and Stirling.