A member of the search and rescue team that worked to save personnel in the wake of the collision between HMA Ships Melbourne and Voyager on 10 February 1964 has been recognised for his heroism posthumously.
Commodore Brett Dowsing presented a Chief of Navy Group Commendation on the quarterdeck of HMAS Stirling to the widow of the late William "Robbie" Robinson, for outstanding service under difficult conditions.
Commodore Dowsing said that it was a privilege to present the award, commending the crew members of the vessels HMA Ships Air Nymph and Air Sprite for their courage under horrific circumstances.
Mrs Sue Robinson said that she was honoured to accept the Commendation on behalf of her late husband.
“On behalf of the family and myself, I would like to thank the Chief of Navy for approving the Commendation to all the crew members of the Air Nymph and Air Sprite,” Mrs Robinson said.
“It wasn't until after Robbie's death that his ex-Commanding Officer [Commander retired] Kerry Stephen told me of my dear husband's courage on that fateful night.”
Able Seaman Underwater Weapons Robinson and the standby crew of Air Nymph, scrambled to man the launch after the emergency siren was activated and headed out of Jervis Bay at maximum speed of 28 knots to assist with the recovery of survivors from the water.
While recovering survivors, Able Seaman Robinson leapt overboard, swam to a struggling sailor and recovered him from under the water and brought him back to Air Nymph where he revived him.
While searching the southern segment of the collision area, Air Nymph ran over a sunken life raft that became jammed around the port propeller.
In pitch blackness, Able Seaman Robinson dove into the water cleared the propeller with a knife, cut the life raft free and continued with their search and rescue mission.
“Robbie would be very proud and grateful for the recognition by the Royal Australian Navy for the courage of the search and rescue members on that tragic night in 1964,” she said.
Mrs Robinson said that her late husband loved his time in the Navy and was very proud to have served his country.
“He had a lot of fun and enjoyed travelling to far places,” Mrs Robinson said.
“Robbie was always very positive and didn't dwell too much on the negative side of things.
“Whenever the collision between Melbourne and Voyager was mentioned all he ever said was that he was the silly bugger that jumped overboard to cut the ropes from the propeller,” she said.
During that night Air Nymph rescued 34 survivors from Voyager and Air Sprite rescued 36, a total of 70 pulled from the sea.