An exhibition has been opened in Sydney that focuses on the story of Second World War Navy crews, and their ships that were lost off Indonesia.
The Australian National Maritime Museum’s exhibition ‘Guardians of Sunda Strait – the WWII loss of HMAS Perth and USS Houston’, is the result of considerable collaboration between governments.
The Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, outlined positive steps taken by Australia and Indonesia to achieve formal legislated protection for the Australian wreck and reaffirmed Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s commitment from February this year to increase cooperation on shared maritime cultural heritage.
Perth (I) was lost in company with Houston, during the Battle of Sunda Strait against the Imperial Japanese Navy on the night of 28 February 1942 off the coast of Indonesia.
United States Consul General, Valerie Fowler, unveiled a plaque in memory of the crews of Perth (I) and Houston during the ceremony.
Two remaining Perth (I) survivors Frank McGovern (aged 97) and David Manning (aged 94) were on hand to give their personal accounts of the fateful night.
Indonesian Ambassador His Excellency Mr Kristiarto Legowo, Australian Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer and museum director Kevin Sumption attended the opening for the display that tells the heroic story of the crews of Houston and Perth, as they fought a superior force of Imperial Japanese warships.
It brings together emotional accounts from survivors of the battle as well as significant objects from various international collections including the Australian War Memorial, the Royal Australian Navy’s Heritage Collection, the Sea Power Centre - Australia, the University of Houston and the United States Navy’s History and Heritage Command.
The exhibition also examines the wrecks of both ships which remain on the seafloor off the coast of Indonesia, and the recent work of Australian and Indonesian authorities, including the Australian National Maritime Museum and Indonesia’s National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia/Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS), to protect them from illegal salvaging.
The Maritime Museum and ARKENAS conducted a joint dive on the wreck of Perth (I) in May, supported by officials from the Indonesian Navy, Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, the Directorate of Heritage and Museum - Regional Office Serang and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The dive revealed Perth (I) had suffered significant damage from illegal salvaging with only 40 per cent of the vessel remaining.
Since the May dive, Australian and Indonesian authorities have continued to work together to achieve legislated protection and support this protection once formalised. Submission of the report from the dive to Indonesian authorities is an important step in that process.
‘Guardians of Sunda Strait’ is part of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s ‘War and Peace in the Pacific 75’ Program, supported by the United States of America Bicentennial Gift Fund. The exhibition will remain on show at the Australian National Maritime Museum until 19 November 2017; entry is free.