HMAS Ballarat held a moving memorial service to commemorate the crew of HMAS Perth (I) while passing through the Sunda Strait yesterday.
After having survived the Battle of Java Sea on 27-28 February 1942, Perth (I) (Commanded by Captain ‘Hec’ Waller, DSO and bar) was passing through the Sunda Strait heading for Tjilitjap on Java’s south coast when she encountered the Japanese invasion force assigned to western Java. The Battle of Sunda Strait ensued, and despite fighting valiantly and sinking multiple Japanese ships, Perth was sunk by several torpedo hits on 1 March 1942. Of Perth’s ship's company of 686 men, 468 were killed during or soon after the battle, or later died as prisoners of war.
Attended by all of ship’s company, the memorial service honoured the lives of those lost from Perth’s crew. During his address, Ballarat’s Commanding Officer Commander Matthew Doornbos spoke of the effect Perth’s sinking had on the Australian psyche.
“The sinking of Perth so soon after the sinking of her sister ship Sydney had a major psychological effect on the Australian people. Perth lived the creed that the Navy lives by today, to Fight and Win at Sea.”
CMDR Doornbos also spoke of Mr David Manning, who several of Ballarat’s crew had met on Anzac Day this year in the ship’s home town of Ballarat. Mr Manning, a Ballarat local, was a survivor of Perth (I) as an 18 year old Cadet Midshipman. He spoke very highly of CAPT Waller, who died during the battle, and after whom the Collins Class submarine HMAS Waller is named. Administered by Ballarat’s chaplain, Chaplain Walker, the service was concluded by the laying of a wreath in the Sunda Strait where Perth (I) lies today.
We will remember them, Lest we Forget.