It was a breezy dawn under a cloudy Indian Ocean sky that greeted the men and women serving in HMAS Perth on Anzac Day 2014.
The quiet sounds of the ocean mingled with that of the ship’s engines as frigate birds went about their breakfast fishing. The crew of 200 formed up on the flight deck in full ceremonial uniform to pay their respects to service personnel.
The dawn service onboard was lead by the Ship’s Warrant Officer, Tony Nicol, who spoke on the significance of Anzac Day.
“Each year we pay homage, not only to those original ANZACs, but to all who died or were disabled in their service to this country—they enrich our nation’s history,” he said.
“Their hope was for the freedom of mankind, and we remember with pride their courage, their compassion, and their comradeship—they served on land and sea and in the air, in many places throughout the world.”
Commanding Officer of HMAS Perth, Captain Lee Goddard, recently spent time with Mr Fred Skeels, from Perth (I) who shared his story of survival, rescue, internment and imprisonment as a prisoner of war, stressed the importance of remembering the sacrifices of previous generations.
“Their courageous efforts are echoed in the selfless efforts of defence personnel who have followed.
“We remember and honour those who served, and those who died; in the air, in the muddy trenches, and in the lonely seas and oceans.
“The characteristics of the people – courage, mateship, service and sacrifice – these do not change—that is why, nearly a century after the events at Gallipoli, they can continue to inspire us.”
In 1942, the young sailors of HMAS Perth (I) were tasked to protect approaches to Australia. On a chaotic and violent evening on 28 February the ship was literally torn apart after being hit by a barrage of Imperial Japanese weapons. Captain Hec Waller on the bridge had only time to issue the order ‘abandon ship’ before Perth (I) sank in the Sunda Strait. The lives of the young, strong, brave men of Perth (I) were either ended or shattered.
Tragically, 357 men lost their lives and a further 320 became prisoners of war of whom 106 died in captivity.
After the service the chefs, lead by Chief Petty Officer Jason Barker, flashed up the BBQ and cooked up a storm of bacon, egg and cheese in rolls baked fresh earlier that morning. With Australian tunes sounding through the public address system, the crew settled into a cup of coffee and a fresh breakfast roll.
Press Release, May 2, 2014; Image: Australian Navy