Home' Air Force News : March 17th 2011 Contents 19
March 17, 2011
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THE service and sacrifice of six
men from 9SQN who fought in
the Battle of Sunda Strait was
vividly recalled on February 28
when the 69th anniversary of the
loss of HMAS Perth (1) was com-
memorated at the Australian War
The six men were FLGOFF
Allen McDonough, SGT Harry
Sparkes, CPLs Ronald Bradshaw,
Colin Nott and Phillip Will, and
LAC Ernest Toe. They flew and
maintained the Walrus amphibian
embarked in the cruiser.
Sparkes, Nott and Will were
killed in the action. The other
three survived to become prison-
ers of war, but Toe died in the
camps on September 14, 1944.
McDonough and Bradshaw
survived and returned to
More than 200 members of
the HMAS Perth Association and
family and friends joined four
survivors of the ship, Chief of
Navy VADM Russ Crane and
other distinguished guests at the
The service included a key-
note address by journalist and
author Mike Carlton who wrote
the book Cruiser: The Life and
Loss of HMAS Perth and her
Crew, followed by the laying of
wreaths and poppies at the Tomb
of the Unknown Soldier in the
Gallant fight recalled
Hall of Memory, the Last Post
and the Naval Ode.
Veterans' Voices, the ACT
Vietnam Veterans Federation
Choir led the singing of the naval
hymn national anthem and the
timeless hymn Abide with Me.
CHAP Andrew Lewis, the
navy chaplain at the Australian
Defence Force Academy, led the
Following the Japanese inva-
sion of Malaya in December
1941, on February 14, 1942,
Perth was sent from Sydney to
join a combined American,
British and Dutch Task Force
hastily cobbled together in
Indonesia to prevent the Japanese
On the 27th, she and USS
Houston were the only cruisers
to survive a battle with Japanese
naval forces in the Java Sea.
On the night of February 28,
the two ships sailed for Sunda
Strait in the hope of breaking out.
Shortly after 11pm, Perth
sighted a strange warship. The
ship turned away and was recog-
nised as a Japanese destroyer.
The two ships found them-
selves engaging destroyers
attacking from all directions.
With little ammunition, they
were soon reduced to firing star
shell and practice rounds.
Finally, CAPT Hector Waller
decided to try to break through
for the open ocean. However, the
ship was struck in rapid succes-
sion by four torpedoes. Survivors
abandoned ship and she sank at
about 12.25am on March 1.
Houston fought on but her
end was also inevitable. She sank
about half an hour later.
Of Perth's ship's company of
681, 353 -- including three of the
9SQN men -- died with the ship.
The survivors were sent to the
infamous Thai-Burma railway.
In his address, Mike Carlton
said many of the crew were
young men, still in their teens.
They had sailed into an adult war
"and performed magnificently".
"People say that they fol-
lowed Navy tradition," Mr
Carlton said. "I disagree; they
didn't follow traditions, they
Survivor Frank McGovern
summed up that view.
"We definitely would not
want to go through a night like
that or become POWs like that
again," he said.
"But, that is what we did
[then] and we are proud we did."
The loss was the second for
9SQN. Six members died in
HMAS Sydney in her engage-
ment with the German raider
Kormoran three months earlier.
SAD BUT PROUD: Battle survivor and prisoner of war
Frank McGovern remembers the night.
Photo: LAC Bill Solomou
GRAND LADY: HMAS Perth
and, inset, CAPT Hector Waller
who died fighting with his ship.
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