One of the Royal Australian Navy’s most heroic wartime confrontations has been remembered during a solemn ceremony in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait.
On March 1st, 1942, the cruiser HMAS Perth (I), in company with USS Houston, confronted a large Japanese Naval taskforce in the entrance to the Sunda Strait. Outgunned and outnumbered, Perth courageously engaged the enemy until finally, having run out of ammunition, she was sunk. During the action 353 men were killed or went down with Perth when she sank, 328 crew members survived only to be captured and spent the rest of the war in Prisoner of War camps, where many more died.
USS Houston was sunk shortly after Perth with the loss of 696 sailors and marines, and 368 captured by the Japanese.
Seventy-six years on, the Royal Australian Navy Patrol Boat HMAS Larrakia has hosted a memorial service over each site – laying wreaths to honor those who fought and those who lost their lives and now lie in the wrecks of their ships on the ocean floor.
This year’s ceremony was more important than in previous years with the son of one of an HMAS Perth (I) crew member joining the ceremony. George Hatfield Jr gave the keynote address over the site. Mr Hatfield lost his father George when the ship sank.
This year are also marks the death of a Perth survivor with Mr David Manning passing away last month at the age of 95. A framed image of Mr Manning was displayed prominently at the ceremony onboard Larrakia, as a mark of respect for the former sailor.
Another prominent guest was Indonesia’s high profile fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti, who announced that she had signed a proclamation to create a Maritime Conservation Zone around the Perth site.
The Royal Australian Navy Attaché in Jakarta, Captain Matt Brown said that despite the passing of time, the story of HMAS Perth (I) remains a strong historical maritime connection between Australia and Indonesia. “The remains of 353 Australians lie at the bottom of the sea in the Sunda Strait,” Captain Brown said.
“The announcement of a Maritime Conservation zone is most welcome.
“We still have some work to do,” CAPT Brown said, “However, Australia is most grateful to Indonesian authorities for their assistance in helping to preserve this site.”