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DUBBED the Angel of the Gap, former
able seaman Don Ritchie has died at his
home in Vaucluse in Sydney aged 85.
His home was near the infamous
'Gap' and for more than 50 years he pre-
vented many people from leaping to their
deaths from the cliff overlooking the sea.
In April 1970, Don was awarded the
NSW Royal Humane Society Bronze
Medal for saving the life of a man
attempting to jump off the Gap.
In the Australia Day honours list for
2006 he was awarded the Medal of the
Order of Australia (OAM) for services
to the community through programs
to prevent suicide. Also as part of his
2011 Australian of the Year Local Hero
Award he had his picture placed on a
limited edition stamp set commemorat-
ing the 2011 Australians of the Year.
On several occasions Don, and his
wife Moya, prevented men and women
from taking their lives by talking to
them and offering them a cup of tea.
It is estimated that some 150 people
owe their lives to Don and Moya for
this simple act of kindness. Don said,
"It shows that people who are planning
to commit suicide, if you can be nice to
them and invite them home, this gives
them a chance to change their mind."
Don was born at Vaucluse, Sydney
in June 1926 and educated at Vaucluse
Primary School and Scots College.
In his spare time he was a keen
sailor and a member of the Vaucluse
Amateur Sailing Association. In June
1944 he joined the RAN, as an ordinary
seaman, and after his training at HMAS
Cerberus he was posted to the cruiser
HMAS Hobart in December 1944. The
ship was soon sent north to operate with
the US 7th Fleet.
Initially Don's action station was
below decks in one of the six-inch shell
magazines, but later he became a loader
on one of Hobart's twin four-inch gun
Don saw service in operations in the
Philippines, New Guinea waters and the
landing of Australian troops at Tarakan,
Labuan and Balikpapan in Borneo.
He was also on board Hobart at the
Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay in
early September 1945.
Don left the Navy in May 1946 with
the rank of able seaman. Initially he was
a travelling salesman and then a stew-
ard before joining the insurance firm
Legal & General in the early 1950s. He
worked with Legal and General until he
retired as a senior executive in 1991.
Don was a keen naval historian and
never lost his love for the sea.
AT 95 years of age Syd Sharp's
68th Anzac Day march held special
significance because of this year's
70th anniversary of the Darwin
Declining the office of a taxi or
a jeep for the Sydney march, Mr
Sharp said he would march until he
"If I can't march, I will not be
participating," he said.
Mr Sharp has marched every
Anzac Day since 1947 and said
"God willing" he planned to march
again next year.
His involvement with the Anzac
Day march started when he served
as a flag bearer at the 1937 and
1938 services as an NCO in the
He was commissioned as a
sub-lieutenant into the RANVR in
February 1939 because of his exper-
tise as an off-shore yachtsman.
Mr Sharp qualified in anti-
submarine warfare and was posted
to HMAS Melville in Darwin as a
Harbour Defence Officer in 1941.
When the first wave of Japanese
carrier-borne aircraft appeared on
the horizon off Darwin on February
19, 1942, he assumed they were
from the US.
"I thought they were the Yanks
... until the bombs started falling,"
He witnessed the devastation
that occurred in the city and in the
The tonnage dropped that day
was more than at Pearl Harbor
(from the same Imperial Japanese
Navy task force) two months
In his fox-hole, he was able to
fire at the second of two low-flying
Japanese Zeros with a .303 rifle.
One Zero subsequently force-
landed at Melville Island with a
.303 bullet hole in its oil tank that
had caused its powerful engine to
The pilot, SGT Hajime
Toyoshima, was the first Japanese
POW captured by Allied forces. He
subsequently died in a mass escape
from Cowra on August 4, 1944.
Mr Sharp was posted to Darwin
throughout the sustained Japanese
bombings over seven months until
With the lack of supplies, he
and other personnel relied on local
resources for food including shoot-
ing wildlife and constructing a sub-
stantial fishing net to take advantage
of the large tidal flows.
During his career he also flew
with RAAF Lockheed Hudson and
USAAF Mitchell bomber recon-
naissance aircraft as a Naval observ-
er over the Timor Sea.
He was discharged from active
service at the rank of lieutenant in
1946 and remained in the RANVR
in 1976 and was awarded the 1939-
1945 Pacific Star medal in 1995,
after restrictions on information
about the attacks on Darwin were
"Darwin was not considered to
be a war zone," he said.
Syd's still sharp
after 95 years
VETERAN MARCHER: WWII veteran Syd Sharp with his wife Linda
during this year's Anzac Day march in Sydney. Photo: PO Damian Pawlenko
Local hero hailed
for saving lives
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