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August 2, 2012
SURVIVORS of HMAS Canberra
I, that was sunk 70-years ago
in WWII, said the arrival of
the new Canberra-class LHD
symbolises the resurrection of their
heavy-cruiser from her watery grave in
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of
the sinking of Canberra, the members of
the Canberra/Shropshire Association said
how special it would
HMAS Canberra in
sary coincides with
the appointment of
the CO Designate
Sadlier and the
arrival of the first-
of-class LHD at
yard for systems
that will lead to sea trials and commis-
sioning in 2014.
A survivor of Canberra I, LCDR
Henry Hall (rtd), said the new HMAS
Canberra would carry on a proud name
and special traditions.
LCDR Hall said the new vessel would
mark the resurrection of the fighting spir-
it of his former ship that was discovered
by deep-towed sonar in 1992.
"When NUSHIP Canberra is com-
missioned it will be like a ghost ship has
come back from the dead," he said.
"Canberra will serve the nation
proudly once again for the first time
since the Adelaide-class FFG, HMAS
Canberra, paid off in 2005," said LCDR
Hall, who was mentioned in dispatches
for his role in tending to the wounded on
the bridge of the heavy cruiser.
Canberra I, a County-class heavy-
cruiser, bore the brunt of the Japanese
night attack and sunk off Savo Island
on August 9, 1942, while supporting the
American landings at Guadalcanal and
In Canberra's forward control, the
then AB Hall was talking on the tele-
phone to the sailor manning the phone on
the 4-inch gun deck when a green-white
flash illuminated the pitch-black night.
The men on Canberra tried to respond
quickly to the attack but it was too lit-
tle, too late as the Japanese strike force
pounded the RAN heavy cruiser with
more than 20-salvos of 8-inch gun fire
and two torpedoes in her starboard
side. At least two shells landed near the
With power lost and the ship list-
ing, the wounded and survivors were
transferred to USS Patterson and USS
Blue. The US Navy task force command-
er ordered that
Canberra be aban-
doned and sunk if
she could not steam
by 6.30 am.
Once all the
survivors had been
evacuated, and act-
ing in accordance
with the orders,
USS Selfridge fired
263 5-inch shells
and four torpedoes
into Canberra, but
she refused to sink. Eventually a torpedo
fired by USS Ellet administered the final
blow and Canberra sank at about 8am on
Of Canberra's crew of 819, 76 went
down with the ship while another 109
were casualties in a ferocious sea battle
that historians have called "the worst
blue-water defeat in US naval history."
With LCDR Hall and the remaining
13 survivors all in their 90s, a special
service to mark the 70th anniversary will
be conducted at the HMAS Kuttabul
chapel on August 12.
Navy will also mark the anniversary
by dispatching HMA Ships Gascoyne
and Huon to Guadalcanal to join com-
memoration activities from August 6-9.
LCDR Hall said the new LHD
marked the beginning of the ADF's leap
The two 28,000-tonne LHD ships,
Canberra and Adelaide, will be the larg-
est ships ever built for the RAN when
they come into service in 2014 and 2015
The LHD will be the third RAN war-
ship to proudly carry the name HMAS
Canberra, with the first being the
County-class heavy cruiser and the sec-
ond being the Adelaide-class FFG that
served in the RAN from 1981 to 2005.
Ghost ship resurrection
With the arrival of the new Canberra-class LHD
due in 2014, those aboard Canberra I who
survived her sinking are looking back at that
August day in 1942, Michael Brooke reports.
LOOKING BACK: This photo of HMAS Canberra I is from the personal effects of CAPT F.E. Getting, who
was in command when the ship was sunk in 1942. He died of wounds on August 9, 1942.
Photo courtesy of Australian War Memorial ''- LCDR Henry Hall (Rtd),
Canberra I survivor
When NUSHIP Canberra
is commissioned it will be
like a ghost ship has come
back from the dead.
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