Home' Navy News : February 28th 2013 Contents 16
February 28, 2013
UNTIL I saw Morgan
Freeman and Jack
Nicholson in The Bucket
List I never knew I had a
I belong to a long time ago when
mothers read bedtime stories to their
children. My pommie mother was a
wonderful story teller. My younger
brother and I were ‘there’ – we lived
the stories, we were the stories.
Mum read Hemingway and I
wanted to climb Kiliminjaro – never
Mum read Beau Geste and I
wanted to join the Foreign Legion.
So much so that I wrote to the
Commandant at Sidi Bel Abbis. His
reply was to try again in 20 years – I
There were stories about Mr
Midshipman Easy and Billy True
Blue Freeborn by W.H.G Kingston.
Stories by a retired Royal Navy cap-
tain who wrote under the pseudo-
nym of Bartimeus.
Stories of the Royal Navy mid-
shipmen and their exploits, their
lack of discipline and how they
were controlled by the gunroom
nurse while engaged in fighting the
French and Dutch.
Wow, what battles – cannon
balls, butlasses, falling masts, sails
on fire, grappling irons – hand to
hand fight to the death. Mum was
there – I’m in a warm comfy bed –
Then, wow, I’m in the midst of a
bucket list gone awfully wrong.
Here I am 20, four years in the
RAN, in Solomon Islands serving
in HMAS Canberra and under fire
from an unidentified enemy.
Everything is awfully wrong,
I’m in the midst of madness,
sounds never heard before. Screams
of horror and pain, flying glass,
shrapnel whizzing through the air at
great speed, tearing into flesh and
bone – a bucket list of death and
Where is Mum and my comfy
bed? The compass platform was a
slaughter house. Dead and wound-
ed, instant mayhem. LCDR Gerry
Hole the gunnery officer and many
others were killed instantly.
The captain mortally wounded,
refusing attention until all those still
living could be taken to the forecas-
tle for treatment.
Our beloved XO, despite his
severe facial injuries, seemed to be
in so many places at the same time,
organising first-aid people, firefight-
ing parties, emptying ready use
lockers of ammunition. So many
dead and wounded, and I was there.
Canberra refused to die – she
was eventually sunk by friendly fire.
The US Navy did a splendid job
rescuing survivors and tending to
the wounded. They eventually took
us home to Man O’War Steps in
Sydney, and again, I was there.
The spirit of Canberra did
not die but lived on in HMAS
Shropshire, a sister ship given to
Australia as a replacement.
So many who survived Canberra
went to the UK and manned
Shropshire to continue the war
What a splendid sister ship. In
many ways avenging the loss of
Canberra, she acquitted herself
with glory at Balikpapan, Tarakan,
Leyte, Lingayen and Surigao and on
to Tokyo Bay for the surrender. A
lucky, happy and efficient ship.
The transcript of the report of
proceedings from the inquiry into
the loss of Canberra made special
comment that there was little panic,
a great display of mateship – a
ship’s company working together as
a team in the face of extreme adver-
sity. And I was there!
I may never have another oppor-
tunity to talk about Canberra again.
I lost some special mates and I
appreciated being able to publicly
express my sentiments. It was an
honour to serve with such a ship’s
So, here we are today in the
city of Canberra to remember and
honour those of my shipmates who
are still with Canberra at Savo
and those who later died of their
Republished with the permission of
LCDR Hall and the Australian Naval
In his address last year to commemorate the loss of HMAS
Canberra I, LCDR Henry Hall recalled a lifetime of memories
and paid tribute to mateship.
‘‘ – LCDR Henry Hall (rtd)
There was little panic, a great display
of mateship – a ship’s company
working together as a team in the face
of extreme adversity.
STRONG SPIRIT: HMAS Canberra I
was commissioned in July 1928. She
was lost in action on August 9, 1942.
LCDR Henry Hall
on board NUSHIP
Photo: LSIS Paul Berry
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