Independence: Stories of the Royal Australian Navy

This commemorative publication is a part of the Century of Service series. It explores the stories of several Australians who have served in the Commonwealth Naval Force and the Royal Australian Navy. Each person included had to overcome challenges and weather adversity during their service. The book focuses on the determination, resilience and commitment shown in navy life.

ISBN: 978-0-6454093-1-4
Series: Century of Service
Access a designed version to download or print

In the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra there are 15 stained-glass windows. Each shows a figure dressed in military uniform, and under each figure is a word which describes a quality displayed by Australians during wartime. One window features a naval captain with a gyro compass, a navigation device that enables a ship to maintain a steady course. He represents the stability and steadfastness displayed by those who have served in the Royal Australian Navy. This window bears the word Independence.

We acknowledge Australia's traditional custodians and their continuing connection to country, sea and community. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their cultures and to their elders past, present and emerging.

Note to the reader: Most of these stories take place during wartime. You may feel sad after reading them. Tell a teacher or trusted adult if you require support. Teachers may wish to be sensitive to those students who have personal experience with conflict, family members who are veterans, or parents serving overseas in war zones.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following stories contain the names and images of people who have died.


On 4 October 1913, the RAN finally displayed the new fleet to the Australian public in Sydney. Thousands of people came out … As one of the first national institutions of significance since Federation, the fleet was a striking symbol that Australia was now a self-determining, self-reliant nation.1

[Australian War Memorial, "The Royal Australian Navy fleet entry of 1913",, accessed, 25 May 2022]

Many Australians have served in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), from its beginnings as the fledgling Commonwealth Naval Force in 1901, to the experienced navy of today. For a country surrounded by sea, the RAN serves to protect and defend national interests, in times of peace and war. Born from traditions of the British Royal Navy, the culture and workforce of the RAN has evolved to reflect the diversity of Australia.

The stories in this book are about people who have shown determination, resilience and commitment, overcoming challenges and withstanding adversity to achieve common goals. William Rooke Creswell was instrumental in the establishment of an Australian navy, advocating for independence from reliance on the British Admiralty; Marion Stevens' exceptional service as a telegraphist in the Second World War foreshadowed greater roles for women in the armed services; and Deb Butterworth made a difference as part of peacekeeping forces, providing stability in fragile environments.

The sailors and officers in these stories share common experiences of naval life. Many formed lasting friendships among their shipmates, and these friendships, along with affection for the ships they served in, helped them through long periods away from loved ones. They served all over the world, at sea, in the air and ashore. Some gave their lives.

Near or far from home, the RAN continues to safeguard our future.

A sailor holds his daughter while his wife looks on. Buildings can be seen in the background.

A sailor from HMAS Derwent is welcomed home by his wife and daughter after months at sea, 1964. AWM NAVY06441

Father of the Royal Australian Navy: Vice Admiral Sir William Creswell KCMG KBE

On 10 July 1911, King George V granted the title of Royal Australian Navy to the Commonwealth Naval Forces. This followed years of determined efforts to establish an independent Australian navy, including those of experienced naval officer William Rooke Creswell.

William was born on 20 July 1852. His father was the deputy postmaster general of the British colony of Gibraltar, on Spain's south coast. Gibraltar was a garrison town, and William would have been accustomed to seeing the military at work. William began school in Gibraltar, but was soon sent to England, where he attended Eastman's Naval Academy. At the age of 13, he entered the British Royal Navy as a cadet in the training ship Britannia. William passed out two years later, and was promoted to the rank of midshipman.

In the following years, William travelled widely with the Royal Navy, experiencing new places and cultures – including a visit to Australia. By his 26th birthday, he was a lieutenant who had faced danger and disease, surviving being shot in the hip on the Malay coast and contracting malaria in East Africa. William resigned from the Royal Navy in September 1878 to seek opportunities in Australia.

William and his brother Charles arrived in Australia in 1879 with plans to become pastoralists. After several difficult years droving, William was working in Queensland when he received a letter. His old shipmate Commander John Walcot had invited him to join the South Australian Naval Service. Although he initially declined, William eventually accepted as his brother had fallen ill and his doctor suggested he would recover better in a cooler climate. In October 1885, William was appointed first lieutenant of Her Majesty's Colonial Ship Protector.

Before Federation in 1901, Australia consisted of six self-governing British colonies, five of which operated naval forces. The Royal Navy established Australia Station in Sydney in 1859, assigning ships to defend British interests in the region. William was among several individuals who advocated for greater resources and independence for the colonial naval forces. Following Federation in 1901, the colonial navies disbanded and the Commonwealth of Australia formed the Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF). A key responsibility of the newly-formed federal government was the defence of Australia. As Australia is an island nation, William believed the navy would have a vital role in its protection.

William was selected as an advisor on naval matters for the minister for defence, and in 1904 he was made commander of the CNF. He continued to campaign for a new Australian naval force, independent from British command. As rival powers gained influence in the Pacific region, the British and Australian governments agreed to develop an Australian fleet. William was promoted rear admiral on 1 March 1911 and became the First Naval Member of the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board.

Formal portrait of an older William Creswell wearing a hat and uniform.

Formal portrait of William Creswell during the First World War. AWM J03055

Today, the equivalent position is known as the Chief of Navy. Royal assent was granted to the CNF in July. Much work followed for the RAN in acquiring resources, establishing administrative systems, and training recruits. A RAN officer cadet college was established in Geelong, and then moved to Jervis Bay. The college was later named HMAS Creswell in William's honour.

During the First World War, William's work focused on administration. He and his wife, Adelaide, endured personal losses: their 20-year-old daughter Margaret had died in 1913, and their sons Randolph and Colin were killed in the war.

William retired from the RAN in November 1919, having played a significant part in developing Australia's naval policy. He died on 20 April 1933, aged 80. Remembered for his diplomacy and sense of humour, he was given a state funeral. William was survived by his wife and children, Edmund, Noel and Peter.

Alfred Deakin and the Great White Fleet

Alfred Deakin was Australia's second prime minister. He had a leading role in establishing Australia's national institutions, including the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). In 1908, Alfred invited America's Great White Fleet to visit Australia without consulting Britain, which had not supported measures strengthening Australia's independent naval power.

The fleet of 16 United States Navy battleships arrived to much fanfare in Melbourne, Sydney and Albany. Their visit displayed America's naval power, and foreshadowed Australia's future alliance with the United States.

Postcard with coloured images of American naval personnel and ships

Postcard commemorating the 'peace voyage' of the US Navy's Great White Fleet. AWM PR02076


Did you know?

The New South Wales government purchased a former cargo and passenger ship in 1891 for use by the state welfare department as a reform school for "wayward boys". In 1911 the Commonwealth government bought the ship and converted her into a boy's training ship. They named her HMAS Tingira, an Aboriginal word meaning "open sea". Boys from 14-and-a-half to 16 years were able to enrol, with the expectation of seven years' service in the RAN following their 18th birthday.

"They shall grow not old": Able Seaman Jack Jarman

Excitement spread throughout the survey vessel as a grainy image appeared on the computer screen. The first scan of the seabed indicated the presence of a submarine wreck. The final resting place of HMAS AE1's three officers and 32 sailors, including Able Seaman Jack Jarman, had been found.

Jack was born on 11 June 1893, in Cashel, Victoria, the son of William and Elizabeth Jarman. When Jack's father died unexpectedly in 1903, Jack's mother was left to raise Jack, his sister Catherine, and his brother Fred. Elizabeth moved the family to inner Melbourne, and in 1909 she remarried.

Just before Jack's 18th birthday, he joined the Commonwealth Naval Forces, which on 10 July 1911 became the RAN. Following training at the Navy Depot at Williamstown, he was posted to the torpedo-boat destroyer HMAS Parramatta, the first ship launched for the RAN.

In February 1913, Jack was selected to join the crew assigned to the RAN's first submarines. HMA Ships AE1 and AE2 began their journey from England to Australia in March 1914, crewed by RAN and British Royal Navy sailors including Jack. Throughout the passage there were mechanical difficulties, at times the crews dealt with toxic gases from the engine room, and internal temperatures soared above 38 degrees, but the submarines entered Sydney Harbour in May 1914 to much public interest. At the time it was the longest ever submarine passage.

Jack was assigned to AE1, with his service record noting his character rating as "very good" and his ability "superior". Although Jack may have suited life in a submarine, in July 1914 his family situation led him to request discharge from the navy. His stepfather had suffered a stroke and his mother was not well enough to work. Jack wanted to support his family, but the outbreak of the First World War in August altered any possibility of discharge from the RAN.

The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force was raised to seize German territory in New Guinea, with the majority of the RAN fleet – including AE1 and AE2 – involved. In September, Australia's first joint operation took place, with landings of naval personnel and infantry in German New Guinea. The operations were successful, with the Australian forces occupying the majority of territories within a few weeks.

Formal portrait of Jack Jarman wearing a sailors' uniform with a seated woman in a long white dress

Jack Jarman with a woman believed to be his sister Catherine in 1914. AWM P09222.001

On 14 September, the day after the German surrender of Rabaul, the administrative capital of New Guinea, AE1 went missing. The submarine had been in contact with Parramatta throughout the day, but was obscured by poor weather conditions. At 2.30 pm, AE1 signalled Parramatta, asking "what is the distance of visibility?" The reply was "about five miles". At 3.20 pm, Parramatta lost sight of AE1 and steamed in the direction of her last known position. No trace of the submarine was found, and it was thought that she may have returned to harbour without informing Parramatta. However, by 8 pm AE1 had not returned, and a search began. Despite the efforts of multiple ships in the fleet, AE1 was not found. Her crew were believed to have drowned, including Jack Jarman, who was 21 years old.

The loss of AE1 was a major tragedy and it was the first RAN ship to sink. Over the years, numerous searches were conducted to try to find the wreck of the submarine and understand why she disappeared. In December 2017, AE1 was found by an Australian-led expedition. The submarine was lying in 300 metres of water, off the Duke of York island group in Papua New Guinea. Following the discovery, the expedition crew paid tribute to AE1, with a reading of the Naval Ode on deck of the survey vessel Fugro Equator. Jack Jarman's name appears on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, and the Plymouth Naval Memorial in the United Kingdom.

The Naval Ode

They have no grave but the cruel sea,
No flowers lay at their head,
A rusting hulk is their tombstone,
Afast on the ocean bed.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

AE2 in the Dardanelles

Following operations off New Guinea and then Fiji, AE2 returned to Sydney for maintenance in November 1914. In December, the submarine joined the second convoy of Australian Imperial Force troops, sailing for the Suez Canal in Egypt.

From February 1915, AE2 began support for operations in the Dardanelles campaign. On 25 April, now known as Anzac Day, AE2 entered the Dardanelles and was the first Australian unit to be engaged by Turkish forces that day. As part of the Allied plan to seize this strategic waterway, AE2 was ordered to infiltrate the Dardanelles and cause havoc among Turkish shipping.

AE2 torpedoed and damaged a Turkish gunboat, and managed to evade pursuers, entering the Sea of Marmara on 26 April. The submarine spent four days attacking Turkish shipping, aiming to stop them reaching the battlefields on Gallipoli.

On 30 April, AE2 was due to rendezvous with a Royal Navy submarine when her engine room was struck by rounds from a Turkish torpedo boat. Orders were given to abandon ship, and the submarine was scuttled to avoid her falling into enemy hands.

The crew of 32 became prisoners of war. They were initially treated as "honoured guests", however, they were soon sent to work on a railway being built through the mountains in southern Turkey. There they endured malnutrition, disease and brutality. Four of the crew died under these conditions. Stoker Charles Suckling, the last surviving veteran of AE2, recalled:

I don't think, if we had known what was ahead of us, that one of us would have left the boat.1

[Charles Suckling, in Australian War Memorial "Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war",, accessed 3 March 2022]


Crew members on the AE2 grouped on the deck in 1915. AWM H18370

Did you know?

Australians serve in submarines today. The fleet consists of six Collins Class submarines, based in Western Australia. Sometimes referred to as the "silent service" due to the secret nature of their operations, submarine crews support international security initiatives and identify threats to Australia's interests.

Submarines can spend months at sea, with significant periods travelling below the ocean surface. A strong sense of camaraderie is fostered within submarine crews as they work together in a close environment.

A grey badge embroidered with 2 yellow dolphins facing each other with a crown above their heads

Submariners’ dolphin badge. AWM Education Collection

Inquiry question:

  • Research what life is like aboard a submarine: where do the crew eat, sleep and wash?
  • Why do you think dolphins were chosen to feature on the submariners' badge?

Exceeding expectations: Second Officer Marion Stevens

Sitting on her front veranda in Newcastle, five-year-old Marion Stevens watched ships coming into the harbour. She saw the flashing lights of their signal lamps, and longed to know what they meant. It was the beginning of her interest in Morse code.

Marion was born in Tamworth, New South Wales, on 4 May 1920. Her father was an engineer, and the family moved frequently for his work, eventually settling in Newcastle. After high school, Marion studied at the Metropolitan Business College in Sydney, but lacked enthusiasm for the course. When she saw a newspaper advertisement to join the Women's Emergency Signalling Corps (WESC), she was keen to apply.

Florence McKenzie, known as "Mrs Mac" to her students, established the WESC in early 1939 to train women in Morse code and wireless signalling techniques. When the Second World War began later that year, the women began to train men who needed to know Morse code for their military service. Mrs Mac interviewed Marion, who was accepted as a member of the WESC. Marion dedicated herself to learning Morse code, even practising while travelling in trams by mentally translating street signs into Morse code. Marion was interested in music, and believed that her understanding of rhythm helped her learn Morse code. She quickly gained proficiency, and proudly received her green WESC uniform.

Formal portrait of woman in uniform and hat

Marion in the Second World War. AWM P01262.303

WESC headquarters were on the upper two storeys of a building in Clarence Street, Sydney. Mrs Mac had wired up stations for trainees to practise transmitting Morse code. They were grouped by their speed of transmission, the base level being ten words per minute. The women provided sandwiches to sailors and airmen who came to learn, and would knit scarves and balaclavas as gifts for them to use once they had been deployed.

Although the WESC was informally training members of the armed services, Mrs Mac believed that "her girls" – as she called them – could perform highly within the military. She strongly advocated for their acceptance into the RAAF and the RAN, which did not allow women to serve. Marion recalled:

I was sending [Morse] at a long table and a naval officer [was] leaning over the shoulder of a sailor that was taking my Morse and I thought, "Oh dear, I mustn't make any mistakes". And eventually the chap wandered off and in to see Mrs McKenzie and I didn't realise that was more or less the beginning of the navy taking an interest in what we could do because he turned out to be the port wireless officer in Sydney … I think Mrs McKenzie haunted people to such an extent that they probably said "Oh for heaven's sake, go up and see what they're doing" … that was when they had to admit, yes, the girls certainly could send Morse code.

[Interview with Marion Stevens, 1989. AWM S00547]>

In April 1941, the RAN authorised women to serve in the newly formed Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS). Marion was among the first WRANS members of 12 wireless telegraphists and two cooks. Although her parents were initially concerned about her joining the WRANS, they soon came to accept it. Marion later reflected on her father:

I believe he was just about one of the most proud men about it, which I didn't really know until years later, after he died. And his secretary used to sometimes come over and see mother and I and she used to say, "He brought in every letter you ever wrote home" and everything he could find out about it. He was really proud.

[Interview with Marion Stevens, 1989. AWM S00547]

Mrs Mac accompanied the WRANS to Canberra, and they began serving at the RAN Wireless/Transmitting Station Canberra (later commissioned as HMAS Harman). She stayed for a couple of days to see her girls settled into their cottage accommodation on the naval base. The day after their arrival, they were assigned a male petty officer as their wireless transmission instructor. Marion remembered:

He hadn't been told … what our speed in Morse was ... So he started and he sent about ten words a minute and we all sat round and we took it and we looked at each other ... So then he started on about fifteen to eighteen words a minute and the same procedure, everyone was getting it very easily. So then he settled himself in the chair and looked at us and said, "Well, get this." And he sent it as fast as he could … and most of it was got by all the girls. And, so then he sat back with a broad grin on his face and said, "Well that's a good morning's work" and he proceeded to tell us funny stories about the navy.

[Interview with Marion Stevens, 1989. AWM S00547]

The RAN quickly realised that WRANS members were equipped to go on watch, receiving and transmitting coded wireless messages to Allied forces across the world. Marion usually went on four-hour watches; she appreciated the challenge of working at Harman and receiving high levels of traffic from stations in locations such as Port Moresby.

In 1943, Marion was surprised to learn that she had been promoted to chief petty officer and put in charge of Naval Wireless Transmission Station Molonglo, becoming the first woman to be placed in such a position. Not far from Harman, Molonglo was nearly entirely staffed by WRANS and performed all the high-speed operating with England, Canada, Colombo (capital of modern day Sri Lanka) and New Zealand. Marion received congratulations from RAN officers at transmission stations across the country, and her reputation for efficiency, competence and leadership was praised.

With the promotion came expectations that Marion would separate herself socially from her subordinates. She was expected to eat alone in her room, and to refrain from going on outings with the other women. Regardless, Marion managed to sneak in the occasional trip to the cinema and maintained friendships with many of the women with whom she had served.

When the WRANS was disbanded in 1947 following the end of the Second World War, Marion followed her passion for music, studying singing at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and touring Australia and New Zealand with the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company.

In 1951, the WRANS was re-established to assist with manpower shortages due to the Cold War. Marion re-joined, ranked as second officer. In 1953, she was chosen to represent the WRANS at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London. While there, she visited Whitehall Wireless Transmission station and met a male petty officer who had worked with the Canberra stations, who said:

"You know, that's the best station we ever worked with during the war … they never let us down," and he laughed and said, "we found out after a while that a woman was running that station … I'd like to shake her by the hand." And it was with great happiness that I held my hand out and said, "Well, go right ahead" … I think that was really about the proudest moment in my entire life and it was not for myself personally but for the WRANS.

[Interview with Marion Stevens, 1989. AWM S00547]

At the end of her four-year commission, Marion was asked to remain, but decided to leave the navy. She went on to work in a management position at a knitting yarn manufacturer, and later studied gemmology, visiting overseas diamond mines. In her later years she enjoyed travel, arts and crafts. Marion Stevens died on 26 August, 2015. A road at Harman is named in her honour.

Australian women in the Second World War

A poster of women dressed in various uniforms.

Join us in a victory job, by Maurice Bramley, 1943, lithograph on paper, 49 x 60 cm. AWM ARTV08836

During the Second World War, the number of men in the armed forces led to labour shortages, resulting in campaigns for women to enter the workforce and undertake roles previously limited to men. Women went to work in factories, farms and other essential industries, but were paid less than men doing the same work.

Women volunteered for civilian organisations and many served in newly established non-medical women's military services. By 1945, more than 50,000 Australian women had served in official units, and many more had joined the civilian workforce.

While most women returned to their traditional roles at the conclusion of the conflict, their wartime efforts contributed to the movement for greater gender equality. In 2018 the government passed legislation allowing any capable Australian to be enlisted into any job within the Australian Defence Force.

Inquiry question:

  • Do you think the reasons that women enlist to serve have changed since the Second World War? Explain your reasoning.

First Officer Sheila McClemans

Nora Heysen, First Officer Sheila McClemans, WRANS (1943, oil on canvas, 77.4 x 57 cm) AWM ART23416

The inaugural director of the WRANS, Sheila McClemans, was a woman of firsts. One of the first female law graduates from the University of Western Australia, Sheila was admitted to the Bar in 1933 but was unable to find a law firm that would employ her. As attitudes of the time limited the roles available to women, Sheila and her friend Molly Kingston founded the first all-female law firm in Western Australia. Sheila was the first female barrister to appear before the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Her work focused on supporting women.

In 1943, Sheila joined the WRANS and quickly rose through the ranks. For her exceptional leadership and organisational skills, she was appointed the director of the WRANS in 1944.

Inquiry question:

  • What challenges might Sheila have faced while leading the WRANS?

Did you know?

The Royal Australian Naval Nursing Service (RANNS) was established in 1942. Nurses were recruited to fulfil duties at Australian shore establishments and allow male medical sailors to serve aboard ships. The service was later disbanded.

Dark blue wool cape with red trim

This cape was worn by Nursing Sister Teifi Jones, who served in Sydney, where she nursed survivors of the sinking of HMAS Kuttabul. AWM REL34768

"Good influence among his fellows": Captain Hector "Hec" Waller DSO and Bar RAN

The brass band played as 28 young naval cadets stood at attention. It was a special day at the Royal Australian Naval College in Jervis Bay: the Governor-General was visiting to award the King's Gold Medal for 1917 to the graduating cadet deemed most-deserving of the honour. With his family looking on, Midshipman Hec Waller accepted the award for "gentlemanly bearing, character, good influence among his fellows and officer-like qualities."

Hector – known as "Hec" – was born on 4 April 1900 in Benalla, Victoria. He was the youngest of ten children. Although Hec did not grow up near the ocean, he was drawn to a life at sea. Hec entered the Royal Australian Naval College (RANC), where cadets receive military and leadership training, from the age of 13. He graduated as chief cadet captain in 1917, and first served in the Royal Navy's HMS Agincourt in Britain during the final stages of the First World War. He then transferred to HMAS Melbourne, returning to Australia in April of 1919.

Hec married Nancy Bowes in Sydney in 1923. Nancy's father, a Methodist minister, performed the service. They had two sons: Michael and John.

Portrait of Captain Hector Macdonald Laws 'Hec' Waller DSO RAN, smoking a pipe on the bridge of HMAS Stuart, AWM 005002/13

Over the following decade, Hec trained and excelled as a signals officer, receiving several promotions. In 1939, he completed his first sea command, having led the British destroyer HMS Brazen since late 1937. This experience allowed Hec to refine his ship handling skills. In the middle of the year, he returned to Australia to serve as Director of Signals and Communications at the Navy Office in Melbourne.

In September 1939, the Second World War began. Hec was given command of the destroyer HMAS Stuart, and held overall command of four other destroyers that escorted Stuart in the Mediterranean theatre – HMA Ships Vampire, Voyager, Vendetta and Waterhen. These ageing ships, which had all seen service in First World War, were mocked in Nazi German propaganda, which named them the "Scrap Iron Flotilla". The Australians adopted this name as a badge of pride. Hec's leadership was praised, and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his "courage, enterprise and devotion to duty" during the battle of Calabria.

There were further successes for Stuart in the Mediterranean, and when Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies visited to inspect the fleet in Egypt, Hec was introduced to him as "one of the greatest captains who ever sailed the seas".

While Australian forces were besieged at the port city Tobruk in North Africa, Stuart was one of the ships that delivered supplies and troops to support the city's garrison. These operations were nicknamed the "Tobruk Ferry". Stuart completed 24 runs to Tobruk under dangerous conditions before returning to Australia in September 1941. Hec received a Bar to his DSO and was twice Mentioned in Despatches for his efforts in the Mediterranean theatre.

As the fighting came closer to Australia, Hec was given command of HMAS Perth. The ship performed patrols in the waters around Australia, and escorted other vessels to protect against enemy attack. In January 1942, Perth was sent to defend the Netherlands East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) with other Allied naval vessels. The Allies were greatly outmatched by the advancing Japanese forces, and suffered heavy losses in the battle of the Java Sea on 27 February.

The following day, Perth and her escort American cruiser USS Houston were sighted by a Japanese convoy and came under attack. Perth was hit by several torpedoes while expending all of her main ammunition in the fight. Hec gave the order to abandon ship, and Perth sunk at 12.25 am on 1 March. Hec was last sighted wearing his life jacket on the bridge, looking down at the silent guns. Not long afterwards the bridge was struck by a shell. Hec was listed as missing, presumed killed. He was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches for his "gallantry and resolution" aboard Perth.

Hec and Nancy's son, John, joined the RAN in 1947 and, like his father, graduated as chief cadet captain from the RANC. Over the years, Nancy participated in Perth reunions and memorial services, and she was remembered as a surrogate mother to many of the survivors. Nancy died in 1977, and a memorial plaque was presented to her church in Victoria by the ex-HMAS Stuart and Perth Associations. Hec and Nancy's descendants remain connected to Perth. Their grandson, David, recalls meeting with Perth survivors, who said of Hec, 'we would sail through hell with him and we did'.1

Ship's bell from HMAS Perth. These bells were used to keep time and signal warnings. This bell was recovered from the wreck in the 1970s, and donated by the RAN to the Australian War Memorial.

The loss of Perth is commemorated at the Memorial's annual HMAS Perth National Association Last Post Ceremony, which traditionally includes the striking of the ship's bell.

HMAS Perth 1939 bell. AWM REL/07771

Inquiry question:

  • Who might visit the Memorial, and why might they attend the Last Post Ceremony?

Did you know?

There is a long history of cats living in warships. They would catch mice and rats, protecting the food supply of the ship. Far from home, sailors often found comfort in taking care of the cats, and many became unofficial mascots for ships. HMAS Perth was home to a kitten named Red Lead, who is said to have enjoyed sleeping in Hec's cabin.

She was named after a pot of red lead paint that she knocked over, leaving red paw prints behind. In the days leading to the sinking of Perth, Red Lead attempted to escape the ship three times. This was seen as a bad omen by superstitious sailors. Red Lead was last seen in the water after the sinking of Perth, before she was swept away by the current.

Although cats are no longer allowed in RAN ships, Red Lead's legacy can be seen in HMAS Perth [III] which was commissioned in 2006. Red paw prints lead to the bridge, and there is a cat flap on the door to the wardroom.

A sailor poses with two cats that are lying in a small hammock

Ship's cats aboard HMAS Nizam, 1941. George Silk. AWM 009425

Inquiry questions:

  • What other animals have served in wartime?
  • What jobs have they done?

Hec's name is listed on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial. Its bronze panels record the names of more than 102,000 members of the Australian armed forces who have died during, or as a result of, war or peacetime operations.

Inquiry question:

  • There are many memorials that commemorate military service in Australia. Locate those in your hometown – what form do they take?
Painted portrait of Hec Waller in RAN officer's uniform, with ships in the background.

Joshua Smith, Captain Hector Waller (1957, oil on canvas, 76 x 61 cm) AWM ART27505

This portrait was painted in memory of Hec in 1957.

Inquiry question:

  • How might the artist have prepared to paint this portrait?


The coastwatchers were an Allied intelligence organisation that operated in the Pacific region during the Second World War, observing enemy activity, reporting aircraft and ship sightings, and rescuing stranded Allied personnel. Communicating via teleradio, they operated in secret and sometimes at great risk, often depending on the assistance of locals in places such as Australia, New Guinea and the Solomons.

Reverend Leonard Kentish was a coastwatcher based in the Northern Territory. On 22 January 1943, he was travelling from Darwin in HMAS Patricia Cam, an auxiliary ship carrying stores and passengers, when it was bombed by a Japanese floatplane. Leonard survived the sinking, but was forced aboard the floatplane and taken prisoner. Those who died during the sinking of Patricia Cam included three Yolgnu men who were assisting with navigation through the uncharted reefs. Some surviving passengers were rescued by Aboriginal people, who led them to a coastwatching station at Jensen Bay in the Wessel Islands.

Leonard was held as a prisoner until May, when he was killed by his captors. He was survived by his wife Violet, and their three young children.

The Merchant Navy and auxiliary vessels

During the First and Second World Wars, Australian merchant ships carried people and supplies across the seas. Though the ships sailed for commercial purposes, their valuable cargo made them vulnerable to attack.

Auxiliary ships were civilian vessels converted for military use in order to support the fleet, with duties including training, transportation, and repair. Some were crewed by merchant seamen and naval reserve members. The RAN converted hundreds of vessels during the Second World War, including four Chinese coastal steamers, HMA Ships Ping Wo, Poyang, Whang Pu and Yunnan.

During the Second World War, hospital ships were also crewed by merchant seamen.

Figures cast in bronze are shown to struggle to remain in a carley float.

Memorial sculpture, Dennis Adams, Survivors (1968-1973, bronze, 149 x 273 x 138 cm) AWM ART27987

This memorial sculpture, called Survivors, commemorates the service of Australian merchant seamen.

Inquiry question:

  • How does this memorial reflect the dangers of merchant shipping during wartime?

Aftermath of the sinking

Of Perth's company of 686, only 218 returned to Australia. While 320 survived the sinking and became prisoners of war, 105 died in captivity.

Petty Officer Ray Parkin was one of the survivors of the sinking. He and ten others rowed a lifeboat more than 480 kilometres in an attempt to reach Australia, stopping at Tjilatjap in Java to try and acquire an easier boat to sail. The area was already under the control of the Japanese, however, and the men became prisoners. The crew saved the sail from the lifeboat, which they had named ANZAC, and kept it hidden. In the first weeks of his captivity, Ray decorated the sail in honour of Perth's crew, and crewmembers of ANZAC signed it. Another Perth survivor, Donald McNab, later inscribed a further 310 names of survivors.

The survivors endured brutal treatment as prisoners. They were starved, routinely beaten and forced to work in extremely harsh conditions.

Ray was among a group of prisoners sent to work on the Burma–Thailand railway. Despite the horrors of this experience, Ray used his artistic skills to document the beauty that could be found in the environment, drawing plants, insects and nature. Ray entrusted his drawings to Lieutenant Colonel Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, who kept them hidden for the rest of the war. Had the drawings been found, the men would have been punished.

After years of suffering, many former prisoners of war returned with medical issues or psychological trauma. They needed ongoing support, which often came from each other as well as from their families.

Ray and Weary survived captivity, and Weary later returned Ray's drawings. Ray made a series of prints based on the drawings, which he presented to Weary in gratitude for his support during the war. The prints are now held in the collection of the Australian War Memorial.

Ship firing guns from the bow, splashes in water around the boat. Light beams project from shore.

Murray Griffin, HMAS Perth fights to the last, 28th February, 1942 (c. 1942–1943, oil on hardboard, 87 x 105.7 x 6.9 cm) AWM ART24483

Murray Griffin was an Australian official war artist who became a prisoner of war in Singapore in 1942. He painted this image of the sinking of Perth based on the accounts of survivors, who he met while they were also interned.

HMAS Yarra

In the Second World War, escort ships were employed to protect other ships from enemy attack. Yarra had been providing escort duties off Java in the first days of March 1942. On 2 March, Yarra and her convoy were ordered to return to Australia. Many of Yarra's company had not been home for 18 months.

On 4 March, the convoy was sighted by five Japanese vessels. Lieutenant Commander Robert Rankin, captain of Yarra, immediately transmitted a report of the sighting. He laid down a smokescreen, ordered the convoy to scatter, and placed Yarra in a defensive position. Yarra fought gallantly and kept on fighting while one by one the ships of the convoy were overwhelmed and sunk. Yarra took a number of hits and was the last to go and Robert gave the order to abandon ship. Soon afterwards a shell struck the bridge, and he was among those who died.

Leading Seaman Ron Taylor ignored the order to abandon ship and stayed at his gun position, continuing to defend Yarra as the ship was sinking.

Of Yarra's 151 crew members, there were 13 survivors. In 2013, Governor-General Quentin Bryce recognised Yarra's "acts of extraordinary gallantry in the Indian Ocean on 4 March 1942" through the award of a Unit Citation for Gallantry.

Twelve years in the navy: Petty Officer Stoker Andrew "Andy" Nation

Andy Nation picked up his diary, ready to record his final entry. It was 29 February 1952, and after 12 years in the navy, he was returning to civilian life. He was almost ready to step from HMAS Sydney, with just a few more odds and ends to stow in his kit bag.

Andrew – known as "Andy" – was born in Rutherglen in north-east Victoria on 17 November 1920. He had two sisters, Joy and Doreen, and a younger brother, Bill. When Andy was five, his family moved to South Geelong. Andy went on to work as a storeman, handling and organising goods in the Geelong Market. The Second World War had begun and he wanted to join the RAN, but there was a problem: his brother Bill was already serving under Andy's name.

Formal portrait of Andy Nation in sailor's uniform

Portrait of Stoker Mechanic Andrew Robert Nation of Rutherglen, VIC, c. 1945. AWM P04444.001

Formal portrait of Bill Nation in RAF uniform

Portrait of William Gordon Nation in his RAF uniform, c. 1943. AWM P04511.001

Bill had made his way to England, and wanted to serve in the Royal Air Force (RAF). As Bill was not yet 18 and was too young to enlist, he used Andy's name and age on his enlistment papers. When Andy joined the RAN on 18 March 1940, he used Bill's name and date of birth. From then onwards, he had to be careful when filling in forms and often forgot how old he was supposed to be.

Andy trained to be a stoker, working in the hot, humid and noisy engine rooms of ships. By his 20th birthday, Andy was serving in HMAS Waterhen in the Mediterranean as part of the Scrap Iron Flotilla. He wrote in his diary:

17 November 1940: The greatest day in the history of this world, my birthday. All that I got in the way of presents was an air raid warning … I am not going to put down every air raid because we have an average of about four a day.1

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 14]

As Waterhen supported Allied efforts in North Africa, Andy's anxiety grew as Allied ships were attacked and sunk, noting

there is not a ship goes out of harbour without coming back with holes all over them.2

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 27]

After the German invasion of Greece in April 1941, Waterhen was among the fleet of Allied ships that evacuated over 50,000 soldiers. When Waterhen survived another air attack, Andy wrote,

we picked up a ship's convoy the next day bound for [Alexandria, Egypt]. We slept with our life belts on and what money and a few photos of the family I had put in my pockets. I didn't think they could miss a third time.3

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 20]

Andy's fears were realised on 28 June, when Waterhen and the Royal Navy's HMS Defender were attacked on their passage from Tobruk to Alexandria. As Andy wrote:

The bomb dropped from the plane and I knew it was a mortal hit to us. The Skipper swung the ship to port but it was no good … I was laying on my belly and the deck came up and hit me on the nose … they were still firing the guns but she was keeling over every second. They gave the order to abandon ship … Defender gave us a chair and we got on board okay …4

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 30]

After a couple of weeks ashore at Alexandria, Andy joined the destroyer HMAS Nizam. In September, Nizam was attacked while leaving Tobruk. Andy was surprised to have survived. He missed his shipmates from Waterhen, and recalled,

I'm shaking as I write this, you can't imagine the terrific noise and power behind the bomb till you actually see and hear them. I would give the world to have a couple of my old wingers with me.5

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 34]

Andy had friends in HMAS Parramatta, and had requested a transfer to that ship. When news came that Parramatta had been lost in action off Tobruk he mourned for his friend and fellow stoker, Richard "Dicky" Connelly. Having survived many runs to Tobruk, Andy became convinced he had a guardian angel.

Andy appreciated shore leave in Haifa, also visiting nearby Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee.

I went on top of Mt. Carmel; it was a perfect day and the view I had of the town with the blue Med in the background I will always remember. Mt Carmel is the place where they had the feed of the three fishes and the loaves of bread. I never thought that when I was being told that at Sunday school I would ever be sitting on top of that same mountain smoking a cigarette.6

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 36]

A few days later, he wrote,

three more days and Mrs Nation's boy Andy will be 21 and guess where the lucky lad is now; about 60 miles off Tobruk and getting closer every minute.7

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 36]

Nizam survived another run to Tobruk and Andy reached his 21st birthday, receiving a fruit cake in the post from his sister:

Twenty-one today. I've got the key to the door and we are in the harbour; wacko, bully beef for dinner but Joy's cake has arrived so we will dig into that. The wingers made me a fruit salad and sang happy birthday to me …8

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 36]

Andy spent most of 1942 at sea in Nizam, returning to Australia in November:

I can hardly realise that this time tomorrow we will be in Melbourne, I'm getting about with a grin from ear to ear … just fancy, instead of pulling into Alexandria or Port Said or any of a hundred ports, into Melbourne we are going to tie up. I suppose I will feel like rolling in the dirt when we get there.9

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 76]

For the rest of the war, Andy served closer to home, with several stints ashore in New Guinea. On the morning of 15 August 1945, at his camp at Oro Bay, Andy heard the news that the war was over:

it certainly made a man feel happy, one can hardly realise what it actually means, peace at last.10

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 134]

The following month he received further good news:

just cop this lot will you, a wire from home ‘Bill home all well love' … Bill is home at long last and I expect to be home very shortly myself … I can imagine how Mum and the kids must be feeling.11

Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 135]

A couple of months later, Andy was greeted at Geelong train station by Bill. It had been seven years since they last saw each other.

Andy continued to serve in the RAN, and in 1951 he again headed to war, this time in Korea. By now, he was a petty officer serving in the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney. Sydney patrolled off the western coast of Korea, while her Hawker Sea Fury and Fairey Firefly aircraft carried out strikes against North Korean units and supply lines. Throughout the deployment Sydney's crew dealt with extreme weather conditions, which hindered the movements of the aviation crews. Andy felt more assured of the crew's safety in Korea than he had in the Second World War, but several pilots were lost in action.

After Sydney's tour in Korea was complete, Andy discharged from the RAN. In his final diary entry he wrote,

sure hope I can make a go of this civvy life … let's see what the next 12 years bring forth.12

[Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p 211]

Andy went on to work as a diesel mechanic. He retired at the age of 61, and died in Geelong in 1999.

Cotton badge embroidered with a blue anchor and crown

Chief stokers' cloth badge, Second World War. AWM REL28935

Inquiry question:

  • Why might a propeller have been chosen as the symbol for this badge?

Did you know?

A knot is a unit of speed used in maritime activities, air navigation and meteorology. Historically, sailors measured speed using a rope with knots tied at regular intervals. The rope was attached to a triangular piece of wood, which would be lowered into the water at the back (stern) of the vessel, and allowed to drag out for a set amount of time, measured by an hourglass. The number of knots between the ship and piece of wood would then provide an estimate of speed.

One knot = one nautical mile per hour

One nautical mile = 1.82 kilometres

Inquiry question:

  • Why might speed estimates be important for navigation at sea?

Aircraft carriers

Eight aircraft fly above an aircraft carrier at sea

Hawker Sea Fury and Fairey Firefly aircraft fly above HMAS Sydney. AWM 044801

These warships are floating airbases equipped with flight decks that allow aircraft to take-off and be recovered (land). Planes used on aircraft carriers often feature folding wings to save space while they are not in use on deck. The wings are also folded so that the planes can be carried on lifts for storage below deck.

HMAS Albatross was the first seaplane carrier operated by the RAN, from 1929 to 1933.

Inquiry question:

  • Research the role of the RAN in the Korean War. Write a diary entry from Andy's perspective in Sydney. What might have occurred in his daily life?

A sailor's life: Warrant Officer Academic Instructor John "Jack" Aaron OAM

Jack Aaron was excited and nervous as HMAS Perth approached Sydney. It had been a year since he was last home. He spotted his wife, Eileen, eagerly awaiting his arrival with their 15-month-old daughter, Sherrie. They would spend just seven days together before Perth would again sail.

Informal portrait of Jack on deck with New York buildings in the distance.

Portrait of LS QMG John Richard (Jack) Aaron, HMAS Perth II, in New York, 1965. AWM P05575.010

John – known as "Jack" – grew up in the 1940s in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown, where the Yarra River enters Hobsons Bay and Port Phillip. Jack's neighbourhood was full of RAN servicemen. His father had served in the British Merchant Navy in the First World War, and during the Second World War his brother Stan served in the Royal Australian Navy Reserve before joining the RAAF. His other brother Les served in the RAN and the Australian Merchant Navy. At the onset of the Second World War, Williamstown was home to one of Australia's three major naval dockyards. Jack's father worked at the dockyard, and as a child Jack was inspired by the busy maritime environment. He was determined to join the RAN.

In January 1961, Jack joined the navy. During his initial training, Jack became familiar with the high level of discipline required by the navy and encountered the unique language used by seamen, known as "sailor speak". Jack was appointed class leader in his third week of training, and spent the final five weeks honing his knowledge of the navy and gaining skills to survive at sea, fight fires and perform first aid. In April 1961, Jack began specialist, or category training at Her Majesty's Australian Naval Gunnery School at HMAS Cerberus, Crib Point in Victoria. Over six months, he grew to understand the value of mateship, loyalty, trust and resilience, qualities that would prove to be invaluable in his naval career.

Jack's first posting was to the destroyer HMAS Anzac. In September 1961, during shore leave in Sydney, Jack met his future wife, Eileen. Jack and Eileen would spend time together whenever possible. Eileen, who was a talented ballroom dancer, particularly enjoyed taking Jack to the Trocadero Ballroom on George Street on Saturday nights. They were married in December 1962.

Jack joined the destroyer HMAS Voyager in late 1961, which allowed him to visit places such as Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan. Jack has strong recollections of visiting Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and commemorating victims of the nuclear attack on the city that took place in August 1945. During a later deployment, Voyager held a party for children from an orphanage in Karatsu, Japan. Jack volunteered to assist, and he and his shipmates dressed as pirates, much to the delight of the children. Jack took the children for rides in one of the ship's motor boats, games were played, songs were sung, and there was plenty of party food.

The beginning of 1965 was an exciting time for Jack and Eileen. They welcomed their first child, a daughter named Sherrie, in January. The following week, Jack received word that he was selected as crew of the new guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth [II]. The ship was to be commissioned in America; she would be fitted-out with the necessary equipment and tested before being deemed ready for service. While this was a good posting for Jack, it meant that he would be away from his family for nearly a year. In his words,

navy wives, with spouses serving for long periods away, did not have the support mechanisms that are available today … we should remain mindful that all armed services' wives deserve recognition whenever we reflect on the service of their spouses.2

[Jack Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, Grinkle Press, Queanbeyan, 2018, p 104]

Jack and his shipmates trained in America for months before Perth was commissioned in Boston on 17 July 1965. After more trials and exercises, Perth returned to Australia in March 1966.

A group of naval sailors and officers depart a Qantas plane via stairs to the tarmac

Jack and shipmates en route to New York for training prior to the commissioning of Perth, 1965. Rick Reynolds. AWM P05575.009

On 2 September 1967, Perth deployed from Sydney for service in the Vietnam War. Once again, Jack would find it difficult to be separated from Eileen and Sherrie. There was also anxiety about the danger of serving in Vietnam. Before Jack's departure, Eileen received a letter from the captain of Perth, assuring her

all of my officers' efforts are devoted to the safety and wellbeing of our very fine ship and her very fine company.3

[Jack Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, Grinkle Press, Queanbeyan, 2018, p 170]

Perth performed well during her first deployment, initially providing support to land forces in South Vietnam, before being deployed off the coast of North Vietnam in company with the United States Navy. When Perth departed Vietnam in April 1968, she received farewell messages from grateful allies:

Your performance under hostile fire on Operation Sea Dragon and naval gunfire support has been characterised by exceptional leadership and a strong sense of teamwork between your officers and men. We of the US Seventh Fleet are very pleased to have had you with us.4

[Jack Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, Grinkle Press, Queanbeyan, 2018, p 225]

Perth was awarded a United States Navy Unit Commendation.

Jack and Eileen's family grew with the adoption of David in 1970; their daughter, Jodie, was born a year later.

During Jack's later naval career, he served as an academic instructor, developing technical training methods and teaching mathematics and science to naval recruits. He spent over a decade as an academic instructor, and was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for

service to the RAN School of Training Technology in particular and naval training in general.5

[Jack Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, Grinkle Press, Queanbeyan, 2018, p 273]

Jack retired from the RAN in 1984, and remained in the Navy Reserve until his 55th birthday in 1995, when he went to work in the Australian Public Service in Canberra. When Eileen died in 2009, she and Jack had been married for 47 years. Jack remains close to his children and their families. Now retired, Jack supports the work of the HMAS Perth National Association, Vietnam Veterans' Federation and Woden Valley RSL Sub-Branch. He also volunteers at the Australian War Memorial, sharing his experiences as a veteran with school children.

Inquiry question:

  • What questions might you ask a veteran like Jack to learn more about their experiences in the military?

Did you know?

In naval terms, an ensign is a flag flown at the stern of the vessel, generally used to indicate nationality. When the RAN was established in 1911, it adopted the ensign of the British Royal Navy. After the Second World War, there was a desire to express an Australian identity, independent from Britain. With the RAN now involved in the Vietnam War, the issue of the British ensign gained further notice. As Britain was not involved in the conflict, there was concern that Australian ships could be incorrectly identified as British. In 1967, the Australian White Ensign was introduced, featuring the southern cross.

Rectangular white woven cloth patch showing the red, blue and white Union Jack, the 7-pointed Commonwealth Star and the 5 stars of the Southern Cross

Australian White Ensign patch worn by a crewmember aboard HMAS Darwin during the Iraq War, 2003. AWM REL31424

Inquiry question:

  • Imagine you are tasked with designing an ensign for the RAN. What colours and symbols will you use and why? Draw or write your response.

Sailor speak

Sailor speak, also called "jackspeak", is a form of slang used by sailors. A jack is a flag flown on a short staff (pole) at a ship's bow; sailors are sometimes known as "jacks". Sailors often acquired nicknames that would follow them throughout their service career. As Jack Aaron notes,

for some sailors, their given name was a mystery to us and only known, I imagine, to their mum and other members of the family.1

[Jack Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, Grinkle Press, Queanbeyan, 2018, p. 11]

Examples of sailor speak include:

Scran – food

Redders – tomato sauce

Limers – any flavour cordial

Bum nuts – boiled eggs

Yippee beans – baked beans

Fighting gear – knife, fork and spoon

Macca – any chocolate bar

Duff – any dessert with the evening meal

You might recognise these common phrases with maritime origins:

Piping hot – traditionally, food was collected from the ship's galley (kitchen) after a pipe (whistle) was sounded. The expression square meal originates from the square wooden plates used by sailors. The raised edges of the plates were designed to prevent food from falling off with the movement of the ship.

Batten down the hatches – meaning to prepare for trouble. The opening to a ship's deck is called a hatch. To prevent water entering the ship in rough seas, the hatch would be closed and covered with canvas secured with a piece of wood called a batten.

Crack on – meaning to begin or continue a task quickly. A ship would set more sail to increase its speed and cracks could be heard as the sails and sheets (ropes at the lower corner of a sail) were eased.

Inquiry question:

  • What other phrases can you think of that might originate from sailors?

Sailor's tattoos

Tattoos have long held significance for sailors. Swallows denoted sailing experience: according to legend, each swallow represented 5,000 nautical miles of travel. An anchor could indicate that a sailor has crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Crossed cannons often signified naval service.

Sometimes veterans get tattoos to commemorate their military experiences or those they have served with. David is an Afghanistan veteran who served in the RAN and the Australian Army. Among his tattoos is the cartoon character Popeye the sailor man, a nod to his naval service.

Deb joined the RAN in 1980, at a time when women were being integrated into the male-dominated environment. Her tattoos are symbolic:

the flowers represent the fact I was in a man's world. A lot of people get the anchor to represent they're stable. But for me it represents what I've been through ... a very important part of my life ... It was a great life.6

[Deb Absolom, 'Ink in the lines: tattoo stories of our veterans',, accessed 11 April 2022]

"Ever watchful": Rear Admiral Mark Campbell AM CSC RAN

As the Wessex helicopter ascended from the Naval Air Station HMAS Albatross in Nowra, the sound of its spinning rotor blades cut through the air. Midshipman Mark Campbell had always wanted to fly. Now, after a childhood of reading about military history, he was finally in the air.

Mark was born in Gunnedah, New South Wales, the oldest of five siblings. He grew up in Moree, Kempsey, and Newcastle. Mark applied to join the RAAF and the RAN when he finished high school in 1978. The first service to respond was the RAN, and Mark eagerly accepted. Forty-five minutes later a telegram arrived with another offer from the RAAF, but Mark's future in navy aviation was set.

After failing a pilots course at RAAF Base Point Cook, Mark trained as an observer and anti-submarine tactical coordinator, known as a TACCO. During operational flying, the pilot maintains the safety and movement of the aircraft, while the TACCO is responsible for achieving the mission – in Mark's words "getting the job done". The pilot sits in the right seat of the helicopter's cockpit, while the TACCO sits in the left seat, navigating, communicating, and handling the tactical functions of the aircraft. The TACCO receives training as a co-pilot, undertaking basic landing practice so that the TACCO can land the helicopter in case of pilot incapacitation.

Mark sits in a helicopter cockpit wearing a flight suit and helmet

Rear Admiral Mark Campbell AM CSC RAN aboard a Seahawk helicopter, 2015. Image courtesy of the Department of Defence 20150320ran8119365_019

During his early career, Mark was selected to serve on exchange with the British Royal Navy. He spent three years training and on deployment in British aircraft carriers, flying anti-submarine Sea King helicopters during the Cold War. Mark recalls the variety of tasks they undertook:

In the one deployment in 1988, we chased Russian nuclear submarines in the North Atlantic, hunted patrol boats in the fjords of Norway, chased drug smugglers in the Bahamas and then I joined with my family for a holiday at Disneyland in Orlando, Florida. All of it was fascinating, professionally rewarding and most enjoyable.1

[Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022]

Mark and his family returned to Australia in June 1990, and he was posted to a shore job which allowed him to spend more time with his wife Sally and three sons. However, Mark's time ashore was to be short-lived. In August 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Iraq's neighbour Kuwait in an effort to control its valuable oil supply. The invasion and occupation of Kuwait was condemned by the United Nations Security Council, which imposed economic and military sanctions on Iraq. Australia joined a coalition force, led by the United States, to drive the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait. In preparation for deployment, Mark was sent for training on the RAN's latest helicopter, the Sikorsky Seahawk. Under normal circumstances, Mark would have six to 12 months to gain proficiency; he was given six weeks.

Australia deployed the frigates HMA Ships Darwin and Adelaide, and the oiler Success to the Gulf of Oman, arriving in September 1990. In November, Mark deployed with the second task group aboard HMAS Sydney. His younger brother, Joseph, was serving in HMAS Brisbane, and their mother was anxious about her sons' safety. Arriving in the Persian Gulf in December, Mark began operations as part of the aircraft carrier USS Midway battlegroup. He recalled that

going to war for my country was a proud (and scary) moment and was the culmination of an enormous amount of training and hard work.2

[Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022]

Although it was challenging to leave his family,

the fact that I was doing my job, the job that I'd been trained for, the job I joined the navy for … it was good from that perspective.3

[Interview with Mark Campbell, 2017. AWM2017.12.56]

Mark took part in searches for floating mines, so that they could be safely detonated by clearance divers and no longer endanger ships, and watched for incoming enemy fast patrol boats. Helicopter crews would fly for approximately two-and-a-half hours before returning to the ship. Despite general confidence in the safety afforded by the coalition force, Mark experienced danger and fear. On one occasion a flight of armed Iraqi Mirage aircraft approached his ship's position. An announcement was made that all hands must go to action stations – the positions people take in preparation for and during battle. Mark recalled that the mood of the crew was sombre and that, despite the underlying fear, there was a sense of determination. The Mirages were attacked by Hornets from one of the aircraft carriers and turned back. Little sleep was had that night.

Not all aspects of the job were daunting. The helicopter crews assisted with the transfer of personnel between coalition vessels and conducted tasks such as collecting and delivering mail, newspapers and fresh milk, which would be winched down to ships. Mail was always happily received, as letters were the main form of communication with loved ones. Mark asked his wife to number her letters, so that he would know if they arrived out of sequence. Family members in Australia could also record messages, which were played over the ship's public address system each day.

Inquiry question:

  • Imagine your family member was serving overseas. What would you write to them and what would you like to hear back? In what ways might families and friends communicate with their loved ones on deployment today?

In February 1991, the United States declared that Kuwait was liberated and announced a ceasefire. Approximately 1,800 Australians had served in the war, the majority of them members of the RAN. Australia did not suffer any loss of life, though there were losses in the coalition force. Australians continued to assist with enforcing sanctions and humanitarian relief.

Following his deployment to the Gulf War, Mark returned home for six months before being sent to the Red Sea with Darwin to assist with further United Nations operations. When he finally returned to Australia he was able to spend time reconnecting with this family.

Mark's career progressed into leadership positions, and he commanded the RAN Fleet Air Arm's 816 Squadron from 1999 to 2000. He later led units responsible for the acquisition and management of military equipment, including helicopters. In 2012 he was appointed Head of Navy Capability. Reflecting on the qualities that make an effective leader in the RAN, Mark said

flexibility, patience, being ready to learn every day, integrity, honesty, and an ability to build relationships.5

[Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022]

Mark retired from the RAN in 2015, after 36 years of service. He remains active in the Navy Reserve, and volunteers at the Australian War Memorial, where he shares his experiences with school children at School Wreath Laying Ceremonies:

I like them to understand how enjoyable my ADF service was, how professionally rewarding and satisfying it was (is still!), and the satisfaction of serving my country in that manner. I find Australian children very quick and perceptive and if you are not genuine and heartfelt, you will get found out quick smart! 6

[Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022]

Mark believes that

history is a wonderful way of knowing the future. Reading a story, doing a project of a campaign, writing about a ship or person from the past are all good ways of learning and commemorating RAN service.7

[Interview with Mark Campbell, 2017. AWM2017.12.56]

Crossing the line ceremony

This ancient maritime tradition marks the crossing of the equator by sea. Those who have never "crossed the line" are referred to as "pollywogs" or "tadpoles". They are inducted into the realm of King Neptune (often played by a senior chief petty officer), through a series of activities including being dumped in sea water. Once they have been found worthy of the "Ancient Order of the Deep", the inductees are deemed "shellbacks".

Shirtless man on the deck of a ship at sea dressed in shorts, long wig, long beard and a crown, holding a trident in his left hand, while holding the hand of another man dressed as a queen

Two unidentified sailors dressed as King Neptune and the goddess Amphitrite coming aboard the destroyer HMAS Yarra in a traditional line-crossing ceremony, about 1917. AWM EN0380

Did you know?

Chaff – also known as Window – is a countermeasure used to distract or confuse radar systems. Thin strips of aluminium are dispensed from aircraft and form clouds which appear as separate targets to missile radars, masking the presence of real targets. During a reconnaissance operation in the Gulf War, Mark used chaff as a safety measure against the threat of Iraqi missiles. He noted,

the thermal signature of a Seahawk is just brilliant from the back of the aircraft, it says to all heat-seeking missiles ‘please come here and explode' – so I was very mindful of that.4

[Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022]

Bundle of strips of silver foil

Pile of aluminium chaff, also known as 'window'. AWM REL25141

HMAS Albatross and the RAN Fleet Air Arm

The RAN began air operations at RAAF Base Nowra in October 1944. In July 1947, the formation of the RAN Fleet Air Arm was approved, and two aircraft carriers were acquired from the Royal Navy. Albatross was commissioned as the RAN's main air shore base in 1948, on the former site of RAAF Nowra, and has expanded to support five naval squadrons providing air support to the fleet.

Mark notes that air crew are part of the team that makes up a ship's crew,

it's made very clear as soon as you join the navy, you are a naval officer first and an aviator second.8

[Interview with Mark Campbell, 2017. AWM2017.12.56]

Mark considers the unique capabilities of navy aviation:

There is always additional danger of your "home" not being where they planned to be when you return to your ship. Trying to land a large ten-ton helicopter in half a tennis court requires unique skill, and the missions are always interesting and very real. There is always something different on offer, naval aviation is a unique band of highly trained and professional aviators, committed to achieving their goal.9

[Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022]

Felt pennant with HMAS Albatross badge that reads HMAS Albatross

Albatross badge. Courtesy of the Department of Defence. AWM REL36721

Inquiry questions:

  • Identify symbols on the Albatross badge. What might they represent?
  • Research the role of the RAN Fleet Air Arm. What do you think is the meaning of the motto "Ever watchful"?

"Family away from family": Leading Seaman Kaylin Coleman

Able Seaman Kaylin Coleman held the framed photograph of her HMAS Warramunga shipmates and smiled. It reminded her of the challenges and adventures they had shared.

Kaylin was born in Kalgoorlie-Boulder in the goldfields region of Western Australia. A proud Kaparn woman whose language is Kalamia, Kaylin always wanted to join the army or the navy, keen to travel and experience adventure. After high school, 18-year-old Kaylin was working in Sydney as a dental assistant when she decided to join the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Kaylin in DPNU uniform holding binoculars aboard HMAS Warramunga

Kaylin Colman aboard Warramunga, 2018. Image courtesy of the Department of Defence 20180626ran8566787_012

Kaylin took part in the Indigenous Pre-Recruit Program, a six-week course that aims to build the confidence, fitness and resilience of participants before they join the ADF. After finishing the program, she decided the RAN was the best fit for her, and began training at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria:

During the eight-week course, all they did was train you physically and mentally to "get you into the game" … the requirement for women to get in is something like ten push-ups, 25 sit-ups and a 2.5 km run, so they help you work your fitness level up to that.1

[Kaylin Coleman in Christy Taylor, "Young woman embraces life in the navy", Kalgoorlie Miner, 30 April 2019, young-woman-embraces-life-in-the-navy-ngb88815049z, accessed 3 May 2022.]

Recruits were expected to work hard, seven days a week, showing commitment and valuing teamwork. Kaylin was encouraged by her family, who told her she could achieve anything if she was dedicated and believed in herself. Her extended family travelled to Victoria to attend her graduation from Cerberus, and were proud of the confidence she gained through the training. She was the first Aboriginal woman from the goldfields known to have joined the RAN.

After further training, Kaylin spent several years serving in HMAS Adelaide, as part of the Sea, Fire and Emergency Rescue party. In 2017, she joined Warramunga and was deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Manitou, contributing to international security initiatives. Kaylin's duties included driving the ship, going on lookout, ship maintenance and rope work. She was also a member of boarding parties that carried out operations on vessels suspected of carrying illegal contraband, including drugs. During their deployment, Warramunga's crew intercepted $2.17 billion of illegal drugs.

During her nine-month deployment, Kaylin visited the United Arab Emirates, India, and Africa, which she particularly enjoyed:

we got to interact with the local people there, and attend a safari in Tanzania. It was such a humbling experience.2

[Correspondence with Kaylin Coleman, 2019.]

On her return from the Middle East, Kaylin's family travelled long distances to welcome her home to Perth. Although she missed her family while deployed, Kaylin made lifelong friends, and treasures a framed photograph of the Warramunga crew, whom she describes as

family away from family.3

[Correspondence with Kaylin Coleman, 2019.]

Kaylin now holds the rank of leading seaman, and is serving in Adelaide, one of the largest ships built for the RAN, which can transport and deploy military forces and supporting equipment, including aircraft. As a quartermaster on the bridge, Kaylin is responsible for the safe operation of the bridge and supervision of bridge personnel under the officer of the watch. She is proud to represent her community:

being able to serve my country, protect my friends and family, and be a role model to youth, especially Indigenous youth, is something that motivates me daily.4

[Kaylin Coleman in Christy Taylor, "Young woman embraces life in the navy".]

Inquiry question:

  • Kaylin is reunited with her family in 2018. How do you think Kaylin felt when she saw her family?

The name of the vessel comes from the Warumungu people from the Tennant Creek area in the Northern Territory. The ship's badge depicts a fearsome Warumungu tribesman about to throw a boomerang, with the motto "Courage in Difficulties" honouring the Warumungu tribe's life of courage in their harsh environment.

Inquiry question:

  • Look through the earlier stories in this book. How has the sailors' uniform changed? Why might it have evolved?

Encouraging others: Warrant Officer of the Navy Deb Butterworth OAM CSM and Bar

When Warrant Officer Deb Butterworth was presented with her promotion certificate, she thought about her experiences in the navy, and those people she had served with over the years. She has since continued to encourage and support other sailors as Warrant Officer of the Navy.

Informal portrait of Deb in uniform, at the Australian War Memorial

Deb Butterworth at the Australian War Memorial, 2021. Image courtesy of the Department of Defence 20210428ran8107930_0173

In Deb's last year of high school, she considered joining the navy:

I was interested in travel and thought that the navy would be able to make this happen with the opportunities they offer.1

[Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.]

Deb enlisted in the RAN as a stores naval sailor in 1989. This was a period of transformation, with the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) only recently being integrated into the RAN. Until this point, female personnel had generally been restricted to working in shore establishments; Deb was part of the first generation of women to serve at sea.

Deb's first sea posting was to HMAS Jervis Bay, a training ship that most often steamed to nearby countries such as New Zealand. She loved being at sea, despite suffering from seasickness. In December 1992, the crew of Jervis Bay were informed that they were being deployed to Somalia as part of Operation Solace, the ADF's contribution to the United Nations-sanctioned Unified Task Force, which conducted humanitarian operations in Somalia to address civil unrest and famine. There was much work to be done to prepare the ship in the five days prior to the scheduled sailing. On passage across the Indian Ocean to Africa, the crew were able to continue their training for this mission. Although there were challenges in deploying at short notice, Deb enjoyed the work-up training.

Following two deployments to Somalia, Deb was posted to HMAS Success –a replenishment ship. Her desire to be at sea remained strong:

this seagoing addiction has driven my career; as soon as I would be posted ashore I would contact the poster and nag them to get me back to sea.2

[Deb Butterworth in Tony White (ed.), Winning at Sea – The Story of Women in the RAN, Royal Australian Navy, 2013, p 98]

In 2003 and 2005, Deb served in HMAS Newcastle as part of Australian operations in Iraq. She was awarded a Conspicuous Service Medal for her service in Newcastle. She also served in Timor-Leste, helping to restore stability to the newly-independent country. Deb recalls these experiences:

My most memorable deployments have been when you can see that you are making a difference. I feel that what I do makes a difference, and this is why I am proud of my two deployments to Timor-Leste during Operation Astute … On my first deployment to Timor-Leste, I received a UN beret. The blue UN beret is worn by members of the UN peacekeeping force, and is a symbol of peace and goodwill. It's something that gives me immense pride and reminds me of the support and hard work that myself and good friends were able to offer.3

[Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022]

Deb was promoted to warrant officer in 2007, and worked in logistics leadership positions. She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for meritorious service in these roles. Deb was appointed as the Warrant Officer of the Navy in 2019. The first woman to hold the position, Deb is the most senior ranking sailor in the RAN and has command over all other sailors in the navy.

Deb's main role is to provide advice and support while representing the views and concerns of sailors to the Chief of Navy. When Deb assumed the role, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan AO RAN said,

Deb's significant experience will provide me, my senior leadership team and our workforce with innovative ideas, a fresh perspective and the passion to support our people.4

[Michael Noonan in Dave Devlin, "Newest senior sailor excited about the future", people/newest-senior-sailor-excited-about-future, accessed 4 May 2022]

Deb's leadership skills have developed over the course of her career, as she reflected:

The qualities of a good leader have been instilled in us sailors since joining the Defence Force; service, courage, respect, integrity and excellence. I would also add that self-awareness and an ability to listen and encourage others also goes a long way.5

[Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022]

The navy has evolved since Deb joined in 1989. As she said,

your background and experiences are openly celebrated, and you are welcomed and respected as a navy member with the same opportunities to advance.6

[Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022]

She is proud of those she has served with, and of being

a small part of growing their successful careers.7

[Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022]

Peacekeeping and humanitarian support

Many Australians have served on peacekeeping operations since 1947, including military personnel, police officers and civilians. These multinational efforts are complex and often dangerous. Each mission is different, and can involve monitoring ceasefires and elections, providing medical assistance, helping with disarmament and reconstruction, or promoting development.

Some peacekeeping missions have been administered by the United Nations, while others are led by countries or organisations. United Nations peacekeepers can be identified by their blue berets, hat or helmets.

In addition to peacekeeping operations, the RAN has provided humanitarian support in Australia and abroad for decades. Following natural disasters and conflict, the RAN has delivered food, water and equipment, assisted with rescue operations and helped to rebuild communities.

Light blue woollen beret with black band and white and gold enamelled United Nations badge

United Nations beret of Captain Ian Bottrell who served in 8 Construction Troop, 17 Construction Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers with the 2nd Australian contingent to the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia from 1989 to 1990. AWM REL/21240.003

Inquiry questions:

  • Why might the UN have chosen blue for the colour of the berets?
  • What symbols can you identify on the UN badge?
Watercolour sketch of two ships at sea connected by ropes and hoses

Frank Norton, HMS Ocean refuelling from the tanker (1952, watercolour, pen and ink on grey paper, 31.1 x 42.5 cm) AWM ART40038

Inquiry question:

A replenishment at sea involves fuel being transferred from a tanker to a ship through a hose. People and supplies are also delivered via a wire cable system known as a jackstay transfer.

  • Why might ships sometimes be replenished at sea, rather than returning to shore?

Did you know?

A rating is an enlisted junior sailor. Warrant officer, petty officer and leading seaman are non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranks. NCOs have an important role in training and supervising ratings in the navy, and carry out orders from commissioned officers.

Two women lay a floral wreath at the base of the pool of reflection, Australian War Memorial

Deb Butterworth looks on as ACT President of the Naval Women's Association Pauline Gribble and former WRAN Merle Hay lay a wreath at the Memorial. Image courtesy of the Department of Defence 20210428ran8107930_0109

The 80th anniversary of the WRANS was commemorated in April 2021. Deb visited the Australian War Memorial and met with WRANS veterans.

Deb believes Australians should be proud of those who have served, and those who are serving:

Every person who joins the military in Australia is a volunteer to serve their country and protect the security and prosperity of our nation … On Anzac Day and Remembrance Day we gather to remember and commemorate all those past and present who have served or have paid the ultimate sacrifice in war or on operational service. If you can attend or participate in a service, or march in your local town, the veterans and their families will appreciate the support you show.8

[Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.]

Inquiry question:

  • What does your community do on days of remembrance?

Notes on the navy

The Fleet

Many types of ships and watercraft are used by the RAN. They have different roles in the fleet, from smaller landing craft that allow troops and equipment to be delivered to areas with no fixed port facilities, to large ships that can carry many passengers, small boats, vehicles, and ammunition. The navy also operates helicopters that can land on flight decks on various ships of the fleet, undertaking tasks including anti-submarine warfare, transportation of people and supplies, as well as search and rescue operations.


Watercolour painting of a helicopter with labels identifying key features

As helicopter rotor blades rotate, they generate a lift force. The tail rotor counteracts the force of the main rotor, stopping the helicopter from spinning in circles. During flights, the horizontal stabiliser pushes the tail down, preventing the nose of the helicopter tilting downwards. The undercarriage of a helicopter differs between aircraft types. The two main types of landing gear are wheels or skids. The cockpit is where the pilot and co-pilot operate the aircraft.


Watercolour painting of a submarine with labels identifying key features

Submarines typically spend months at sea, travelling underwater. The fin extends from the top surface of the submarine (known as the dorsal side), and acts as a vertical stabiliser while the submarine is underwater. Sensors and periscopes are often fitted to the fin. The bridge is an open platform which can be used for observation while the submarine is surfaced. Hydroplanes are used to control the vertical movements of the submarine while underwater. The propeller, located at the stern of the submarine, drives the vessel through the water. Collins Class submarines have a crew of 38 sailors, and ten officers.


Watercolour painting of a ship with labels identifying key features

A mast is a tall pole which extends from the centre of a ship. Traditionally, a mast carries sails, however contemporary warships maintain masts as mounts for communication antennas and radar devices. Ships are commanded from the bridge, where senior officers pass instructions to stations throughout the ship. The hull is the watertight body of the ship, which accommodates crew, machinery and cargo. The hull is covered by the deck. Some ships have a flight deck where aircraft can land. The Australian White Ensign is flown from the ensign staff (pole) of most RAN ships while alongside or at anchor, and from the mast while at sea.

Inquiry question:

The stories in this book are about people who have served in different roles in the RAN – at sea, in the air and ashore. Some of them served more than 100 years ago, while others continue to serve today.

  • What similarities and differences can you identify in their experiences, and the ships that they served in?


Sailors' uniforms

The uniforms of the RAN have evolved from traditions of the British Royal Navy. In 2008, the disruptive pattern navy uniform (DPNU) was introduced for everyday use, a practical option compared to the traditional sailors' uniform which is now reserved for ceremonial purposes. Many officers also wear the DPNU for everyday duties.

A white front is a shirt with a square neck traditionally worn by sailors.

A tally band is a black ribbon which is tied to a sailors' white cap. It is usually embroidered with the name of the ship that the sailor is serving in. During the Second World War, many ribbons bore only the letters "HMAS" or "RAN" for security reasons.

The blue jean collar is divided into three sections. The two outer sections come together in a V at the front, while the square section sits at the back. The collar was traditionally used to avoid staining the uniform beneath it, as some sailors would plait and tar their long hair. The collar can be easily removed for cleaning. A white rope lanyard is also worn, as historically a bosun's pipe (whistle) would have been suspended from the lanyard for practical purposes. A strip of black silk harks back to a time when sailors used black headscarves to absorb sweat. The white front shirt is worn underneath a white serge jumper.

RAN female sailors in summer ceremonial dress

RAN sailors in ceremonial dress, 2021. Marcus Fillinger, AWM2021.4.94.3

Flag semaphore

Semaphore is one of the visual signalling devices used by the navy to communicate between ships. Sailors of the signals category would hold coloured square flags in the various positions of the semaphore alphabet to communicate. Signal lamps were also used to flash messages, generally using Morse code, with messages being brief and to the point. Flag semaphore was phased out of official use in the RAN in 2005, though it is still used as an emergency form of communication.

Drawing showing 3 figures holding red and yellow flags at 3 different positions representing letters R, A and N

Examples from the flag semaphore alphabet

Inquiry question:

Research the rest of the alphabet and practice sending messages with a partner.


A sailor operating a signal lamp aboa HMAS Duchess.

HMAS Duchess, 1965. Bevin Royce Stringer, AWM NAVY09244

Ships operate 24 hours a day, with crews split into teams to alternate between working and resting. The day is separated into four-hour shifts, called watches:

First watch – 2000 hrs (8 pm) to 2400 hrs (midnight)

Middle watch – 2400 hrs to 0400 hrs (4 am)

Morning watch – 0400 hrs to 0800 hrs (8 am)

Forenoon watch – 0800 hrs to 1200 hrs (midday)

Afternoon watch – 1200 hrs to 1600 hrs (4 pm)

The dog watches split a four-hour watch period in two, so that there are an odd number of shifts in the day, with teams rotating middle watch during the week. If there are only two teams, both eat a meal at a traditional time because of the dog watches.

First dog watch – 1600 hrs (4 pm) to 1800 hrs (6 pm)

Last dog watch – 1800 hrs to 2000 hrs (8 pm)

Edward "Teddy" Sheean VC

Ordinary Seaman Edward "Teddy" Sheean was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia on 1 December 2020

for the most conspicuous gallantry and a pre-eminent act of valour in the presence of the enemy during a Japanese aerial attack on HMAS Armidale in the Timor Sea on 1 December 1942.1

Teddy was "one of the youngest and most junior ranked"2 members in Armidale's company when it came under attack during the Second World War. As the ship began to sink, Teddy helped to free a life raft before ignoring orders to abandon ship and strapping himself into the ship's anti-aircraft gun. He shot down one aircraft and damaged two others, distracting the Japanese from firing upon his shipmates in the water. Despite being wounded, Teddy continued to fire as Armidale sank, sacrificing his life to save others. He was 18 years old.

After his death, Teddy's family cherished his last letter to his mother, Mary, in which he wrote,

I don't think you need be frightened of any of us not coming back as I don't think I'll ever get there … well Mum I must say cheerio and best wishes for the present. From your loving son Ted.3



1 Australian War Memorial, "The Royal Australian Navy fleet entry of 1913", navy-fleet-entry-1913, accessed 25 May 2022.

"They shall grow not old": Able Seaman Jack Jarman

1 Charles Suckling, in Australian War Memorial "Stolen Years: Australian prisoners of war", visit/exhibitions/stolenyears/ww1/turkey, accessed 3 March 2022.

"Good influence among his fellows": Captain Hector "Hec" Waller DSO and Bar RAN

1 Correspondence with David Waller, 2022.

Twelve years in the navy: Petty Officer Stoker Andrew "Andy" Nation

1 Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006, p. 14.

2 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 27.

3 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 20.

4 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 30.

5 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 34.

6 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 36.

7 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 36.

8 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 36.

9 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 76.

10 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 134.

11 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 135.

12 Nation, A Stoker's Journey, p. 211.

A sailor's life: Warrant Officer Academic Instructor John "Jack" Aaron OAM

1 Jack Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, Grinkle Press, Queanbeyan, 2018, p. 11.

2 Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, p. 104.

3 Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, p. 170.

4 Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, p. 225.

5 Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir, p. 273.

6 Deb Absolom, "Ink in the lines: tattoo stories of our veterans",, accessed 11 April 2022.

"Ever watchful": Rear Admiral Mark Campbell AM CSC RAN

1 Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022.

2 Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022.

3 Interview with Mark Campbell, 2017. AWM2017.12.56.

4 Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022.

5 Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022.

6 Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022.

7 Interview with Mark Campbell, 2017. AWM2017.12.56.

8 Interview with Mark Campbell, 2017. AWM2017.12.56.

9 Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022.

"Family away from family": Leading Seaman Kaylin Coleman

1 Kaylin Coleman in Christy Taylor, "Young woman embraces life in the navy", Kalgoorlie Miner, 30 April 2019, young-woman-embraces-life-in-the-navy-ngb88815049z, accessed 3 May 2022.

2 Correspondence with Kaylin Coleman, 2019.

3 Correspondence with Kaylin Coleman, 2019.

4 Kaylin Coleman in Christy Taylor, "Young woman embraces life in the navy".

Encouraging others: Warrant Officer of the Navy Deb Butterworth OAM CSM and Bar

1 Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.

2 Deb Butterworth in Tony White (ed.), Winning at Sea – The Story of Women in the RAN, Royal Australian Navy, 2013, p. 98.

3 Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.

4 Michael Noonan in Dave Devlin, "Newest senior sailor excited about the future", people/newest-senior-sailor-excited-about-future, accessed 4 May 2022.

5 Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.

6 Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.

7 Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.

8 Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.

Inside back cover

1 Commonwealth of Australia, "Government Gazette, Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean Victoria Cross for Australia citation", files/2020-12/VC%20-%20SHEEAN%20Edward%20 Teddy%20-%20Gazette%20notice.PDF, accessed 6 May 2022.

2 Commonwealth of Australia, Government Gazette, "Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean Victoria Cross for Australia citation".

3 Letter from Edward


Father of the Royal Australian Navy: Vice Admiral Sir William Creswell KCMG KBE

Australian Dictionary of Biography, "Creswell, Sir William Rooke (1852–1933)", william-rooke-5817, accessed 23 March 2022.

Department of Defence, "Centenary of the Royal Assent of the Australian Navy",, accessed 23 March 2022.

David Stevens (ed.), The Royal Australian Navy – A History, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2001, p. 1–27.

Navy Historical Society of Australia, "William Creswell – What Maketh the Man",, accessed 23 March 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Tingira",, accessed 23 March 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "The Great White Fleet's 1908 visit to Australia",'s-1908-visit-australia, accessed 23 March 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "Vice Admiral Sir William Rooke Creswell",, accessed 23 March 2022.

"They shall grow not old": Able Seaman Jack Jarman

Andrew Greene, "Life on board a crowded Collins-class submarine 100 metres below the surface",, accessed 3 March 2022.

Australian National Maritime Museum, "Finding AE1",, accessed 3 March 2022.

National Archives of Australia, "Discovering Anzacs: Jack Jarman service number 1138",, accessed 4 March 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS AE1",, accessed 3 March 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS AE2",, accessed 3 March 2022.

Exceeding expectations: Second Officer Marion Stevens

Interview with Marion Stevens, 1989. AWM S00547.

The Australian Women's Register, "Stevens, Marion (1920–2015)",, accessed 22 February 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Harman",, accessed 22 February 2022.

"Good influence among his fellows": Captain Hector "Hec" Waller DSO and Bar RAN

"A Benalla Boy Honoured", Benalla Standard, 22 January 1918, p.4:, accessed 2 May 2022.

Australian War Memorial, "Last Post Ceremony – Captain Hector Waller",, accessed 2 May 2022.

Claire Hunter, Australian War Memorial, "I promised I'd be strong and brave",, accessed 2 May 2022.

JVP Goldrick, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, "Waller, Hector Macdonald (Hec) (1900-1942)",, accessed 2 May 2022.

Robyn Siers, M is for Mates, Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2009.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Yarra",, accessed 2 May 2022.

"Weddings: Waller-Bowes", The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 May 1923, p. 9:, accessed 2 May 2022.

Twelve years in the navy: Petty Officer Stoker Andrew "Andy" Nation

Andrew Nation, Daryl Nation (ed.), A Stoker's Journey, Slouch Hat Publications, Rosebud, 2006.

Diary of Andrew Robert Nation, 1940 to 1952. AWM PR00186.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, "knot: measurement",, accessed 12 May 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Nizam",, accessed 12 May 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Sydney [III]",, accessed 12 May 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Waterhen [I]",, accessed 12 May 2022.

A sailor's life: Warrant Officer Academic Instructor John "Jack" Aaron OAM

Correspondence with Jack Aaron, 2022. Department of Defence, "Uncovering a hairy history",, accessed 11 March 2022.

Jack Aaron, Gunsmoke to Chalkdust: A Sailor's Memoir,

Grinkle Press, Queanbeyan, 2018. Royal Australian Navy, "Australian White Ensign",, accessed 11 April 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Perth [II]",, accessed 11 April 2022.

Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, "Jackspeak – Naval Slang",, accessed 11 April 2022.

"Ever watchful": Rear Admiral Mark Campbell AM CSC RAN

Correspondence with Mark Campbell, 2022.

Interview with Mark Campbell, 2017. AWM2017.12.56.

Royal Australian Navy, "Crossing the line ceremony",, accessed 15 March 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Albatross",, accessed 15 March 2022.

The Australia Naval Aviation Museum, Flying Stations – A story of Australian Navy Aviation, Allen and Urwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 266– 271.

"Family away from family": Leading Seaman Kaylin Coleman

Australian War Memorial, "Kaylin Coleman",, accessed 3 May 2022.

Gary McHugh, "Sailor still calls Kalgoorlie home", Navy Daily, 11 July 2018, accessed 3 May 2022.

Kaylin Coleman in Christy Taylor, "Young woman embraces life in the navy", Kalgoorlie Miner, 30 April 2019,, accessed 3 May 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Adelaide [III]",, accessed 3 May 2022.

Encouraging others: Warrant Officer of the Navy Deb Butterworth OAM CSM and Bar

Correspondence with Deb Butterworth, 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "HMAS Jervis Bay [I],, accessed 4 May 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "Operation Solace – RAN relief to Somalia 1993",, accessed 4 May 2022.

Royal Australian Navy, "Warrant Officer Deb Butterworth",, accessed 4 May 2022.

Tony White (ed.), Winning at Sea – The Story of Women in the RAN, Royal Australian Navy, 2013, p. 98.


Australian War Memorial

Department of Veterans' Affairs

National Archives of Australia

National Library of Australia

Royal Australian Navy


© Commonwealth of Australia 2022

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Permission is given by the Commonwealth for this publication to be copied royalty free within Australia solely for educational purposes. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced for commercial purposes.

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To the best of DVA’s knowledge, copyright permission has been obtained for any non-Commonwealth material used in this book and for the use of such material for educational purposes. The Commonwealth shall not be responsible for any actions resulting from any errors or omissions contained in this book. If you believe there has been an error or omission in any of the material, please contact DVA at

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