28 February 2018
Australia’s shared wartime history with Indonesia will be remembered on 28 February with a solemn ceremony marking a maritime tragedy.
On 1 March 1942, the cruiser HMAS Perth I, in company with USS Houston, confronted a large Japanese Naval taskforce at the entrance to the Sunda Strait. 353 men were killed during the action or went down with Perth I when she sank, 328 crew members survived only to be captured and spend the rest of the war in Prisoner of War camps. USS Houston was sunk shortly after.
76 years on, the Royal Australian Navy Patrol Boat HMAS Larrakia will hold a memorial service over each site – Australian Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires Allaster Cox and US Embassy’s Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Erin McKee -- will lay wreaths to honor those who fought and those who lost their lives and now lie in the wrecks of their ships on the ocean floor.
Australian Embassy’s Allaster Cox said that despite the passing of time, the story of HMAS Perth I remains a strong historical maritime connection between Australia and Indonesia.
“The remains of 353 Australians lie at the bottom of the sea in the Sunda Strait. Australia is most grateful to Indonesian authorities for their assistance in helping to preserve this site,” Mr Cox said.
His sentiments were echoed by Erin McKee, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, who noted, “It is our hope that people don’t just see these two ships as strictly U.S. or Australian heritage, but instead see their story and the sacrifice these sailors made as a part of the history of Indonesia.”
“Our hope is that this historic bond will soon be recognised with the declaration of a Maritime Conservation Zone to protect the wreck,” added Mr Cox.
This year’s ceremony will be particularly special for George Hatfield Junior, who lost his father when the HMAS Perth sank. This year George Junior will be onboard Larrakia to take part in the commemoration. This year also marks the passing of a Perth I survivor, David Manning, who died last month at the age of 95.