A memorial was today held for HMAS Yarra, commemorating 71 years since the ship was lost.
Held in Newport, Victoria, the memorial was a poignant reminder of the lives lost in the service of our nation.
Speaking at the memorial was the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator the Hon David Feeney.
“While the loss of so many lives on that bright and clear morning in March 1942 was tragic, the story of the gallantry of those who served in HMAS Yarra has since been remembered as one of the proudest chapters in our naval history,” Senator Feeney said.
The memorial followed last Friday’s announcement of a Unit Citation for Gallantry for HMAS Yarra, for her actions on 5 February and 4 March 1942.
“It was a rare privilege of mine to award a Unit Citation for Gallantry and I believe it is a fitting way to recognise the bravery of these men who fought against overwhelming odds, which is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Royal Australian Navy,” Senator Feeney said.
The Ode was delivered by the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs.
On 5 February HMAS Yarra was escorting a convoy about to enter Singapore Harbour when it was attacked by Japanese aircraft and subjected to intensive dive-bombing. One of the convoy ships, the troop transport Empress of Asia, was severely damaged and sinking. Despite the risk from the attacking aircraft and explosions in the doomed troopship, the Commanding Officer, Commander Wilfred Hastings Harrington, took Yarra alongside the Empress of Asia and rescued 1804 men directly from the ship and from lifeboats already in the water.
On 4 March Yarra and her convoy of three merchant vessels were returning to Fremantle when three Japanese heavy cruisers and two destroyers were spotted. Each of these ships was superior to Yarra in strength and speed.
Without concern for their own safety, Yarra’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Robert William Rankin, manoeuvred the ship between the enemy and the convoy, made smoke to screen the convoy and closed to engage.
Yarra was struck by heavy enemy shellfire, badly damaged and set on fire yet continued to engage the enemy. When it was obvious the ship was about to sink, the order to abandon ship was given. Despite this order the last remaining gun crew continued to engage the enemy until silenced by direct fire.
From a ship’s company of 151 men there were only 13 survivors.
Jeffrey von Drehnen: 0477 348 476
A copy of Senator Feeney’s speech is available at: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2013/03/03/parliamentary-secretary-for-defence-speech-hmas-yarra-memorial-service/