Australia — 70th Anniversary of the Loss of HMAS Yarra II

Mem­bers of the Roy­al Aus­tralian Navy paused this week­end to mark the 70th anniver­sary of one of Australia’s most trag­ic naval loss­es of World War II.

On 4 March 1942, HMAS Yarra II was escort­ing a small con­voy from Java to Aus­tralia when a supe­ri­or force of Japan­ese war­ships came into view. The Aus­tralian sloop brave­ly turned towards the ene­my to defend her charges, but was mor­tal­ly out gunned. 138 Aus­tralian sailors died mak­ing a final stand under the com­mand of Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Robert W. Rankin. This act of courage has since drawn nation­al admi­ra­tion and praise. 

Yarra had a crew of 151 men of whom only 13 sur­vived. They spent five days in a life raft before being res­cued by a Dutch submarine. 

On Sun­day, mem­bers of the cur­rent HMAS Yarra (IV) attend­ed a solemn cer­e­mo­ny in New­port, Mel­bourne, to remem­ber those who lost their lives. Chief of Navy, Vice Admi­ral Ray Grig­gs, AM, CSC, RAN also attend­ed along with the sole sur­viv­ing wit­ness to that day, Mr Bernard Hig­gins. Now 88, Mr. Hig­gins was serv­ing on TS Ank­ing which was part of the con­voy being escort­ed by Yarra. His ves­sel was also sunk that day. 

Vice Admi­ral Grig­gs said the anniver­sary of HMAS Yarra’s loss under­lined the impor­tance of the pro­tec­tion of ship­ping and the impor­tance of our sea laws. 

“Last week Navy cel­e­brat­ed its 111th birth­day and it is appro­pri­ate that we remem­ber our jour­ney to this point. On this impor­tant day, we acknowl­edge the lives lost, the sac­ri­fices made and the self­less ser­vice giv­en by tens of thou­sands of fel­low Australians. 

“The sto­ry of Yarra is a spe­cial one. The ship had seen action in the Mediter­ranean, the Mid­dle East and the Indi­an Ocean. This com­mem­o­ra­tion also reminds all of us in this uni­form what can be asked of us as part of a com­bat force.” 

HMAS Yarra (IV) is the sixth of six Huon Class mine­hunters built in New­cas­tle. She was com­mis­sioned on 1 March 2003. Like her sis­ter ships, Yarra’s unique hull design is shock resis­tant with a low mag­net­ic and acoustic sig­na­ture. This allows the ship to oper­ate in hos­tile mine environments 

Media con­tact: Defence Media Oper­a­tions 02 6127 1999 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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