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
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