HMAS Armidale 75-year memorial service at Central Park

A crowd paused to reflect on the 75th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Armidale on Friday.

The Minesweeper was bombed by Japanese aircraft off the coast of East Timor on December 1, 1942.

One hundred lives were lost while 49 men survived the ordeal.

“Service at sea is not for the faint-hearted,” Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Captain Ainsley Morthorpe said at the ceremony in Armidale’s Central Park.

“It can and often does require great sacrifice.

“The service and sacrifice of the officers and sailors who take our nation’s warships to sea, is exceptional.

Captain Morthorpe is a director of policing and security and service security adviser for the RAN.

“Today we commemorate the loss of the ship, her crew and her precious cargo of Dutch native troops and other soldiers.

“Their mission had been to relieve the Australian and Dutch soldiers of the famed Sparrow Force who had been cut-off by the Japanese capture of Timor in February 1942.”

The service and sacrifice of the officers and sailors who take our nation’s warships to sea, is exceptional.

Royal Australian Navy Captain Ainsley Morthorpe

Captain Morthorpe said Armidale’s mission had become urgent.

“On the 29th of November Armidale sailed from Darwin … with 149 souls on board.”

Naval Association of Australia Commander, Andrew St John Brown led the ceremony which also saw a performance of the Naval Hymn and the Ode of Remembrance. 

World War II Navy veteran Ron Vickress joined Armidale Regional Council mayor Simon Murray, Captain Morthorpe and other community members to lay wreaths in memory of the fallen ship and her men.

Aboriginal elder Steve Widders said it was great to see Mr Vickress, who was a signalman on HMAS Pirie, an “agile 92-year-old” at the ceremony. 

“It’s important to remember our heroes and the lives of people gone by,” Mr Widders said during his address.

People travelled from all across the country for the service, including sailors from Western Australia, Perth and a family from Canberra.

Dismounting of the Catafalque Party and a special blessing concluded Friday’s ceremony for the ship that so many will never forget.