<p>
	The last enemy to be destroyed<br />
	is death.</p>
Death at Sea

The last enemy to be destroyed
is death.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:26


Chaplain Andrew Gillison was praised in one soldier's war diary as 'the bravest man he ever knew.' Dearly loved by the Gallipoli soldiers for whom he gave his life, Gillison's memorial still sits at Embarkation Pier, just north of Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.

In July 1963, 26 midshipmen graduated from the Royal Australian Naval College, HMAS Creswell, Jervis Bay, NSW. They presented a Bible to the College chapel with their names inscribed in it. Excited to begin their Naval careers, none suspected that within the year eight would die.

The new midshipmen underwent a years training at sea. Most of the 1963 class were posted to the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney. In October, HMAS Sydney and HMAS Anzac were in Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands conducting sailing exercises in the ship’s boats, 27-foot (8.2 m) Montague Whalers. They sailed from Sydney, around Hook Island and returned, about 65 km. The fastest boat would win the Captain’s prize.

In four groups, the first set out on Monday 14th October and the next two on the 15th and 16th. All three boats encountered strong winds, high seas and powerful tides and had to be rescued.


Excited to begin their Naval careers,
none suspected that within the year
eight would die.

The fourth boat left early on Thursday 17th. An hour after its expected return, a search crew set out but found no sign. A full search and rescue operation began on Friday 18th, assisted by RAAF Neptunes.

They searched for three days. At midday on Monday 21st, the crew of the Anzac found the missing whaler, submerged with two dead bodies trapped beneath it. The other bodies were never found. Four of the dead belonged to the midshipman class of 1963. But another tragedy awaited them. Many were transferred to HMAS Voyager.


But another tragedy awaited them.
Many were transferred to HMAS Voyager.

On the evening of 10 February 1964, HMAS Voyager and HMAS Melbourne were performing manoeuvres off Jervis Bay. Melbourne 's aircraft were undertaking night flying exercises.

Voyager was acting as a ‘plane guard’, positioned behind and to port (left) of the carrier in order to rescue the crew of any ditching or crashing aircraft. Melbourne needed to reverse direction so that planes could take off into the wind, so both ships commenced a complex series of turns that unexpectedly left the Voyager ahead and to starboard (right) of the Melbourne. She needed to correct her position.

At 20:55, officers on both ships realised they were on a collision course and began desperate avoiding manoeuvres, but by then a collision was inevitable. Melbourne struck Voyager at 20:56. The carrier's bow struck Voyager just behind the bridge, cutting the destroyer in two.


The carrier's bow struck Voyager
just behind the bridge,
cutting the destroyer in two.

The heavy bow section sank in 10 minutes while the remainder of the ship sank about an hour later. In the doomed bow section, 60 off-duty men were relaxing in the cafeteria. When Melbourne struck, Voyager's severed forward section immediately heeled over and after a few minutes turned over completely. The cafeteria was plunged into darkness and water poured in.

Chief Petty Officer Jonathan ‘Buck’ Rogers calmed his terrified shipmates, attempted to control the flooding and to free a jammed escape hatch with a length of pipe and a spanner. When this failed, he succeeded in creating some order, organising men to move through the water and darkness to another compartment with a functioning emergency exit.

Buck Rogers was a big man. He knew he was too large to fit through the escape hatch himself. He sent the youngest sailors out first and then organised the older men to follow.


The water deepened and within a few minutes it became clear that they were sinking. Rogers realised that the rest of his comrades would not get out in time. He calmed them and led them in prayer. Sailors in the water outside were swimming away from the doomed wreck as fast as they could. The last sound they heard was the voice of Buck Rogers leading the men in the singing of a hymn. Rogers was posthumously awarded the George Cross, the highest bravery award available in peacetime.

In the sea outside, Midshipman Kerry Marien was swept into a life raft. He dived from the life raft to attempt a rescue. Marien was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal “in recognition of his gallantry in attempting to save life at sea when HMAS Voyager was sunk after collision. In leaving the safety of a life raft to attempt a rescue, he thereby lost his life.”

Of the 314 crew members aboard Voyager, 82 were killed that fatal night, including another four members of the midshipmen graduating class of 1963. It remains Australia’s worst peace-time Naval disaster.

On the 50th anniversary of their graduation, the surviving midshipmen of 1963 dedicated a monument to the eight members who had died. They read a passage from the Class of 1963 Memorial Bible.


Of the 314 crew members aboard Voyager, 82 were killed
that fatal night, including another four members 
of the midshipmen graduating class of 1963

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