- Nordall, Keith
- History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Canberra II
- March 1995 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Prior to 1988, the HMAS Canberra – HMAS Shropshire Association had been occupied in establishing memorials to both their ships at Naval establishments in each State of Australia. In March of 1988 the NSW Division of the Association wrote to the then Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, asking for support to establish a memorial to HMAS Canberra in the Solomons, as a Bicentennial project. It took until August 1988 for the Minister for Arts and Territories, Gary Punch, to reply to the request and he completely ignored the Solomons concept by pointing out that there was already a memorial to HMAS Canberra on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.
Ironically the Royal Australian Naval Advisor to the Solomon Islands, LCDR Geoff Hart-Davies, had for some time been trying to obtain Australian Government assistance to establish a memorial to HMAS Canberra in Honiara but his requests fell on deaf ears.
Fortunately LCDR Hart-Davies was sent to Western Australia to take delivery of the Pacific Patrol Boat “LATA” in 1988 and whilst at HMAS Stirling he was shown the HMAS Canberra – HMAS Shropshire memorial on the Island by Commodore Malcolm Baird NOCWA. The Commodore offered LCDR Hart-Davies a similar piece of granite which was shipped in “LATA” in a special cradle. Commodore Baird then advised LCDR Hart-Davies to contact the President of the W.A. Division of the HMAS Canberra-HMAS Shropshire, Keith Nordall, to see if a similar plaque to that on the Island could be arranged for HMAS Canberra.
The W.A. President then contacted all other State Division Presidents and received financial support, as a National project, to enable casting of the plaque. The order was subsequently lodged with a foundry in Victoria and with the cooperation of the Naval Officer Commanding Victoria the completed casting was handed over to the Navy on Friday 18th November 1988 and despatched to Sydney and delivered to the FFG HMAS Canberra which was sailing to the Solomons on the 24th November.
In the meantime Keith Nordall had ordered a brass dedication plate for the memorial which read as follows:
IN HONOUR OF THE DEAD OF
LOST IN ACTION
BATTLE OF SAVO ISLAND
9TH AUGUST 1942
THIS MEMORIAL WAS MADE BY THE
COMBINED EFFORTS OF:
LCDR G.H. HART-DAVIES RAN
THE HMAS CANBERRA-HMAS SHROPSHIRE ASSOCIATION
AND THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY
“LEST WE FORGET”
The plaque was despatched by air to the Solomons and at 0800 on Monday 5th December 1988 the memorial was blessed and dedicated by a New Zealand Army Reserve Padre in the presence of the Ship’s Company of the FFG HMAS Canberra, Diplomatic Corps, Members of the Solomon Islands Government, WWII Solomon Island Veterans, Police Personnel and Citizens from Savo Island who had witnessed the violent night in 1942.
A unique feature of the Service was the reading of the names of the HMAS Canberra’s 84 dead by equivalent ranks and ratings from the Officers and Sailors of the FFG HMAS Canberra. Each placed a hibiscus flower on the memorial whilst saying the name of the deceased.
Although the Australian Government had not contributed funds or any effort towards establishing the memorial, to his great credit the Australian High Commissioner, Mr John Starey, issued the formal invitations to the dedication and undertook to read the lesson.
So a memorial to the dead of HMAS Canberra was finally established where it should be, in the Solomons and close to where those young Australians had given their lives so long ago.
Those who have fought do not easily forget their departed shipmates and a combination of serving and ex-serving Navy personnel had shown that they cared enough to accomplish the seemingly impossible by doing the job themselves.