- Hordern, John
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Shropshire
- March 2005 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Those of us who were fortunate in knowing him will be saddened to learn of Harry’s death earlier this year, aged 93.
Harry was an Englishman, obviously from a good background and older than most of us onboard HMAS Shropshire. He had joined the RAN as an AB, declaring that he was much younger than was the case. He was employed in ‘A’ turret, wore a heavy beard and looked as though he could have been (in another life) one of the Lord’s disciples at the Last Supper.
After the Battle of Leyte Gulf, we were ordered to shave off our beards, to lessen the effect of burns. Within hours Shropshire’s ship’s company was clean shaven, all except Able Seaman Harry Mason, who was promptly charged as a Commander’s Defaulter. David Mattiske recounts what happened at Defaulters’ Table:
Commander (XO): Mason, you have not shaved.
Harry: No, Sir.
Commander: Everyone else has obeyed the order. Why not you?
Harry: Well, Sir – Drake might have singed the King of Spain’s beard – but the Japs are not going to singe mine!
Stunned and speechless, Commander Oldham dismissed Harry, with no further comment. Harry was then the only man on board with a beard!