At the Chapel of Remembrance, Garden Island, Sydney on Sunday, 15th July 1997 a memorial window commemorating the fifteen RAN destroyers which served in World War II was dedicated and unveiled. A Service of Dedication and Remembrance preceded the unveiling ceremony, but because of space restrictions down below, it took place in the main chapel. The Reverend Doctor Gareth Clayton, MA, Principal Chaplain, RAN, conducted the Service and in his address spoke of the outstanding contribution which our destroyers had made. From the earliest days of September 1939, when some of the V’s & W’s were operating off Sydney, to the 30th August, 1945, when “Nizam” and “Napier” were the first RAN ships to follow those of the US Navy and British Pacific Fleet into Tokyo Bay, Australian manned destroyers had served in all theatres of the war. “Waterhen”, “Vampire”, “Voyager” and “Nestor” were lost through enemy action.
Captain Bill Cook, the only surviving wartime Commanding Officer present (“Vendetta” and “Nizam”) reflected on the commanding officers of the 15 ships, 43 officers in all, some having commanded more than one of those ships. Commodore “Red” Merson unveiled the window after a prayer of dedication was pronounced by the Chaplain.
The provision of such a memorial, which had been discussed some years ago, became feasible when a small window space became available in the recently opened Chapel of Remembrance. The Combined Destroyer Associations in New South Wales are indebted to Principal Chaplain Clayton for making the space available and, particularly, to Commodore Dacre Smyth AO RAN (Ret’d) who responded with alacrity to a request for his professional help. Dacre has designed and crafted at least four commemorative windows and installed them in the Chapel of St. Mark, HMAS “Cerberus”. The window in our chapel has met with universal approbation. We are all very proud of it and hope that old destroyer hands – and others – will soon find an opportunity of visiting the Chapel.
The capacity congregation, the fine but cold weather and the presence of Mrs H.J. Buchanan, Mrs J.C. Morrow, Mrs John Plunkett-Cole and Mrs O.H. Becher, whose husbands had commanded many of the ships, made for a delightfully happy “reunion”.
A devoted committee of old salts from the “N’s”, “Scrap Irons”, “Tribals” and “Q’s” worked hard to ensure the success of the day, and were greatly assisted by “Kuttabul’s” catering staff who provided a magnificent feast with morning coffee.