At approximately 10.35 am on 5 May 1998, a fire started in the main engine room of the HMAS Westralia as a result of a ruptured fuel hose. At the time HMAS Westralia was approximately 20km off the Western Australian Coast and was carrying a crew of 98. Despite the fire eventually being brought under control, 4 crew members Midshipman Megan Pelly, Petty Officer Shaun Smith, Leading Seaman Bradley Meek, and Able Seaman Phillip Carroll succumbed to the smoke that engulfed the engine space.
The heroic actions of the crew on board HMAS Westralia 25 years ago were remembered last week at an unveiling of a memorial and a memorial service, which was held at HMAS Stirling. Cairns RSL Sub Branch President Nathan Shingles and Sub Branch member Colin Bottomley CSC who were part of the HMAS Westralia Crew when the tragic fire occurred, attended the service in Western Australia.
The remembrance service held on 5 May, was attended by survivors of the tragedy, along with their families, the Hon Paul Papalia CSC MLA who represented the Western Australian Governor, the Hon Matt Keogh, Minister for Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel, the HMAS Stirling Command Team, and the Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Christopher Smith, who paid tribute to the bravery and sacrifice shown by the ship’s company and crews of supporting ships.
“Those on board Westralia fought heroically and effectively to overcome the fire that day, with the acts of bravery observed in the finest traditions of our Navy,” Rear Admiral Smith said.
A statement was also released from the Hon Matt Keogh, Minister for Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel. Federal Labor Member for Burt who also attended the service.
25 years ago, tragedy struck, resulting in the deaths of four personnel on board HMAS Westralia II. Today I joined the families of those who were lost, alongside the crew to reflect on the courage of those who fought the fire, fought for the lives of their shipmates, and remember those who lost their lives.
We honour them, we remember them.
Lest we forget.
The HMAS Westralia tragedy was deeply felt throughout the fleet, and those who lost their lives are remembered each year through annual commemoration services held at HMAS Stirling.