Harry Pittaway served on both the HMAS Canberra and the HMAS Australia

May 30, 2013

Hi Mac,

I discovered your web site over Easter and spent a few late nights reading through the treasure trove of information.

My Grandfather Henry Pittaway (the family called him Harry) served on both the HMAS Canberra and the HMAS Australia and was aboard the Canberra during the Battle of Savo in August 1942.

My father and I have recently consolidated what we have of his service record. I thought that this may be of interest to you and others who served on HMAS Canberra and HMAS Australia at the same time as Pop and may have known him.

Dec 1927 Joined the RAN and Started as an electrical artificer at flinders naval Depot 

1929-1933  HMAS Australia as Electrical Artificer 4th class for maintenance of torpedoes paravanes depth charges and general electrics.

1933-1934 HMAS Stuart-Flotilla EA for gyro compasses and shops electrics

1934-1938 HMAS Canberra as a Warrant electrician  Officer in charge of repair and maintenance of ships electrics. (His summary of service experience records this period as the on HMAS Australia but I believe he served on Canberra at this time)

1938-1939 he was part of a team who went to the UK to commission HMAS Hobart

1939-1942 HMAS Canberra

1942-1945 OIC workshops and maintenance of electrical schools at Flinders Naval Depot

1945-1948  HMAS Australia Commissioned electrician and Officer in charge of repair and maintenance of ships electrics

After the war he served in various shore establishments including HMAS Tarangau on Manus Island, HMAS Penguin, Garden Island and HMAS Albatross.

He retired in the early 1960's having reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

As a kid I was always interested in hearing his account of his time in the navy and in particular the events in the Solomon Islands.

I clearly remember him telling me that during the shelling of the Canberra he was sitting at his electrical  control panel (presumably low down in the ship) when a piece of shrapnel passed by his ear and embedded itself into the panel in front of him. I surmise that this was when the boiler rooms were hit by shellfire.

He told me that when power was lost he had to make his way up to deck level and he shared some of his memories from when he got up to the deck. 

My father remembers as a boy, the night of the midget sub attack in Sydney harbour and today he recounted the story that an open back truck was dispatched to collect those on shore including pop.

I  read Bruce Loxtons book with great interest and anything else I could find over the years. I was lucky enough to be able  to spend a few months in the early 1980's working as an engineering  student on a project in Honiara where I took the opportunity to visit Savo and Tulagi in a motorised canoe with some locals. This helped to visualise the circumstances surrounding the operation in August 1942.

Harry passed away in 1982. There is nothing like first hand accounts to establish a true understanding of historical events. There are many questions which I would have loved to be able to ask pop as my knowledge and understanding developed over the years. Unfortunately this is how history works as first hand accounts give way to the written record.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity as a teenager and a child to learn first hand from him something about his naval career.

Following his death I managed to meet two of his colleagues from either the Canberra or Australia (I don't recall which now) and they spoke about their memories of pop and of the times they shared in the Navy. One of these was Arthur Andrews.

Through your web site you have continued an incredible first hand link to the men who served in our navy during these times. Thanks for making such a great contribution. I have some of pops old photos from the naval days which I could scan and send if you would be interested.

I would be interested in reading any other information available relating to any of the ships on which my grandfather served. I would also be interested in seeing any photographs from this time. Any recollections which you have would be much appreciated.

Yours Faithfully and Best Regards

Tim Pittaway


Thank you for your mail and very kind remarks about AHOY. Here are some notes about Australia 11 and Stuart.

HMAS Australia (D84)

HMAS Stuart (D00)

I would love some photos to add to AHOY,


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