Jack Stanbury (John William Stanbury) survived the attack on the HMAS Canberra, and served in HMAS Shropshire, killed by a landmine on the 27th. of May 1943.

Dear Mac,

I heard your interview last week with Richard Stubbs on ABC Radio and I wish to congratulate you for your very informative insight into experiences of war that people like me can only be eternally grateful we have not had to endure.

Jack Stanbury (John William Stanbury)
Jack Stanbury (John William Stanbury)

My interest was particularly keen when you talked of your experience surviving the sinking of HMAS Canberra as my uncle Jack Stanbury also survived the attack on the Canberra. I was then even more surprised when you talked of your time on HMAS Shropshire as Jack also served on her and in fact died while a member of the crew. I know that Shropsire is sometimes known as the "luckiest Ship in the Navy" because she never lost a sailor, but Jack died in England while the Ship was being prepared for active service. 

According to my knowledge of events Jack survived the sinking of the Canberra and was Rescued by an American Destroyer. He was taken to the West Coast of the USA and travelled by rail and road East and was then transported to England to join the crew of Shropshire. I'm not sure how long he was in England but he died in an accident in May 1943 (I think). As I understand it he was returning to the ship after a day (or night) out with mates when one of his mates threw his hat over a fence, Jack scaled the fence to retrieve his hat and was killed by a land mine. I must say that I have often wondered if there was more to the story than I was told but I guess it hardly matters.

There were 5 children in Jack's family and none now survive. His brother Thomas died as an infant, a sister Mavis died suddenly of natural causes at age 24, another sister Irene (my mother) died aged 50 in 1963 (heart attack) and the other sister Kathleen died aged 63 in 1978 following a car accident. His father died before the war but his mother lived until the ripe old age of 96. The family lived in Footscray

Myself, 2 brothers and 1 sister were the only offspring of the family. My mother spoke fondly of her brother and one of my strongest childhood memories is of seeing her cry one day while telling me something Jack had done. My Grandmother kept Jack's possessions with her all her life, including letters he had written of his travels across the USA and his HMAS Canberra hat band and these remain family treasures held by my oldest brother.

I suppose it would be a long shot to think that you might  have known Jack but after hearing you talk on the radio I felt moved to share my connection with you.

Attached is a photo of Jack taken while serving on Canberra.

Many thanks and best regards 
Kevin Olerhead

Dear Mac,

Further to the email I sent you a few minutes ago about J. W. Stanbury - I just realised it would probably be easier for all concerned if I downloaded the images from the NAA and attached them.



Thank you for your kind comments, and most interesting email.

In Canberra, I was a Sub Lieutenant and assisted the Divisional Officer of the Quarterdeck Division, with some 90 or so sailors under our care for their welfare, records etc. Jack was an Able Seaman, the name is very familiar and I believe he would have been a member of my division. He survived the sinking of Canberra uninjured, as did I, and I have him on a complete list of her crew I have, on the list of sailors uninjured.
Here is Jack's WW2 Service certificate which you may already have,

Able Seaman

Service  Royal Australian Navy
Date of Birth  26 April 1923
Place of Birth  FOOTSCRAY, VIC
Date of Enlistment  15 April 1940
Home Port/Port Division  MELBOURNE, VIC
Date of Death  27 May 1943
Posting on Death  HMAS Shropshire

Jack would have been rescued by either of two US destroyers, if aft ( intense fires prevented movement from the fore part of the ship to the stern ) by USS Patterson, and in the forepart by USS Bagley. Thence to two US transports Barnett and Fuller, off to Noumea where we finally joined the US transport President Grant to all return to Sydney.

The main drafts to man Shropshire essentually left for the US west coast in USS Mount Vernon, and the Dutch liner New Amsterdam, after travelling  across the US by train, they made their way to Halifax to sail to Liverpool UK in the rather dirty troopship Pasteur. Thence to Chatham where the ship was refitting.

From Stan Nicholls book HMAS Shropshire at page 42 is this paragraph :

A sad day, a funeral on Friday, 28th. of May 1943 for Shropshire- able seaman ( unnamed, but it was Jack ) killed by a landmine on the 27th. of May 1943. The sailor climbed a wall to retrieve his cap- a verdict of " Death by Misadventure " was recorded. It also emphasised the danger of skylarking near dangerous areas."

I did not join Shropshire until 1944, so did not know Jack in her.

Some details from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site :

Cemetery Details
Country:  United Kingdom
Locality:  unspecified
Historical Information:  There is a large naval section in Gillingham (Woodlands) Cemetery which was reserved by the Admiralty and served the Royal Naval Hospital in Windmill Road. The section contains most of the war graves as well as burials of the pre-war and inter-war years. Among the First World War burials in the naval section are those from HMS 'Bulwark', blown up in Sheerness Harbour in November 1914, HMS 'Princess Irene' which suffered an internal explosion in May 1915 and HMS 'Glatton' which suffered the same fate in Dover Harbour in September 1918 (the bodies were not recovered until March 1930). The plot also contains a number of graves resulting from the air raid on Chatham Naval Barracks on 3 September 1917. In all, Gillingham (Woodlands) Cemetery contains 834 burials and commemorations of the First World War. 82 of the burials are unidentified and there are special memorials commemorating a number of casualties buried in other cemeteries in the area whose graves could not be maintained. Second World War burials number 385, 21 of these burials are unidentified. Most are in the naval section. There are 2 Foreign National war burials and 2 non war service burials.
No. of Identified Casualties:  1120

This figure includes Foreign and Non-World War graves in CWGC care

In Memory of

24249, H.M.A.S. Shropshire, Royal Australian Navy
who died age 20
on 27 May 1943
Son of Thomas Curtin Stanbury and Anne Price Stanbury, of Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia.
Remembered with honour

Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Casualty Details
Initials:  J W
Nationality:  Australian
Rank:  Able Seaman
Regiment/Service:  Royal Australian Navy
Unit Text:  H.M.A.S. Shropshire
Age:  20
Date of Death:  27/05/1943
Service No:  24249
Additional information:  Son of Thomas Curtin Stanbury and Anne Price Stanbury, of Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia.
Casualty Type:  Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference:  Naval Reservation. Grave 184. R.C.

Regards, I hope these comments may prove useful.

back to letters index


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved