On 27 November 2015 the unveiling ceremony for the statue “Answering the Call” took place on the foreshore at Port Melbourne.
The ceremony was well attended by the RAN, the retired Naval community, including several World War II Veterans, local and State politicians, representatives from the Shrine of Remembrance and industry, historians, family and friends.
Commander Melanie Verho RAN, Executive Officer of HMAS Cerberus, as Master of Ceremonies, introduced the RAN Band led by Able Seaman Kirsten Hobbs who gave a moving rendition of the Naval Hymn.
Introductory addresses were given by Graeme Uren QC, the Vice President of the Naval Heritage Foundation of Australia Inc., Councillor Bernadene Voss, Mayor of Port Phillip, the Honourable Martin Foley MP, Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Equality, Minister for Creative Industries, and Andrea Coote, Chair of the Aged Care Quality Control Council.
Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, AO CSC RAN, Chief of Navy and Patron of the Naval Heritage Foundation of Australia Inc., delivered the unveiling address.
The Chief commenced his address by “remembering and saluting the naval service and the life’s work of the late LCDR Mackenzie J Gregory, the former President of the Naval Heritage Foundation.” He also acknowledged the contribution of the late Don Boyle, the first Vice President of the foundation. Of the statue he said, “I am delighted with this work of art. The artistic understanding, skill and craftsmanship of the sculptor, Louis Laumen has captured the spirit of this young sailor with great accuracy and truth. It is a work of simplicity, dignity and beauty. It has the power to move us. That is all we can ask of our memorials. This one succeeds admirably and I thank Louis for his dedication to the project and the months of creative work which he has put into this sculpture. I know that he and Mac worked closely on this concept for many years.”
The Chief of Navy noted that the sailor was wearing the uniform of the 1939 -1945 war and represented officers and sailors who fought that war at sea, as well as the Womens’ Royal Australian Naval Service, the RAN’s Nurses and the RAN Reserve, most of whom graduated from Flinders Naval Depot, now HMAS Cerberus and then left from HMAS Lonsdale to join their first ship.
The following are excerpts from the Chief of Navy’s address: “Appropriately our newly qualified bronze sailor here is looking out at the entry to Port Phillip Bay on a bearing of 210 degrees. Beyond is the open sea - his new home where he must brave what the naval prayer accurately calls “the dangers of the sea and the violence of the enemy.” ... So when one considers what new recruit sailors who “answered the call” were facing when they went into battle, one can only admire the mental strength, resilience and the enduring courage that these very young men displayed. We who are serving in naval uniform today are their heirs. They were heirs to the generations of sailors who had trained and drilled here since 1859 when the Victorian Naval Brigade was founded in the Port of Melbourne.
The placement of this memorial is very timely because here, in bronze, it is a permanent reminder of these great hearted sailors who gave so much in both world wars and the conflicts since.
Our sailor looking out to sea reminds us of those who never came back. But he also reminds us of those who came home and lived out their lives as our fathers and grandfathers and have since died.”
Sadly Mac did not live to see his dream materialise. But he would no doubt have been delighted that the statue has been erected as he envisaged many years ago, on the foreshore at Port Melbourne looking out at the entry to Port Phillip Bay, the point from where as a young midshipman he left for WW II and from where his ashes were scattered on 3 September 2014, on the outgoing tide.
As the Chief of Navy so aptly noted in his address “This fine new statue is a place of reflection where our generation, and those that come after us, can pause, and remember what we owe to all those who fought and returned from the sea - and to those who lie there still. The legacy of all those Australian sailors commemorated here is our life long liberty. Lest We Forget.”