Memorial Plaque for HMAS Canberra, sunk at the Battle of Savo Island on August 9, 1942 to be replaced

HMAS Canberra, a County Class cruiser was sunk on August 9, 1942 by a strong Japanese surface force led by Vice Admiral Mikawa in his flagship Chokai. That action is known as The Battle of Savo Island, as a 20 year old Sub Lieutenant RAN, I happened to be Officer of the Watch on Canberra's bridge when that fight commenced. We were quickly hit by up to 28 shells from the enemy cruisers and managed to pick up a torpedo on our starboard side from our US destroyer escort USS Bagley.

The ship was abandoned, a blazing wreck, the crew rescued by US destroyers Patterson and Blue. Canberra was eventually sunk by friendly fire and torpedoes the following morning.

That night, the ship lost 84 Officers and Sailors with another 110 wounded.

The Japanese force swept northwards, divided into two groups and promptly devasted the three heavy US cruisers, Quincy, Astoria, and Vincennes, over 1,000 USN sailors died that night, the worst blue water defeat for the US Navy to date.

Memorial Plaque.
Some years later in 1988, this plaque was unveiled and dedicated at the Vilu Village War Museum, which is on the way to Cape Esperance, and some distance from Honiara. This site really has no historical significance, whereas the American Memorial overlooks Iron Bottom Bay and Canberra's final resting place. It would be a much better venue for the new Memorial plaque.

It was unfortunately destroyed by vandals, and all attempts to have it replaced by a grant from the Federal Government failed.

Good News.
The new Labor Government, via the Veterans' Department have now made a grant available that will enable the Canberra/Shropshire Association to go ahead and make arrangements for a replacement plaque to be designed, cast, transported to Honiara, erected, and dedicated.

The company that produced the first Memorial Plaque has been located in Melbourne, the ship badge for Canberra 1 was different to that drawn and made for Canberra 11, and the new plaque will carry the ship badge that was used in the original plaque.

All involved in the replacement Memorial are indeed grateful for this grant, and say a big thank you to Veterans' Affairs, and other Government Agencies involved.

I believe to win the war in the Pacific, it was crucial at that time, that the Allies held fast on Guadalcanal in the Solomons.

It is quite wonderful after all these years that a gallant ship, and those who died or were wounded, in the cause of freedom on that fateful night back in the dark days of 1942 will be publicly remembered at Honiara.

The new plaque in memory of the loss of HMAS Canberra 1, is now costing another $2,000 above the Veteran's Affairs grant. 10 July 2008
Arthur Carter in Western Australia generously undertook to cover this extra cost, but fortunately the Department of Veteran Affairs have agreed to fund this additional cost, and there will be no need for Arthur to go that extra mile.

All is in order to finish the new plaque, have the RAAF transport it to Guadalcanal for its erection, and dedication on the 66th. Anniversary of Canberra 1's sinking on August 9th. 1942.

It seems that the RAN are unable to send a fleet unit to the Solomons to attend this important ceremony.

Should you know of any Canberra 1 survivors, please spread the word.

Congratulations to all involved in getting up this replacement plaque, and special thanks to Tony Townsend.

These are photos in the Solomons as they prepare for the erection and dedication of the new Canberra 1 plaque there.


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