COMMEMORATIVE MARKER TO HONOUR AUSTRALIAN NAVY UNVEILED IN LINGAYEN
The Australian Embassy Manila and the Provincial Government of Pangasinan today (20 February) unveiled a memorial plaque in Lingayen to commemorate the Royal Australian Navy’s participation in the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf during World War II.
Mr Les Kennedy OAM, President of the Naval Commemoration Committee of Victoria, Australia and Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr led the unveiling ceremony held at the Lingayen Gulf Veteran’s Memorial Park.
The unveiling was followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the Lingayen Gulf to honour the members of the Royal Australian Navy who perished during the battle.
Australian Chargé d’Affairés Stephen Scott (fifth from right) together with veterans of the Royal Australian Navy during morning tea hosted by the embassy. Also present were WO1 Karen Fellowes (leftmost), Defence Attaché CAPT Vic Jones (fourth from left), and Assistant Defence Attaché LTCOL Gary Barnes (rightmost).
Veterans of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) who participated in the decisive naval campaign that eventually led to the Philippines’ liberation from the Japanese attended the ceremony.
Australian Embassy Chargé d’Affairés, Steve Scott, said the memorial plaque served not only to recognise the participation of Australian soldiers in the naval campaign, but more importantly to pay homage to the sacrifice of Australians and Filipino soldiers who lost their lives during the historic battle.
“With this plaque, we hope to honour the contributions of the veterans and their colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of freedom,” Mr Scott said.
While World War II is largely seen in the Philippines as a conflict between US and Filipino forces against the Japanese, other countries including Australia also played an important role in land, sea and air operations.
Four Australian warships, HMAS Australia, Shropsire, Arunta and Warramunga, and assault transports HMAS Kanimbla, Manoora and Westralia, along with a number of smaller warships and support ships, took part in the landing at Leyte on 20 October 1944. Australian ships Shropshire and Arunta also engaged Japanese ships during the Battle of Surigao Strait on 23 October.
On 9 January 1945, the day of the main invasion at Lingayen Gulf, two Australian cruisers and two destroyers provided naval support by attacking Japanese installations. Australian assault vessels were also responsible for moving men and equipment to support the land campaign of the US and Filipino soldiers.
Mr Kennedy, who was 19 during the Lingayen Gulf invasion, recalled how the Australian navy fleet suffered casualties due to the constant attacks of Japanese kamikaze planes. HMAS Australia, for instance, was hit by five kamikaze planes that killed 44 crew members.
Mr Scott said the longstanding relations between Australia and the Philippines had been enriched by the common experiences and shared sacrifices during World War II campaigns. He added that this had contributed to building a stronger partnership between both countries.
“Australia and the Philippines has long enjoyed a strong and vibrant relationship as partners and allies. As democratic countries, we share a strong commitment to upholding the values of freedom and independence. The commemorative marker in Lingayen serves as a fitting tribute to Australian and Filipino soldiers who fought hard to achieve the freedom that we presently enjoy,” Mr Scott said.