Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP141018: Address by Ambassador Bill Tweddell on board HMAS Larrakia

Address by Ambassador Bill Tweddell

Tacloban, Leyte
18 October 2014

Honourable Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, Governor of Leyte
Honourable Remedios Petilla, Mayor of Palo
Director Romeo Fajardo, Office of Civil Defence
Mr Stefan Corbett, Chargé d’ Affaires ai, New Zealand Embassy
Lieutenant Commander Dave McPherson and crew of HMAS Larrakia

It gives me great pleasure to be invited on board HMAS LARRAKIA, the second Royal Australian Navy Ship to visit the Philippines this year, following HMAS TOBRUK’s visit to Manila in August.

For the information of our non-Defence guests, LARRAKIA and her crew recently completed Exercise LUMBAS, our premier annual bilateral Maritime Security Activity with the Philippine Navy, this year hosted by Naval Forces East Mindanao in Davao.

The close cooperation betweenour two Navies has increased in recent years through the ratification of the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement in 2012, proved highly successful in enabling the Australian Defence Forces’ rapid response to Typhoon Yolanda which involved over 500 troops, medium and heavy lift aircraft, and HMAS TOBRUK.

This month marks the 70th Anniversary of the largest amphibious operation, and one of the greatest naval battles, in seafaring history. The warships of the Royal Australian Navy, though small in numbers compared to the vast fleets of the United States and Japan, played an important role.

On the day of the Leyte Landings, the Royal Australian Navy contributed County Class heavy cruisers HMAS AUSTRALIA and SHROPSHIRE, as well as Tribal Class destroyers HMAS ARUNTA and WARRAMUNGA, to the Attack Force. The River Class frigate HMAS GASCOYNE and Harbour Defence Motor Launch 1074 were assigned to mine-sweeping, and HMAS WESTRALIA, MANOORA and KANIMBLA were assigned to the Landing Group.

The landings were successful. However, the next day the Flag Ship HMAS AUSTRALIA was struck by a Japanese aircraft that crashed into the bridge. Thirty men perished and sixty four were wounded. Amongst the crew killed that day was the Ship’s Captain, CAPTAIN Emile Dechaineux. Amongst the wounded was the Australian Task Force Commander, COMMODORE John Augustine Collins. Both were honoured in later years through the names given to our first and second Collins Class Submarines.

HMAS AUSTRALIA would suffer further losses to kamikazes, with 44 crew members killed on 5 and 6 January,just before the Lingayen Gulf Landing.

After the Lingayen Landing,Royal Australian Navy ships supported the massive naval and aerial bombardment of Corregidor and operations in Palawan, Zamboanga, Negros, Cebu, Malabang, Parang and Cotabato.

Of the 4000 Australians whotook part in the Liberation of the Philippines, 92 were killed, 74 from HMAS AUSTRALIA alone, and several hundred wounded.

Tomorrow at sunset, we have the opportunity to honour their sacrifice when we dedicate the Australian Philippine Liberation Memorial Marker at the site where General Douglas MacArthur came ashore, 70 years ago.

I would like to thank Lieutenant Commander David McPherson and the crew of HMAS LARRAKIA for hosting this reception this evening and for sailing to Leyte to take part in tomorrow’s memorial dedication ceremony. The presence of our Royal Australian Navy will do much to dignify a most auspicious occasion.