50th anniversary of Voyager disaster commemorated
9 February 2014
A commemorative ceremony was held today onboard HMAS Choules over the resting place of HMAS Voyager (II) to mark the 50th anniversary of Australia’s worst peacetime military tragedy.
Over 200 guests, including members of the HMAS Voyager Survivors Association, next of kin and survivors joined the Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, AO CSC RAN, and other naval personnel at the wreath laying service and cast 82 sprigs of rosemary overboard to represent the number of lives lost when the destroyer sunk.
At 8:56pm on 10 February 1964, HMAS Melbourne (II) and HMAS Voyager (II) collided during a night flying exercise. While Melbourne was damaged, she sustained no casualties but the collision sheared Voyager in two. She subsequently sank and now lies in deep water, 20 nautical miles south east of Jervis Bay. Vice Admiral Griggs spoke of the sacrifice and acknowledged the deep sense of loss by all present.
“Operations at sea and the preparations for them are difficult and demanding. The sea is an unforgiving environment and the activities we undertake involve risks which are over and above those faced by other mariners,” he said.
“Melbourne and Voyager were not on active service, but it is important to remember that is most certainly what they were preparing for.
“There are many that have spent the last half century searching for answers as to how this happened and many more searching for a way to be at peace about that night.
“Sadly the answers to the exact cause of this tragic event will remain unknowable. This inability to know has been a constant barrier to coming to terms with that night. It has been a contributing factor to the inability of so many to find peace.
“Today is I hope an opportunity to come together, no matter what your role or affiliation, to remember, to commemorate and to honour.
“The Royal Australian Navy is honoured to pay its respects on this significant anniversary.
“When the nation requires, your Navy will go into action – we continue to gather strength as we go - and we are better and stronger for the experiences and sacrifice of those who have gone before us – we will be proud to go Where Fate Calls.”
For families and survivors not able to make the sea ride in Choules, a service including a Beat to Quarters and a Ceremonial Sunset will be held this evening at HMAS Creswell. At 20:56, the time the Voyager was struck, a bell will toll 82 times and the names of the deceased read out loud.
Yesterday on 9th February 2014, a memorial Church Service was held at the Creswell chapel for over 200 guests.
Imagery is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20140111