- Collision of two Royal Australian Navy vessels in 1964 resulted in 82 deaths
- Nine Western Australians lost lives in Australia's worst peacetime military incident
- Two Royal Commissions failed to determine causes of tragedy
Veterans Issues Minister Peter Tinley will lay a wreath in Kings Park on Sunday (February 10) to mark the 55th anniversary of the sinking of the HMAS Voyager on February 10, 1964 - Australia's worst peacetime military disaster.
The sinking of HMAS Voyager following a collision with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne resulted in the loss of 82 hands - all of them crew on HMAS Voyager.
On the evening of the incident, the Australian fleet's flagship, aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne, was carrying out night exercises for its aircraft, while HMAS Voyager was on plane guard station for the carrier, ready to assist if any aircraft ditched.
About 8.40pm HMAS Melbourne changed course, 'chasing the wind' to enable flight operations and signalled HMAS Voyager to adjust its position relative to the carrier.
For reasons that remain the subject of conjecture, HMAS Voyager's new course saw her turn in front of HMAS Melbourne. At more than six times the displacement of the smaller vessel, HMAS Melbourne sliced HMAS Voyager in two.
HMAS Voyager's bow section turned upside down and sank soon after 8.56pm. At the time of the collision there were about 225 men in the bow section or on the deck.
Most of the crew on the bridge, which was located in the bow section, died including commanding officer Captain Duncan Stevens.
Several bravery honours were awarded afterwards, most notably the George Cross to Chief Petty Officer Jonathon 'Buck' Rogers DSM. Too big for the escape hatch, he organised the escape of those who could fit and maintained calm by leading the remaining crew in a prayer and hymn before the compartment finally flooded.
Two Royal Commissions into the tragedy failed to definitively determine its cause.
Comments attributed to Veterans Issues Minister Peter Tinley:
"The sinking of HMAS Voyager remains the Royal Australian Navy's worst peacetime disaster. It's important to acknowledge the pain, loss, courage and human spirit that marked that night on February 10, 1964.
"The 55th anniversary of this disaster provides an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice of all who serve in our defence services and the danger they confront to protect our freedoms and way of life - not just in times of war but also during times of peace.
"We should remember those who were lost and the survivors, many of whom still struggle every day with the events of that night. We can only imagine their pain.
"Lest we forget."
Minister's office - 6552 5300