Today I had the honour and privilege to represent the Australian Government at the memorial service above Iron Bottom Sound in the Solomon Islands to mark the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the first HMAS Canberra.
The Canberra had been playing a vital role supporting amphibious landings of the United States Marines Corps. She was struck in a surprise attack by a strong Japanese naval force in the early hours of 9 August 1942.
84 Australians, including the Canberra's Captain, Frank Getting, died in the attack. The Canberra was scuttled and now rests in Iron Bottom Sound, 25 kilometres offshore from Honiara. Iron Bottom Sound is the watery grave of 32 Allied warships, as well as our own HMAS Canberra.
Today's memorial service was conducted aboard HMAS Success, about 700 metres above the Canberra's final resting place.
The Canberra remains the largest Australian warship ever lost in battle.
I was joined on HMAS Success by the Governor-General of the Solomon Islands, His Excellency Sir Frank Kabui; Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Hon Manasseh Sogavare MP, and representatives from the governments of Solomon Islands, the United States, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, as well as the vessels USS Barry, HMNZS Otago and RSIPV Auki.
I also had the pleasure of catching up again with Bill Quinn, a 94 year-old Australian veteran of the Guadalcanal campaign, who was a stoker on board HMAS Australia, and had helped survivors from HMAS Canberra.
The security of the Pacific is as important to Australia today as it was during the Battle of Guadalcanal. The recently concluded Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was the most recent part of a proud history of regional security cooperation, initially forged in the fires of World War II 75 years ago.
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