Heroes and ships honoured
About 250 former sailors and their wives will be coming to town for the reunion, held in a different place every two years.
An organiser and survivor of the 1964 collision of the Voyager and HMAS Melbourne, Bernard Verwayen from Mooloolah Valley, Queensland, said the Voyager Association committee of eight ‘loves Ballina’ and members have previously visited town for the annual All Ships Reunion.
Mr Verwayen said not only the 82 sailors who lost their lives when the Voyager sunk after the collision will be remembered, but all crew members of the two HMAS Voyagers who lost their lives in war and peacetime.
He said he couldn’t talk about the collision for the first five years after that fateful evening, but he said, “It’s 45 years ago – let’s get on with it.”
The name Voyager is widely known because of that tragic accident on February 10, 1964, in which the Daring-class destroyer and the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne collided in the late evening, while conducting exercises off the coast of Jervis Bay, south of Sydney.
However, the first Voyager made a name for herself in World War II. The Royal Australian Navy’s website details the history of both ships bearing the Voyager name.
Also a destroyer, the Voyager (I) was commissioned into the Navy in 1933. She was part of the famous ‘Scrap Iron Flotilla’ serving in the Mediterranean in the struggle for supremacy against the Italian fleet.
In 1941, she was one of the Tobruk Ferries supplying the Australian Rats of Tobruk in North Africa. She returned to Australia later that year after 751 days away.
On September 22, 1942, she left Darwin with 250 troops on board bound for Timor.
While disembarking the troops at Betano Bay, on the south coast of Timor, currents caught the ship and swung it on its anchors, causing her to ground at the stern. Efforts made to free her were unsuccessful and Japanese bombers attacked the ship.
The Voyager crew destroyed the ship and were later evacuated to Darwin by the corvette, HMAS Warrnambool.
HMAS Voyager (II) was recommissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in 1957 and saw service during the Malaya campaign.
There won’t be any veterans of the first Voyager in town for the reunion as they are all getting on in age.
The other former crew members will hold a dinner at the Ballina RSL Club on Saturday, February 14.
On Sunday, February 15, at 10.30am, they will march along River Street from Kerr Street to the Ballina cenotaph, for a memorial service.
At 3pm that day, a presentation will be made of Voyager memorabilia to the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum.