The ship’s company of HMAS Canberra was honoured to commit the ashes of 10 former Navy personnel to the sea on June 9.
CAPTION: Executive Officer HMAS Canberra Commander Justin Cloney scatters the ashes of former Navy navigation officer, Captain Michael Freeman, during a committal of ashes to the sea ceremony. Story by Lieutenant Nancy Cotton. Photo by Petty Officer Christopher Szumlanski.
The ceremony was held on the quarterdeck of the ship as the ship passed through the Coral Sea and was a time of reflection for those in attendance.
CAPTION: The ship’s company gather on the quarter deck to take part in a committal of ashes to sea (COATS) ceremony held on HMAS Canberra as the ship sails through the Coral Sea. Photo by Petty Officer Christopher Szumlanski.
Chaplain Rainer Schack opened the service and spoke about the importance of the tradition of committing ashes to the sea and how fitting it was to spread the ashes of sailors to the place that was a significant part of their lives when they served the nation.
For Commander John de Bomford, the ceremony was particularly touching.
He joined Navy in 1979 with Able Seaman Gregory Raymond, whose ashes were laid to rest.
Commander de Bomford read Able Seaman Raymond’s service history and said it was an honour and privilege for him to commit Able Seaman Raymond’s ashes to the sea.
“We joined at 16 years of age as junior recruits at HMAS Leeuwin – our service numbers were next in series – and we also both joined from Townsville,” Commander de Bomford said.
“Greg was a lovely and personable man and, to his mates, we affectionately knew him as ‘Sludge’.
“Not in my wildest imagination did I ever think that our two worlds would collide once more here on the quarterdeck of HMAS Canberra as we sail towards Townsville where our Navy careers started all those years ago.
“There is some simple and lovely synergy to that.”
Ten members of the ship’s company had the honour of committing the ashes to the sea.
CAPTION: Able Seaman Communications & Information Systems Travis Mathews scatters the ashes of former Royal Australian Navy Coder Morris Willcoxson from the quarterdeck of HMAS Canberra. Photo by Petty Officer Christopher Szumlanski.
The families will now receive a map with the latitude and longitude reference of where their loved ones were laid to rest.
The following member’s ashes were committed to the sea:
- Captain Michael Freeman, navigation officer
- Lieutenant Commander Dennis Rose, torpedo anti-submarine officer
- Lieutenant William Main, communications officer
- Sub Lieutenant David Price, assistant maritime logistics officer
- Chief Petty Officer Stores, William McBean, assistant maritime logistics officer
- Able Seaman Gregory Raymond, electronic technical systems
- William Phillis, stoker
- Keith Elve, cook
- Morris Willcoxson, coder
- Leslie Tull, musician 2nd class.