Sailor’s story inspires through the years
More than 70 years after Able Seaman Ernest Albert Booth was killed in the sinking of HMAS Sydney II, his great niece Sub-Lieutenant Mary Booth joined the Royal Australian Navy.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Navy officer Sub Lieutenant Mary Booth holds a portrait of her great uncle Able Seaman Ernest Albert Booth, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Photo by Corporal Luke Bellman.
But it wasn’t until her appointment that Sub-Lieutenant Booth felt the full weight of her great uncle’s sacrifice.
“I didn’t understand the significance of Sydney II until I joined,” Sub-Lieutenant Booth said.
“Able Seaman Booth was an older brother to my grandpa and one of 16 siblings.
“I found out he served on Sydney II for only three months before it sunk in battle.”
Able Seaman Booth perished with the entire 645-man crew of light cruiser Sydney II after a battle with disguised German merchant raider HSK Kormoran, on 19 November 1941.
Sub-Lieutenant Booth said her great-uncle’s story had spanned generations and many of his descendants had since served in the ADF with the knowledge of his sacrifice.
Able Seaman Booth was the eighth of 16 children, and grew up on the farm his father received as part of the Soldier Settlement Scheme after World War I.
He enlisted in Footscray at 19, serving first on board light cruiser HMAS Adelaide, before posting to Sydney II and dying at the age of 20.
Two of his older brothers were in the Army and survived World War II.
Decades later, Sub-Lieutenant Booth’s grandfather served in the Royal Australian Air Force during the Vietnam War.
Sub-Lieutenant Booth said she grew up hearing many stories of the ADF, which was a major contributor to her desire to join.
“I wanted to be part of these stories,” she said.
Sydney II was struck by a torpedo near the forward turret during its final battle and sank quickly after suffering heavy shell damage.
Kormoran had a crew of 393, 78 of whom died because of the fight with Sydney II.
Kormoran also sunk, at first slowly, until a mine on board exploded.
Sydney II was discovered at a depth of 2468m off the Western Australian coast in 2008.
Able Seaman Booth’s sacrifice is commemorated on the Australian War Memorial’s honour roll, on Panel 7, Column 1.
The wreck of HMAS Sydney II is treated as a war grave and protected under the Historic Shipwreck Act.
“My grandparents went to the service that was held in 2008 where Sydney II was discovered,” Sub-Lieutenant Booth said.