‘A surreal moment’: remembering Nanggala

Visiting the KRI Nanggala memorial to remember 53 lives lost at sea was particularly poignant for Petty Officer Amy Morris and three fellow HMAS Anzac sailors during their port visit to Indonesia.

CAPTIONRoyal Australian Navy Imam Mogamat Majidih Essa conducts a prayer on a visit to the KRI Nanggala Memorial in Surabaya Indonesia during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023. Story by Lieutenant Emily Tinker. Photos by Sergeant Craig Barrett.

Two years ago, Petty Officer Morris, Leading Seaman Geoffrey Brittliffe, Leading Seaman Kylie Regenfelder and Leading Seaman Katie Nattrass Russo were on board HMAS Ballarat when the submarine Nanggala stopped responding and the call went out to help search for the lost sailors.

“Being on board HMAS Ballarat when we were tasked to go and search for KRI Nanggala was a very surreal moment,” Petty Officer Morris said.

“I remember getting the order to start searching for them. It was gut-wrenching knowing there were fellow sailors out there lost at sea.”

CAPTIONSailors from the Royal Australian Navy who were on board HMAS Ballarat during its search for the KRI Nanggala, Petty Officer Amy Morris and Leading Seamen Kylie Regenfelder, Geoffrey Brittliffe and Katie Nattrass Russo pay their respects at the memorial for the submarine in Surabaya, Indonesia

Visiting Surabaya as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023, Petty Officer Morris said she was humbled to be able to attend the memorial and pay respects to those sailors that did not return home.

“It was an honour to be able to come here as part of the Ballarat crew who helped search for the missing submarine and to go to the memorial today. It was definitely a moment that I will never forget,” Petty Officer Morris said.

“It was an honourable feeling to be able to help and commit our time to the search.”

Despite the devastating result, Petty Officer Morris said she believed the experience helped to bring the Australian and Indonesian navies closer together.

Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Christopher Smith echoed Petty Officer Morris’ thoughts.

“Australia is always willing to support our friends and allies whenever there are issues at sea,” Rear Admiral Smith said.

“This brought the region together.

“Navies from all around the world came to support Indonesia in the search, which shows the camaraderie of the navies around the world, regardless of political views we come together to look after each other when required at sea.”

KRI Nanggala (402) stopped responding on April 21, 2021. The navies of Australia, Singapore and India answered the call from Indonesia to help find their lost comrades.

After a three-day search, wreckage was found 19 kilometres from the point of last contact and Nanggala was declared sunk. Fifty-three submariners lost their lives.

CAPTIONRoyal Australian Navy personnel pay their respects to lost sailors on a visit to the KRI Nanggala Memorial in Surabaya Indonesia during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023


A tribute from a fellow sailor
It was a solemn search but a miraculous sight to see so many countries come together to support our Indonesian friends.

I remember looking out on the horizon and seeing ships everywhere. It was very emotional.

I take pride in knowing I was able to be a part of something so much bigger than myself, something so important.

We always talk about interoperability, but this was more than that.

This was one friend dropping everything instantly to be by the side to help and support another friend in any way we could. It shows such a huge amount of strength in our relationship.

When we’re needed, we’ll always be there.

– Leading Seaman Kylie Regenfelder, crew on HMAS Ballarat, 2021, during search for KRI Nanggala


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