When Robyn Gladwin was growing up, her mother Marjorie wouldn’t talk to her much about her father, Flight Lieutenant Duncan John Murchison. But she always told her daughter that she knew the exact moment he was killed during the Second World War when Robyn was just a newborn baby.
“She was still in the hospital in north Sydney,” Robyn said as she shared her family’s story.
“She could remember seeing the photograph of him on the dressing table in the room suddenly fall over, and she called for one of the nurses, and she said, ‘Sister, my husband’s been killed.’ The Sister said, ‘No, you just settle down.’”
It was 75 years ago on 9 August 1942 and Robyn was just six days old. Her father had been killed on HMAS Canberra when it was attacked in the early hours of the morning by a group of Japanese cruisers and a destroyer in what became known as the battle of Savo Island.
“My mother’s hair, with the shock of it, went white,” Robyn said.
“She was later told that they knew [on the ship] that I had arrived, that a message had come through that he’d had a baby daughter and that they toasted me in cold tea.
“I was only six days old when he was killed and I can only tell you about my father because of my close relationship with my grandparents. As a child, he was to me, Daddy Duncan, the picture on my grandmother’s piano.”