The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (PA1226) Able Seaman John Henry Sanders, HMAS Goorangai, Second World War

Place Oceania: Australia, Victoria, Mornington Peninsula, Portsea
Accession Number PAFU2014/245.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 23 July 2014
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Craig Blanch, the story for this day was on (PA1226) Able Seaman John Henry Sanders, HMAS Goorangai, Second World War.

Speech transcript

PA1226 Able Seaman John Henry Sanders, HMAS Goorangai
Accidentally killed 20 November 1940
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 23 July 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Able Seaman John Henry Sanders of the Royal Australian Navy.

John Sanders was born on 23 January 1917 in Essex, England. Very little is known of how or why he came to be in Australia, but when the Second World War broke out he was married to Joyce and living in the Orroroo, South Australia, where he worked as an accountant. His mother and sister were also in Australia, so it is likely he came out with them when a boy or young man. Despite living in the country, John was also a member of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, and was called up for active duty in October 1939 following the outbreak of war.

Sanders was posted to HMAS Goorangai. This vessel had been a fishing trawler in peacetime, but when the war started she was taken over by the Navy Board and fitted out for minesweeping. Her peacetime captain had also been a member of the Naval Reserve, and was called up to remain captain of the Goorangai in her new role.

In early November 1940 a British ship and an American freighter were lost in quick succession in the Bass Strait to German mine-laying operations. HMAS Goorangai was one of a number of minesweepers sent to locate and destroy the mines. Following that operation the minesweeper returned to Queenscliff, but a rising storm sent the ship to the safer harbour of Portsea.

As the Goorangai passed in darkness through the dangerous rip at the mouth of Port Philip Bay she was hit by an outbound merchant ship and torn almost in half. A crewman on the ship that hit the Goorangai reported: “In the short time it took me to run along the promenade deck to the rail by the bridge the Goorangai had disappeared. There was not a sound but the crash of water.” In the moment in between, some eyewitnesses heard men calling for help, but could do little for them. Floatation devices were thrown out into the darkness, and lifeboats deployed
immediately, but despite a long search no survivors or bodies were found. The minesweeper had sunk almost immediately with all hands still on board.

John’s wife was living in Melbourne, and his mother and sister, hearing of the disaster, left Adelaide immediately to join her. Over the following weeks diving operations recovered the bodies of five of the crew.

The remaining 19, including that of John Sanders, were never recovered, and the wreck of the minesweeper was blown up to clear the channel.

The names of John Sanders and the crew of HMAS Goorangai are listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 others from the Second World War.

There is no photograph of John in the Memorial’s collection to display beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Able Seaman John Henry Sanders, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (PA1226) Able Seaman John Henry Sanders, HMAS Goorangai, Second World War (video)