RAN sweetheart brooch : Lois Watson

Accession Number REL49595
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Badge
Place made Australia
Date made pre 1942
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Silver and enamel Royal Australian Navy sweetheart brooch depicting a horizontal anchor, naval crown and 'RAN'. Given to Lois Watson by her brother, S6116 Ordinary Seaman Raymond Owen Venning who was killed on 1 June 1942 during the Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney harbour when HMAS Kuttabul was torpedoed and sunk.

History / Summary

Raymond Venning was the son of Norman and Annetta Venning and was born in Pinnaroo, South Australia, on 4 June, 1923. His father served with the Light Horse during the First World War, and would go on to serve his country again in the second. Raymond attended the Yarraville School and Pinnaroo Higher Primary School before gaining his commercial intermediate certificate with merit. After leaving school, Venning joined the Pinnaroo Postal Department, but two years later transferred to Canberra to work as a clerk. He became an active member of the Manuka Intermediate Australian Rules Football team, where his red hair quickly earnt him the nickname “Bluey”.

Venning enlisted for service with the Royal Australian Navy on 23 November 1941 at the age of 18. He began his training at HMAS Cerberus, the naval base near Melbourne in Victoria. In April 1942 he transferred to HMAS Penguin, the naval base on Garden Island in Sydney Harbour. During his time there he lived on the depot ship Kuttabul, a Sydney Harbour ferry acquired by the Royal Australian Navy that acted as accommodation for men waiting transfer to their final posting.

On the evening of 31 May 1942, three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour. Shortly after midnight, one of the Japanese submarines fired two torpedoes at USS Chicago, an American heavy cruiser moored near Garden Island. Both torpedoes missed the cruiser. One ran aground and failed to explode, but the second torpedo exploded against the sea wall near Kuttabul. The ferry broke in two in the explosion, and quickly sank, leaving just the uppermost deck exposed. Nineteen men from the Royal Australian Navy and two from the British Navy were killed as a result.

One of those men was Ordinary Seaman Raymond Venning, who had been at the base a little over a month, and was killed just three days before his 19th birthday. He was initially posted as “missing, believed killed”, but his body was later recovered. He was buried in Sydney with full naval honours.