The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Chaplain Ronald Sutton Bevington, HMAS Perth, Second World War.

Place Asia: Netherlands East Indies, Sunda Strait
Accession Number AWM2016.2.35
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 4 February 2016
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
Description

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 Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on Chaplain Ronald Sutton Bevington, HMAS Perth, Second World War.

Speech transcript

Chaplain Ronald Sutton Bevington, HMAS Perth
KIA 1 March 1942
Photograph: P09368.001

Story delivered 4 February 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Chaplain the Reverend Ronald Sutton Bevington.

Ronald Bevington was born in Bournemouth in Hampshire, England, on 4 July 1911, the son of Reginald and Netta Bevington. He studied at Cambridge University and was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1936. The Reverend Bevington was appointed as an assistant Minister of St Paul’s at Portman Square in London, but early in his ministry he felt the urge to work in the Commonwealth. In late 1938 he was appointed to the Australian branch of the Children’s Special Service Mission and Scripture Union. Travelling to Australia, Bevington joined the Sydney Dioceses in 1939.

In May 1940, following the outbreak of the Second World War, Bevington was appointed as a chaplain to the Royal Australian Navy. After a month at shore station HMAS Penguin in Sydney, he joined the ship’s company of HMAS Perth (I) in June.

Armed with eight 6-inch guns, the light cruiser spent much of rest of 1940 engaged in patrols and escort duties in Australian waters. In November Perth sailed for the Middle East, and the next month the vessel moved to the Mediterranean.

Perth’s work during 1941 included transporting troops to Malta, Crete, and mainland Greece, and in March the cruiser participated in battle of Cape Matapan. In late May it assisted with the evacuation of Commonwealth soldiers from Crete. The cruiser rescued more than 1,100 soldiers, but during the evacuation the convoy was attacked five times and was eventually hit by a bomb in a boiler room. Four of the ship’s company and nine passengers were killed. Perth was later badly shaken by several near-misses.

In late June Perth was in action again, supporting the British Commonwealth forces against the Vichy French in the Syrian campaign. In mid-July it was relieved by another Australian cruiser and began the voyage home, arriving in Western Australia three weeks later.

In September Perth’s captain observed that Bevington was working to gain the confidence of the ship’s company – being “in” the ship rather than “of” it. The chaplain was described as a “very earnest Christian” whose “heart and soul” was in his work.

In early 1942 Perth carried out various patrols and escort duties to New Zealand, New Caledonia, and New Guinea. In February it sailed for the Netherlands East Indies, and later participated in the disastrous naval battle of the Java Sea. The next evening, 28 February, Perth and the American cruiser USS Houston fought a fierce action in Sunda Strait, engaging a larger Japanese force. Perth expended nearly all of its ammunition in the action before being hit by four torpedoes; it sank at 12:25 am on 1 March. Houston, too, sank soon afterwards.

More than half of Perth’s company – 353 officers, ratings and civilians – were killed or drowned in the action, including Bevington. He was 30 years old. The survivors were rescued by the Japanese, and the Australians spent the next three and a half years as prisoners of war. Another 106 men from the Perth died in captivity.

Bevington’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Chaplain the Reverend Ronald Sutton Bevington, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Karl James
Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Chaplain Ronald Sutton Bevington, HMAS Perth, Second World War. (video)