The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (22047) Leading Seaman Frank Dandridge Johnson, HMAS Perth, Royal Australian Navy, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.59
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 28 February 2018
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 , the story for this day was on, (22047) Leading Seaman Frank Dandridge Johnson, HMAS Perth, Royal Australian Navy, Second World War.

Speech transcript

22047 Leading Seaman Frank Dandridge Johnson, HMAS Perth, Royal Australian Navy
Died at sea 12 September 1944

Story delivered 28 February 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Leading Seaman Frank Dandridge Johnson.

Frank Johnson was born on the 1st of July 1921 to Wilfred and Irene Johnson of Waverly, New South Wales.

He enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy at the age of 17 and began service at HMAS Cerberus, a training facility on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

After a period of service on the destroyer HMAS Waterhen, Johnson was serving aboard the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra when Australia’s involvement in the Second World War was announced in September 1939.
He was a member of Canberra’s crew when it escorted the first convoy carrying troops of the Second AIF and Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force to the Middle East.

In August 1940, Johnson returned to the Cerberus, and a few months later was was deployed to serve on the light cruiser HMAS Perth.

After patrolling and escort duties in Australian waters, in November 1940, just after Johnson joined the crew, Perth departed for the Mediterranean. There she took part in the battle of Cape Matapan, and the evacuations of Crete and Greece in April and May of 1941. During the course of these actions, Perth was badly damaged by enemy bombing. After repairs, the cruiser was engaged in operations off the coast of Syria before proceeding to Australia for an extended refit, arriving in Sydney in August.

In mid-February 1942, Perth sailed for the Netherlands East Indies. During 27-28 February the Perth fought in the major naval battle for the Java Sea among a force of Australian, British, Dutch, and American ships. Five of the 14 Allied ships that took part in the action were lost against a formidable Japanese force. HMAS Perth and USS Houston were lucky to survive. They were able to break off from the engagement and make for Tandjung Priok to refuel.

The following night, HMAS Perth and USS Houston made for the southern coast of Java through the Sunda Strait. En route they bravely engaged a Japanese invasion force heading for Java. In the ensuing battle for Sunda Strait, the heavily outnumbered ships were sunk.

Three hundred and fifty-seven members of Perth’s crew were killed when the ship went down.

Frank Johnson survived, and was one of the 320 crewmembers of Perth who became prisoners of the Japanese.

He was first imprisoned on Java, where he spent much of 1942. Toward the end of the year he left Java as part of a large work party bound for Burma and Thailand. His party joined a much larger work force of prisoner-of-war labour used by the Japanese to construct the Burma–Thailand Railway.

Many of the prisoners working on the railway were malnourished and disease was rife. Johnson survived 18 months on the railway, and after its completion was transported from Thailand to Singapore. Here, along with more than 2,000 Australian and British prisoners of war, he embarked upon the ship the Rakuyo Maru, which, alongside the Kachidoki Maru, was to transport the prisoners to Japan.

On the morning of 12 September 1944 the convoy was attacked by American submarines in the South China Sea, unaware that Allied prisoners were being transported in the holds of cargo ships. Rakuyo Maru (with 1,318 Australian and British prisoners of war aboard) was sunk by USS Sealion II; Kachidoki Maru (carrying 900 British prisoners of war) was sunk by USS Pampanito.

The prisoners who were able to evacuate the ships spent the following days in life rafts or clinging to wreckage in open water. About 150 Australian and British survivors were rescued by American submarines. A further 500 were picked up by Japanese destroyers and continued the journey to Japan. Those who were not rescued perished at sea. One-thousand five-hundred and fifty-nine Australian and British prisoners of war were killed in the incident, all missing at sea.
Among the missing was Leading Seaman Frank Johnson. He was 23 years old.

Today he is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Britain, which is dedicated to the thousands of British and Commonwealth sailors who lost their lives at sea or who have no known grave.
His name is listed here on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Leading Seaman Frank Dandridge Johnson, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (22047) Leading Seaman Frank Dandridge Johnson, HMAS Perth, Royal Australian Navy, Second World War. (video)