The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Flight Lieutenant Lynne Elizabeth Rowbottom, Health Services Flight Townsville, Royal Australian Air Force, Operation Sumatra Assist II.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.92
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 2 April 2019
Access Open
Conflict Indonesia, 2005 (Operation Sumatra Assist II)
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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on Flight Lieutenant Lynne Elizabeth Rowbottom, Health Services Flight Townsville, Royal Australian Air Force, Operation Sumatra Assist II.

Speech transcript

Flight Lieutenant Lynne Elizabeth Rowbottom, Health Services Flight Townsville, Royal Australian Air Force
Helicopter Crash 2 April 2005

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Lieutenant Lynne Elizabeth Rowbottom.

Lynne Elizabeth Rowbottom was born on 25 January 1962, the youngest of five children born to of Les and Pat Eadie, of Mowbray, Tasmania. She went to school at Invermay Primary School and Broadland House Girls Grammar School where she excelled at languages, played the piano, sang in the school choir, and enjoyed sailing, hockey, and horse riding. After school she was offered a scholarship to study teaching, but instead decided to follow her dream of helping others by becoming a nurse. In 1980 she began nursing training at Launceston General Hospital and Queen Victoria Hospital. She worked in intensive care and the renal unit, and in 1991 moved to Townsville General Hospital in Queensland where she specialised in renal therapy. She was married to Terry Rowbottom, and had one son, Rhys.

Rowbottom joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a nursing officer in 1996 when she was 34 years old. She had various postings throughout her career. In 1999 she was promoted to flight lieutenant, and by 2001 was posted to Townsville. In 2003, she served in the Australian peacekeeping force in East Timor as part of Operation Citadel.

In 2005, Rowbottom was attached to HMAS Kanimbla as she participated in Operation Sumatra Assist, the Australian humanitarian response to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The tsunami, one of the largest on record, resulted in the death of an estimated 230,000 people in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Over 1,400 members of the Australian Defence Force took part in the massive international humanitarian response to the disaster.

HMAS Kanimbla arrived in the badly affected area of Banda Aceh in Indonesia on 13 January and immediately began assisting in the relief effort. Australians assisted in the aftermath of the tsunami by providing medical, transport and engineering support, and by providing tons of humanitarian supplies such as food, water and fuel.

In March 2005 HMAS Kanimbla was docked in Singapore preparing to return to Australia. On 28 March, a magnitude 8.7 earthquake struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Nias. This earthquake did not cause a tsunami, but caused widespread destruction of buildings, roads, bridges, and other vital infrastructure. Roughly one third of the buildings in the island’s main urban centres were destroyed. Official reports listed 850 people killed and more than 6,000 injured. HMAS Kanimbla was immediately deployed to the island to provide medical and transport support to Indonesian authorities in what became known as operation Sumatra Assist II.

As a result of the widespread damage to the roads of Nias, urgently needed medical support could not reach remote areas. Kanimbla deployed one of its helicopters, a Sea King designated Shark 02, to deliver medical teams and humanitarian stores to the island.

On the afternoon of 2 April 2005, Shark 02 flew towards Nias with its regular crew of four, along with seven medical and communications specialists from the navy and air force. They reached the village of Tuindrao on the island’s west coast and prepared to make a landing on the local football pitch. As the helicopter approached its landing, the aircraft suddenly pitched forward, causing the nose to strike the ground. One crew member described how, “One minute the ground seemed a fair way below us, and the next it was close and coming through the cockpit”. The helicopter flipped onto its back, fell to its side, and burst into flame. Two badly injured personnel were pulled from the flaming wreckage by local Indonesians, nine other personnel, including Flight Lieutenant Rowbottom, were killed in the tragic accident.

She was 43 years old, and was survived by her grieving husband and son.

On 5 April 2005, the Indonesia President posthumously awarded her the Indonesia Medal of Valour.

Her name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flight Lieutenant Lynne Elizabeth Rowbottom, who gave her life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Flight Lieutenant Lynne Elizabeth Rowbottom, Health Services Flight Townsville, Royal Australian Air Force, Operation Sumatra Assist II. (video)