The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (0156024) Lieutenant Paul John Kimlin, HMAS Kanimbla, Operation Sumatra Assist

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.92
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 2021
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (0156024) Lieutenant Paul John Kimlin, HMAS Kanimbla, Operation Sumatra Assist

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Speech transcript

0156024 Lieutenant Paul John Kimlin, HMAS Kanimbla
Accidental: 2 April 2005

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant Paul John Kimlin.

Paul Kimlin was born on 1 January 1976 in Canberra, the son of Ray and Carole Kimlin. Paul and his older sister Janelle grew up in Canberra, part of a close-knit family.

He attended Melba Primary School, where his lifelong love of aircraft and flying manifested. While other children read adventure novels, Paul collected and read aircraft magazines. The dream to become a pilot only grew with time. Paul attended Lyneham High School and then Copland College.

He joined the Air Cadets at the age of 14 and took part in as many of the flying camps and other activities as he could, further fuelling his dream of becoming a military aviator.

In 1995 Paul applied to join the Royal Australian Air Force as a pilot. Though he was unsuccessful, he was deemed suitable to fly helicopters. Undeterred, he began an Applied Science degree at Canberra University, but hadn’t progressed too far when the Royal Australian Navy approached him and asked him to join as a direct entry pilot to fly helicopters.

Paul entered the RAN in March 1996 and was posted to the Royal Naval College at HMAS Creswell. After graduating in August, he was posted to RAAF Base Pearce for pilot training. Successfully completing this course in February 1998, he was posted back to Canberra for training at the Australian Defence Force Helicopter School at RAAF Base Fairbairn. Paul was awarded his wings in November and was posted to 723 Squadron at HMAS Albatross for helicopter training.

In September 2000 Paul deployed to East Timor where he served as the military aviation liaison officer to the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor. After returning from this deployment he was posted to 817 Squadron for type conversion to fly Sea King helicopters.

His next deployment was to Christmas Island in 2002 as part of Operation Relex, part of Australia’s wider border protection operations.

In March 2003 Paul deployed to Iraq as part of the crew of HMAS Kanimbla flying a Sea King helicopter. While in Iraq, he flew fleet and combat support missions, maintaining part of the logistics lifeline to ships in the northern Arabian Gulf and land-based Australian forces. His helicopter “Shark 07” was the first RAN aircraft to land in Iraq after hostilities had begun.

By the early 2000s Paul had become one of the new veterans’ public faces of the Royal Australian Navy. He appeared on television, including the Anzac Day 2004 edition of Enough Rope with Andrew Denton, represented the RAN at open days, and took part in public talks and school visits.

In December 2004, Paul and his Kanimbla crewmates were called to participate 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.

Kanimbla arrived in 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, Kanimbla was docked in Singapore preparing to return to Australia. On 28 March, an 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 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. Kanimbla was immediately deployed to the island to provide medical and transport support 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, so 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 – Paul was captain of the aircraft – along with seven medical and communications specialists. 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, it suddenly pitched forward, causing the nose to strike the ground. The helicopter flipped onto its back, fell to its side, and burst into flames. Two badly injured personnel were pulled from the flaming wreckage by local Indonesians, nine other personnel, including Lieutenant Kimlin, were killed in the tragic accident.

Paul Kimlin was 29 years old.

On 5 April during a state visit to Australia, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono posthumously awarded Paul and the eight other crew and passengers of Shark 02 the Indonesia Medal of Valour. A later court of enquiry determined that the crash had been caused by a mechanical fault.

Paul Kimlin’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with the other eight servicemen and women who died during Operation Sumatra Assist II. His is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant Paul Kimlin, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Australian War Memorial

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