The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (17055) Able Seaman Donald Menhenick, HMAS Parramatta, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.331
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 27 November 2021
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 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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (17055) Able Seaman Donald Menhenick, HMAS Parramatta, Second World War.

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Speech transcript

17055 Able Seaman Donald Menhenick, HMAS Parramatta
KIA 27 November 1941

Today we remember and pay tribute to Able Seaman Donald Menhenick.

Donald Menhenick was born on 15 July 1905 in the Sydney suburb of Annandale, the second son of Gordon and Janet Menhenick. His younger siblings were Leah, Robert, William and Jessie; his older brother was named Gordon after their father.

Donald attended Leichhardt Public School, spending weekends were with his mates at Bondi Beach or at Balmain Pool. He was interested in horses, and in his late teens developed a love of motorcycles, scraping enough money together to buy a second-hand Indian Scout. Eventually Donald took his mother’s advice to follow in his older brother Gordon’s footsteps and join the navy. He did so on 25 October 1925, signing on for 12 years.

Donald was initially posted to HMAS Cerberus to complete his training. Over the next few years he was posted to various ships and shore establishments including HMAS Brisbane, Adelaide, Australia and Canberra. In May 1928 he was promoted able seaman. Towards the end of his 12 years’ service, Donald was posted to the naval base HMAS Penguin at Garden Island in Sydney. His 12-year contract complete, he discharged in 1937 and was recommended to become a member of the Royal Australian Fleet Reserve, liable for further service upon mobilisation of the Citizen Naval Forces.

With war looming, Donald signed on on 27 June 1939, retaining the rank of able seaman. He was posted to HMAS Adelaide, then back to Penguin. In April 1940 Donald joined HMAS Parramatta, which was fitting as he had grown up in the Sydney suburb of Rhodes on the Parramatta River.

HMAS Parramatta was a new 1,060 ton Grimsby-Class sloop, launched on the 10th of June 1939 and commissioned at Sydney on 8 April 1940. Armed with three four-inch guns, four 3-pounders, torpedoes and depth charges, her complement was 135 officers and men. Parramatta was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Jefferson Walker.

Following initial workup exercises, Parramatta sailed from Fremantle on 29 June 1940 and shaped course for the Middle East. Over the next nine months, as part of Red Sea Force, the ship conducted numerous operations escorting, patrolling and minesweeping this critical waterway. Apart from occasional attacks from Italian aircraft, Parramatta's main action was participating in operations against Italian Eritrea in April 1941.

The following month Parramatta transferred to the Mediterranean Station. In late June she made her first run from Alexandria escorting vital supplies being shipped to the besieged port of Tobruk, Libya, where Australian troops were holding out. Subject to heavy air and submarine attack, Parramatta fortunately survived unscathed. The next few months saw Parramatta undertaking less hazardous duties, making escort runs to Cyprus, followed by duty in the Suez Canal zone.

On 18 November 1941, the Allies launched Operation Crusader, a land offensive aimed at relieving Tobruk. Parramatta again conducted escort duties in support. Despite being subjected to enemy air and submarine attacks, once more the ship returned safely to Alexandria on 23 November. The pace was relentless and supplies were desperately needed, so two days later, Parramatta cast off for a return to Tobruk.

Around midnight on 26 November, Parramatta, HMS Avon Vale and the ammunition supply ship Hanne were sighted off the coast of Bardia by German submarine U-559. After missing the Hanne, U-559 fired a single torpedo at HMAS Parramatta, which hit.

There were two almost simultaneous explosions, the second probably in the magazine as the ship was torn apart. All lighting failed and Walker, standing on the bridge, only had time to issue the order to abandon ship before she rolled to starboard and sank. Only twenty-four survived, mostly those who were on the upper decks. 138 officers and sailors were lost. Among them was Able Seaman Donald Menhenick. He was 36 years old.

The remains of those lost in HMAS Parramatta that fateful day still lay with the wreck. Their names are commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, in Devon, England, and are also listed 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 Able Seaman Donald Menhenick, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Craig Tibbitts
Historian, Military History Section

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