The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (19586) Petty Officer William Everett Smith, HMAS Yarra, Royal Australian Navy, Second World War

Accession Number PAFU2015/319.01
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 29 July 2015
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

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 Charis May, the story for this day was on (19586) Petty Officer William Everett Smith, HMAS Yarra, Royal Australian Navy, Second World War.

Speech transcript

19586 Petty Officer William Everett Smith, HMAS Yarra, Royal Australian Navy
KIA 4 March 1942
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 29 July 2015

Today we pay tribute to Petty Officer William Everett Smith, who was killed on active service with the Royal Australian Navy in 1942.

Born in Barnsley, New South Wales, on 27 August 1913, William Everett Smith was the son of Thomas and Frances Smith. As a young man William Smith attended West Wallsend School before moving to Victoria with his family when he was 13. In 1932, aged 19, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy.

Smith began training at HMAS Cerberus, and throughout the 1930s he served aboard several ships, including HMAS Canberra, HMAS Vendetta, and HMAS Sydney. On 18 December 1938 Smith married Ernestine Eunice Francis. By the outbreak of the Second World War Smith had risen from ordinary seaman to petty officer, and in June 1940 he was posted to crew of the sloop HMAS Yarra.

Spending the first 12 months of the war in Australian waters, in August 1940 the Yarra was posted to join Red Sea Force at the port of Aden. Over the next year the ship took part in patrols in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, including campaigns in Iran and Iraq.

In November 1941 Yarra took part in convoy duty in the Mediterranean, escorting convoys bringing supplies to the besieged garrison at Tobruk.

At the outbreak of war in the Pacific in December 1941 Yarra was sent to Java for escort duties between Batavia and Singapore. On 5 February 1942, while under attack, it rescued 1,800 survivors from the sunken troopship Empress of Asia.

On 4 March Yarra was escorting a small convoy of three ships from Java to Fremantle when it was intercepted by five Japanese warships, consisting of three cruisers and two destroyers. Outgunned and outranged, the captain of the Yarra nevertheless placed his ship between the enemy and the convoy and prepared to attack.

Despite its gallant efforts, the Yarra took several hits and began to list heavily after enemy shells destroyed the engine room and steering. As Yarra sank, the crew were ordered to abandon ship. A total of 138 of the Yarra’s 151 crew were killed in the action or died on life rafts. One of those who died was William Smith. He was 28 years old.

The names of those men of the Yarra who died in the incident are commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Britain, dedicated to the thousands of British and Commonwealth sailors who lost their lives at sea or who have no known grave.

William Smith’s name and the names of his crew who lost their lives are listed here on the Roll of Honour to my left, along with around 40,000 other Australians who died 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 Petty Officer William Everett Smith, and all of those Australians who gave their lives for their nation.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (19586) Petty Officer William Everett Smith, HMAS Yarra, Royal Australian Navy, Second World War (video)