Posthumous Awards
to
Captain. Waller

C.O. of HMAS Perth

John Bradford
Historian and Author

          While researching files in the Australian Archives, historian John Bradford of Adelaide discovered that, in 1947,  the Netherlands Government wished to posthumously award the Knighthood of the " Militaire Willems-Ord" to Capt.Waller for his "courageous and masterly actions" in the Battles of the Java Sea and Sunda Strait.  This award is the highest gallantry award that the Netherlands can bestow upon a foreign subject.

         The Australian Government of the day declined the offer stating that they were governed by the rules of Imperial Honours which did not allow for posthumous awards by a foreign power.

         In 1997 John, with two former members of Perth's crew, asked authorities to see if the awards could be reactivated to coincide with the launching of the new "Collins" Class submarine HMAS WALLER.  However enquiries revealed that the Netherlands ceased awards to foreign subjects in 1952.

         It might well be asked  why posthumous awards were not allowed to be made to Capt. Waller by the Netherlands, when Capt. E Dechaineux and LCDR J.Band  of the RAN were permitted , by the Australian Government, to receive posthumous awards from the USA in apparent contravention of the Imperial Honors system.

       Capt.A.H. Rooks of the USS Houston was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest US bravery award.  Why was no VC awarded to Waller?

      The archives provide some clues.  In Mar. 1945, The Minister for the Navy Mr. Makin, spoke in glowing terms of Waller's bravery in Perth's last fight to the Australian Parliament but despite this, no request for a VC was ever forwarded to the Board of Admiralty by the Government and none was forthcoming from the Australian Naval Board (ANB).  In fact, in a submission in Nov. 1945 by the ANB to the Admiralty for bravery awards to Perth crew members, Waller's name was omitted.

     In Jan. 1946 the Admiralty asked the ANB if Waller's name should have been included and the Board agreed to add his name to the list.  Waller received a Mention in Despatches.  It seems that, had the Admiralty not prompted the ANB, Waller may have received no awards at all.  Had   the ANB recommended a VC for Waller in Nov. 1945, then it is highly probable the Admiralty would have agreed.

     The above actions reflect very poorly on the Government of the day and even more so on the members of the Australian Naval Board. This information , which has only just seen the light of day, must come as a complete surprise to former Perth crew members.

( Condensed from information supplied by John Bradford )

John's website is at: http://users.picknowl.com.au/~wjb718/default.htm

 

Webmaster's Note:

The following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald regarding the possibility of posthumously awarding the Victoria Cross.

The article is reproduced below.

Awards tribunal to consider 13 posthumous VCs

April 16, 2011
Gallipoli stretcher bearer John Simpson Kirkpatrick.

Gallipoli stretcher bearer John Simpson Kirkpatrick.

Thirteen former Australian servicemen - 11 sailors and two soldiers - are to be considered for a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Under an inquiry foreshadowed in December but officially launched on Saturday, the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal will investigate unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour.

Best known on the list is John Simpson Kirkpatrick of Gallipoli fame.

The number of sailors reflects the fact that not one VC has ever been awarded to an Australian sailor.

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence David Feeney said there had been numerous acts of gallantry and valour by Australian naval and military servicemen since World War I.

"A number of people have raised the issue of a Victoria Cross for former Defence Force personnel," he said in a statement.

"I am pleased that the tribunal will inquire into recognition for thirteen naval and military personnel. Their brave acts of gallantry and valour deserve greater recognition."

Senator Feeney said he had directed the tribunal to make recommendations on the eligibility of the 13 to receive the Victoria Cross, the Victoria Cross for Australia or other forms of recognition.

The tribunal will take submissions and conduct public hearings in the second half of the year.

Tribunal chairman Professor Dennis Pearce said before making any recommendations on the eligibility of the 13 cases for any form of retrospective recognition, they would consider the rules, procedures and issues of principle relating to award of the VC, VC for Australia and other forms of appropriate recognition plus the evidentiary standards.

"We will consult experts in the field of honours and awards. We will also take into account the constitutional and diplomatic issues," he said.

"Only once this has all been done, will the tribunal be able to proceed to the consideration of the 13 cases."

There would appear to be significant challenges.

Until 1991, the VC was awarded to Australians through the Imperial honours system. In 1991, Australia adopted the VC for Australia, an identical medal but awarded through the Australian honours system.

However, the VC for Australia can still only be awarded "with the approval of the Sovereign, by instrument signed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Minister".

The tribunal will also take submissions from members of the public on others who might also be worthy of recognition for gallantry, although they won't be considered in detail at this time.

There would appear to be no shortage of possible contenders. For example, Harry Smith, who commanded Australian troops at Long Tan during the Vietnam War, last month called for Warrant Officer Jack Kirby to receive the VC for gallantry during that battle.

AWARDS DENIED

On 21 February 2011, the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator The Hon. David Feeney, requested the Tribunal inquire into and report on unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour.

On 6th February the Tribunal handed down their decision:

Recommendation 1: "No action be taken by the Australian Government to award a Victoria Cross (VC) for Australia or any other form of medallic recognition for gallantry or valour to any of the 13 individuals named in the Terms of Reference."
http://defence-honours-tribunal.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/AF13050626.pdf

 

 


 

 

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