Royal Australian Navy Marks Anniversary of East Timor Attack


On the pristine shores of a remote beach in East Timor lies a unique piece of Australian naval history that has been revisited – and remembered.

A contingent of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) personnel that are integrated within the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) recently visited the site of the wreck of HMAS Voyager (I) on Betano Beach on the far south coast of East Timor.

Led by the ISF Chief-of-Staff, Commander Charlie Stephenson, a party of nine Navy personnel flew from their base in Dili to the remote site to mark the 69th anniversary of the sinking of the HMAS Voyager (I) on 22 September 1942.

Amid the wide-eyed interest of local East Timorese, the RAN contingent held a memorial service at the wreck site that can still be accessed from a beach head.

HMAS Voyager (I) had left its base in Darwin in 1942 to land troops and re-supply an Australian and Timorese militia who were engaged in courageous resistance to the onslaught of some 35,000 invading Japanese.

While landing the troops at Betano Bay, the Voyager ran aground in the shallows and was soon spotted by a Japanese Zero fighter. While the fighter was shot down by gunners onboard the Voyager, the alarm had gone out and a Japanese air attack the following day destroyed the vessel.

Although all troops onboard had earlier been evacuated, the incident records a historic part of the fight for freedom in Timor.

Organizer of the RAN memorial visit, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Rick Parry, said the brief service at the site was a sombre and appropriate recognition of battles that had gone before them.

“After spending some time at the wreck site, we engaged with the local Betano community who were very interested in the little known piece of history on their local beach,” LCDR Parry said.

“Before we landed to see the wreck, our helicopter hovered momentarily at 3,000 feet above the wreck to demonstrate just how much the Voyager was a sitting duck to the low-flying attacking Japanese aircraft.

“To all of us it was a privilege to be able to participate in an event that remembers a significant past for Australia and the East Timorese during World War 2.

Source: navy, October 06, 2011