- Letter Writer
- Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Tarangau
- December 2013 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I read Jerry Lattin’s treatise on Manus Island in the June edition of the NHS Review with great interest. My father, Chaplain Patrick Helyer ALCD, FRGS, RAN (Retd), served in HMAS Tarangau for 18 months in 1952/53 as Base Chaplain (C of E). Dad passed away earlier this year (26 March) at the grand old age of 97 after a remarkable life.
I was appointed by my siblings to read the eulogy at his funeral in Dartmouth, South Devon, UK on 30 April. In researching family papers and elsewhere we discovered many fascinating aspects of his life. Few ordained ministers get the opportunity to literally build a church during their working life and Dad was one – in a remote outpost of Papua New Guinea.
Dad was challenged by his CO in 1952 to build a Chapel at Tarangau using Japanese prisoners of war as his work force. Of course technical advice was provided by the small RAN Shipwrights team on Manus whose main purpose at that stage was to look after repairs and maintenance for the base and its associated married quarters. I have no detailed knowledge of this project other than it was completed in late 1952/early 1953 and that a dividing wall in the middle separated the Protestants from the Catholics. Both faiths agreed on the building being dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors. Ultimately the POW workforce was repatriated to Japan in mid-1953 where they served out their respective sentences in a prison near Tokyo. The enclosed photo, taken from a native shell painting of the chapel, was featured on the front page of the order of service for my Dad’s funeral.
Nick Helyer, Cdre, MBE, RANR