- Letter Writer
- Biographies and personal histories, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Anzac I, HMAS Shoalhaven, HMAS Tobruk I
- September 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
This is a letter from Mrs. I.H. McDonald (Widow of the late Captain I.H. McDonald RAN – N.H.S. “Review” March 1997) to the Maritime Commander Australia.
Rear Admiral C. A. Ritchie AM, RAN, Maritime Headquarters, Wylde Street, Potts Point, Sydney NSW 2014
April 15, 1997.
Dear Admiral Ritchie,
This letter is to offer my personal thanks to the R.A.N. for the caring and professional manner of the service in the Committal to Sea of the ashes of my late husband Captain Ian McDonald.
During his illustrious career my husband commanded HMA Ships Shoalhaven, Tobruk and Anzac, served in six battleships, eight destroyers and four cruisers. His last sea duty was in command of HMAS Tobruk in Korea in 1952.
The unique event involving HMAS Tobruk took place on April 4th off Sunshine Beach, Queensland. With a few friends I actually saw the proceedings from the balcony of our home and for all of us it will always be a proud and poignant memory.
HMAS Tobruk came in from the north and the Commanding Officer made telephone contact regarding the exact location. To help identify our position I displayed the Australian flag, the White Ensign (upside down), the crests from my husband’s ships, his sword and medals as well as the port and starboard lights from HMAS Australia. We watched the ship slowly moving until, with great precision, it drew exactly opposite. Sailing boats and fishing craft were around as well as a shark net but the ship safely negotiated these and on “dead slow” came within the nearest safest distance from shore.
Commander Glenn Robinson then advised us that the service would commence. We were able to follow it and participate through copies obtained from Commander Coles Personal Services organization in Sydney.
As the ceremony ended we saw a small cloud of ashes sweep behind the ship and knew that a fitting tribute had been paid to my late husband as he was reunited with the sea by his beloved navy.
The Commanding Officer, Captain Robinson, then contacted me to express his pride in being part of the service, particularly so as his father had served with Ian in HMAS Tobruk in Korea. I congratulated him on a perfectly executed manoeuvre and on his exemplary conduct in communications. We then watched as the ship gathered speed and disappeared over the horizon.
Our small gathering agreed that it was a most impressive operation and one that would remain in our memories for the rest of our lives. All present congratulated the Navy and felt proud of our RAN.
Our Minister and cameraman were unable to be present at such short notice so we do not have a clear record of the sight of an RAN ship, close inshore, giving such an unexpectedly wonderful performance. Perhaps this service was unique in the annals of the Australian Navy?
I wish to thank you for granting us the opportunity to pay our last respects to Ian in a manner that honoured him and the execution of which would have given him great pleasure and satisfaction. Would you please extend my sincere appreciation to Commander Robinson and his crew and to those in Personal Services Division? Thank you again,
Yours very sincerely,