The date February 10, 1964 may not mean much to some but to the survivors of the collision between HMAS Melbourne and the Royal Australian Navy destroyer Voyager it is significant.
The crash between the two ships off the coast of New South Wales occurred 55 years ago this week but Cardup resident and survivor Gary Nash remembers it like it was yesterday.
Mr Nash was just 20 years old and serving as an engineering mechanic at the time.
“I had not long come off watch and I was up in the recreation space having a cup of coffee when all of a sudden I heard the engine start to scream in reverse,” he said.
“A couple of us looked over the side of the boat and all we could see was this big black shape.
“At first I thought we had hit a whale but what I didn’t know was that we had hit the Voyager and turned it upside down.
“As we reversed we came off the Voyager and it turned back upright and as that happened a boiler room blew and that is what killed a lot of the officers and crew.”
Mr Nash recalls seeing men everywhere in the water covered in oil screaming for help.
In total 82 officers and crew died many of whom were Mr Nash’s friends within the tight knit navy community.
“From my engineering class half went to work on the Melbourne and some went to work on the Voyager and I didn’t realise until much later on that we had lost some of our boys,” he said.
“One of my very good mates was one that lost his life that day and we had to pack up his belongings and send them home to his mum.”
This weekend Mr Nash and his wife Sharon will travel to Jervis Bay to attend the 55-year memorial reunion and he said while many of the survivors had caught up in the past this would reunion would be the biggest.
“There are a couple of guys that I haven’t seen for 40 or 50 years and it is a special one this year as the guys in my intake all turn 75 this year,” he said.
“It is something I will never forget.
“There are times that I think about the guys that were in the water and the ones that went down with the ship, they are still bloody down there.
“They don’t want to bring it up and I don’t blame them, that is their memorial and their burial ground.”