6 decades on, Australian Navy remembers worst peacetime disaster

Voyager is sinking is the sole message that the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne relayed to Fleet Headquarters in Sydney on the moonless night of February 10, 1964.

Twenty nautical miles off Jervis Bay, New South Wales, the ship had chopped the Daring-class destroyer HMAS Voyager in half during a training exercise.

The Voyager Mess at HMAS Creswell strives to preserve the memory of the Navy’s worst peacetime catastrophe over 60 years later.

A warrant officer and senior sailor mess have been named for the first time in Navy history.

Before this, the only senior sailor and warrant officer combined mess and wardrooms had names.

When he was mess president, Warrant Officer Andrew Jocumsen advocated the name change and claimed it was because of Creswell’s connections to Voyager survivors.

He said that many survivors hold Creswell dear to their hearts because it was the closest Navy installation, and they were sent there.

On February 9, Voyager survivor and head of the Voyager Survivors Association Brian Hopkins dedicated a memorial plaque at the mess.

Mr Hopkins expressed his happiness that the name and legacy of Voyager would continue.

It was “like a shot in my arm for me and my shipmates that the Navy would honour Voyager in that way,” he said.

In addition to honouring Voyager, the rescue teams—many of which were coordinated out of Creswell—are also recognized.

The name was changed after the mess’s repairs, which were finished in 2021 as part of the Navy Capital Works Program.

Due to the building’s historic status, the outside was left unaltered; however, the interior has been updated to incorporate a new bar, lounge, dining room, and outdoor entertainment space.

Everyone who enters the room comments on how well organized it is, and I agree, said Warrant Officer Jocumsen.

Although the building’s interior is magnificent, modern, and suitable for the purpose, the building’s exterior is over a century old.

After the event, the annual survivor’s mess meal was open to Voyager survivors and their families.

Even though the youngest survivor is about 76, Mr Hopkins remarked, “We have lost more than that number since roughly 86 uniforms and one civilian that night.”

According to Warrant Officer Jocumsen, plans are to consolidate all Voyager-related artefacts at the mess and create a single repository.

The collection, which will be on display alongside other artefacts for the 60th anniversary the following year, includes the original signal sent by Melbourne during the incident.

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