Father’s unit citation an honour for daughter

A MANILLA woman has been honoured with the presentation of her father’s navy unit citation.

FAMILY TIES: From left, Leading Seaman (Ret) and Manilla RSL Sub-branch vice-president Duncan Ellem, Janene Avery and navy Captain Jason Sears with the unit citation. Photo: Barry Smith 250414BSF12

FAMILY TIES: From left, Leading Seaman (Ret) and Manilla RSL Sub-branch vice-president Duncan Ellem, Janene Avery and navy Captain Jason Sears with the unit citation. Photo: Barry Smith 250414BSF12

Janene Avery said she had always been proud of her dad Kenneth Avery’s service and that his ship, the HMAS Yarra, always held a special place in his heart.

Mr Avery, like many veterans, did not speak too much about his World War II service.

Mr Avery joined the HMAS Yarra when he was 19 and was serving on the ship during the fall of Singapore.

He was not among those on board when the ship was sunk in the Java Sea on March 4, 1942, by the Japanese, when 138 of the 151 on board were killed.

The HMAS Yarra received a unit citation on March 4 in Melbourne, but Miss Avery could not make the official ceremony, so it came to her.

The unit citation reads: “For extraordinary gallantry in action off Singapore on the 5th of February 1942 and in the Indian Ocean on the 4th of March 1942”. 

Former Tamworth man Captain Jason Sears, of the Royal Australian Navy, was in Tamworth for Anzac Day, so he travelled to Manilla for the presentation ceremony, representing the chief of navy.

“I’m very proud for him – and that ship was finally recognised for everything they’d done,” Miss Avery said.

“It’s a real shame it didn’t come while there was one left – they’re all gone.”

Miss Avery said the presentation was “very special”.

“It was good to have three of his last living friends there all from Manilla,” she said.

Miss Avery said she learned about most of what the HMAS Yarra, and her father, did through books and her father’s friends.

“Like most of them, he thought ‘Suck it up and have a stiff upper lip’,” she said.

“I’ve carried on the work he did and I’m secretary of the Manilla RSL Women’s Auxiliary.”

Miss Avery said her dad served on ships including the HMAS Warrego and Swan, but he always said the Yarra was the one he held in his heart.

He was a leading seaman on the Yarra, spent 14 years in the navy and was a chief petty officer on discharge.

Miss Avery said the ceremony was made particularly special with a photo display of her father’s photos by the Manilla Historical Society.

The unit citation will remain in the Manilla RSL Club for safekeeping with Mr Avery’s other memorabilia.

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