Captain Hector Macdonald Laws Waller, DSO and Bar

Discussion in 'Biographies' started by liverpool annie, Mar 26, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Captain Hector Macdonald Laws Waller, DSO and Bar (1900 – 1 March 1942) was the captain of the light cruiser HMAS Perth in the Second World War. Waller went down with his ship (HMAS Perth accompanied by the USS Houston) when it encountered a Japanese invasion fleet consisting of two cruisers and twelve destroyers in the Battle of Sunda Strait.

    Hector Waller was born in Benalla during April, 1900. Waller entered the Royal Australian Naval College (RANC) in 1914 and quickly established himself as a promising future officer. During his time at RANC he became cadet-captain and later chief cadet-captain.
    In 1918, as a Midshipman, he was appointed to his first ship, HMS Agincourt. As a Lieutenant, Waller became "Year" Officer at the RANC in 1923, and in 1925 he completed his "dagger" signal course.
    During 1934 while serving in HMS Resource and then HMS Brazen, Waller was promoted to the rank of Commander. At this time he was in the Mediterranean during the Spanish Civil War. From 1934 to 1936 he was Commander of the RANC and at the outbreak of World War II he was appointed to command HMAS Stuart and Commander of the Scrap Iron Flotilla.
    In 1940 he was promoted to Captain of the Tenth Destroyer Flotilla and played an important part in Mediterranean operations. In September, 1940 Waller was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for "courageous enterprise and devotion to duty". During this period Waller was also Mentioned in Despatches twice, once for work with the inshore squadron co-operating with the Army in Cyrenaica and another for good service in Greek waters. Waller earned a Bar to his DSO during the Battle of Matapan.
    In October, 1941, he took command of HMAS Perth and was lost with his ship when the cruiser was sunk in a battle against an overwhelming Japanese force on 1 March 1942. A third Mention in Despatches was awarded posthumously.
    HMAS Waller launched in 1999 was the third of the Collins class submarines to enter service was named in honour of Captain Waller.

    HMAS PERTH (March 1, 1942)
    Australian cruiser of 6,830 tons launched in 1934 under the name HMS Amphion. Transferred to the Australian Navy in 1939 and renamed HMAS Perth. During the Battle of the Java Sea the Perth's commander, Captain Hector Waller, pulled his ship out of line when the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter was hit and placed it between the Japanese warships and the Exeter to save it from further damage (the Exeter later sank). The Perth, accompanied by the American cruiser Houston, was later sunk in the Sunda Strait half an hour after midnight about four miles from St. Nicholas Point in Java as the two ships attempted to escape southwards from the battle area and into the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately they ran straight into a Japanese invasion fleet of destroyers and troop transports in Banteng Bay and after a long running battle during which all ammunition was expended, both ships were sunk by torpedoes. On board the Perth were 45 officers, 631 ratings, 4 civilian canteen staff and six Royal Australian Air Force personnel, a total of 686 men. Casualties were 23 officers and 329 ratings killed. There were 334 survivors who were taken prisoners of war. Of these, around 106 died in captivity. Not one of the Perth's officers died while a prisoner of war, due no doubt to the privileges granted to men of officer rank. For this heroic act, Captain Waller never received the equivalent of the British VC as did the captain of the Houston. The Dutch government offered its highest award, the Militare Willems-Orde posthumously to Captain Waller, but to its everlasting shame, the Australian government turned it down. In World War II, twelve Victoria Crosses were awarded to members of the Australian forces engaged in operations against Japan but not a single VC was awarded to the Royal Australian Navy.

    Maritime Disasters of WWII 1942, 1943
  2. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    There's something about the cruisers of the RAN. I have never looked into the action in which the Perth was lost in detail but knew it was against overwhelming odds and her preceding actions had been impressive. Did not know about the government's turning down of the Militaire Willems-Orde. It is indeed shameful and makes no sense at all.

    As I've said several times before, I have Ray Parkin's trilogy about his time on Perth and subsequent imprisonment and Cruel Conflict by Kathryn Spurling so perhaps these are the best places to start. IIRC, Proud Echo is the well regarded classic about Perth's loss.

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