HONOURING HIS DAD: George Brooker of South Grafton will receive a gallantry medal on behalf of his late father who served on the ill-fated HMAS Yarra II some 60 years ago.  Photo Adam Hourigan
HONOURING HIS DAD: George Brooker of South Grafton will receive a gallantry medal on behalf of his late father who served on the ill-fated HMAS Yarra II some 60 years ago.  Photo Adam Hourigan

Son receives Dad's medal after crew awarded gallantry medals

IN THE hours prior to her demise, the HMAS Yarra (II) was protecting a convoy of passenger ships on their way home to Australia.

After plucking exhausted survivors of the Dutch ship Parigi from sea, the Yarra (II) was struck down by overwhelming Japanese aggression just off the Indonesian coast on March 4, 1942.

At the time of her downfall, the ship was pitted against three heavy Japanese cruisers as well as four smaller destroyers.

The cruisers were possibly the most powerful vessels of the Japanese navy at the time.

The Yarra (II) was carrying 151 Australian sailors when she went down.

Of this number, only 13 survived and were found three days after the fateful battle by a Dutch submarine.

These few survivors told the tale of the Yarra (II) and her crews' unwavering bravery in the face of the superior Japanese forces.

The Yarra (II) was said to have defied the enemy and protected her convoy until the very end.

One man who did not return home after his service onboard the Yarra (II) was able seaman Henry ''Harry'' Charles Brooker.

The sailor, aged 32 at the time of his death, was survived by his wife and three sons George, Charles and Ted.

Son George Brooker, who moved to Grafton from Sydney 30 years ago, was only 12-years-old when his father was lost.

Now 83, he still holds on to wonderful memories of the time his sailor father spent at home while on leave of service.

''Whenever he was home he always told us great stories," he said.

''He would be outside talking to all the kids on the street about the ships and the guns."

Henry Brooker joined the Royal Australian Navy at the age of 17 and had been a sailor his entire adult life.

He was believed to be manning one of the Yarra's (II) four-inch guns when he was struck.

His family did not find out he would never return home until about a month after his death.

Now, over 70 years later, the bravery of Henry Brooker and his fellow crewmates will be formally recognised.

Earlier this year the Governor-General Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce announced the awarding of a Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) to the crew of the Yarra (II).

The honour is given on the grounds of ''extraordinary gallantry in action'' by members of an Australian military unit.

Mr Brooker, along with around 120 other family members, will travel down to Melbourne on March 4 next year to accept the honours on behalf of their fallen relatives.

He said the recognition was something he and many others who lost loved ones onboard the Yarra (II) had waited on for a long time.

''We have been trying to get the medal for years, but it has been a really long process," Mr Brooker said.

''We are all really happy that it will finally happen."



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