Lieutenant Rex Wilkinson CLOSE

Service No: Commissioned Officer, Royal Australian Navy
Born: Queenstown TAS, 17 April 1904
Enlisted in the RAN: 14 September 1940
Unit: HMS Hermes
Died: Naval Operations (Loss of HMS Hermes): off Sri Lanka, 9 April 1942, Aged 37 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of James Ayrton Close and Alice Richmond Close; husband of Florence Sophia Close, of Bellerive, Tasmania, Australia
Roll of Honour: Hobart TAS
Remembered: Panel 77, Column 1, Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon UK
Remembered: Panel 9A, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

At 9.45 a.m. Nagumo’s carriers flew off a force of 85 bombers and nine fighters. Three-quarters of an hour later, off Batticaloa light, the south-bound Vita met the north-bound Hermes and Vampire just as the first of the Japanese bombers arrived on the scene. They disregarded the hospital ship and attacked Hermes at 10.35 in waves of dive-bombing which quickly secured hits, and within ten minutes the aircraft carrier suffered 40 direct hits and capsized and sank. Sixteen bombers then made for Vampire. Two near-misses shook the ship badly, and she was then stopped by a direct hit in the boiler room. Four hits followed in quick succession, and Vampire’s captain, Commander
W. T. A. Moran, R .A.N., ordered “abandon ship”. Floats and rafts were launched when another hit broke the ship’s back. The bow sank quickly, and the stern, which floated for some time, followed at 11.02 a.m. after a heavy explosion, presumably of the magazine. According to a post-war Japanese report, Vampire was attacked with sixteen 250-kilogramme bombs, thirteen of which were direct hits. … Commander Moran, who was last seen on the bridge of Vampire, was lost with the ship, and seven ratings also lost their lives.

Extract from Gill, G.H. (G. Hermon) Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1968 – Page 21

Lieutenant Rex Wilkinson Close was lost with HMS Hermes.

HMAS Vampire’s crew members lost with the ship were:

Stoker Allan Joseph Blakeney (24241)
Stoker Petty Officer John Vincent Andrew Carey (PM1099)
Stoker Petty Officer Louis Anton Gyss (22598)
Stoker Joseph Henry Hill (W2074)
Chief Stoker Ronald Eliot Lord (19392)
Petty Officer Ronald Allen Heffernan MacDonald DSM (20954) Died: 13 April 1942
Commander William Thomas Alldis Moran MID (Twice)
Signalman Arnold Schofield Shaw (C/JX224502) (Royal Navy)
Stoker George Henry Williams (W1812)

While the attack on Vampire and Hermes was occurring, the Japanese fleet was being attacked by land based Blenheim bomber aircraft from No. 11 Squadron (RAF) that had a number of RAAF members in their crews including Flying Officer Geoffrey Shuttleworth Burgan DFC (407284). Nine RAAF members were lost in the attack.


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A6769, CLOSE R W

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