LEST WE FORGET

Corporal Phillip Ernest Charlton WILL

Service No: 9030
Born: Minlaton SA, 3 March 1916
Enlisted in the RAAF: 13 February 1940 (at RAAF Station Laverton VIC)
Unit: No. 9 Squadron, Rathmines NSW
Died: Naval Battle (HMAS Perth), Bantam Bay, 1 March 1942, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Albert Edward and Beatrice Stella Morgan Will, of Norwood, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Column 422, Singapore Memorial, Singapore
Remembered: Panel 99, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide
Remembered: Catalina Base Memorial, Rathmines NSW
Remembered: Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club, Rathmines NSW

In the battle of the Java Sea, the Allied force was utterly defeated. All 5 cruisers and 6 destroyers were lost, its very gallant and ill-starred commander, Admiral Doorman, going down with his flagship De Ruyter. The Australian cruiser Perth and the American cruiser Houston were sunk in a fierce battle in Bantam Bay against an enemy force of 4 cruisers and 9 destroyers, but not before they had sunk 4 enemy transports and damaged several others. Apart from one Dutch destroyer (Witte de With) which, with a sister destroyer, was put out of action in a bombing attack on Surabaya Harbour several days later, the only ships of the Combined Striking Force to survive the battle were the 4 ageing American destroyers which succeeded in reaching Fremantle on 4th March. The enemy’s losses were negligible, not one warship being sunk.

Extract from Gillison, D.N. (Douglas Napier) (254475) Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962 – Pages 439-440

Little damage was done to Perth until the very end of the action, but she was repeatedly smashed by shell hits while abandoning ship after the second torpedo hit; and many of her people were killed or wounded in the water by exploding shells, and by the third and fourth torpedoes. Of her naval complement of 680—45 officers, 631 ratings, and 4 canteen staff 4—23 officers and 329 ratings were killed in her last action; some 320 (of whom 105 ratings died while prisoners) fell into Japanese hands. As was Captain A. H. Rooks of Houston, Captain Waller was lost with his ship. He was last seen standing with his arms on the front of the bridge, looking down at the silent turrets.

Extract from Gill, G.H. (George Hermon) Royal Australian Navy 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957 – Page 622

HMAS Perth sank at 0015 hours on 1 March 1942, 4 kms off St Nicolas Point north west Java. In that battle, No. 9 Squadron Walrus aircraft L2319 was destroyed.

The RAAF members embarked on HMAS Perth were:

Corporal (later Warrant Officer) Ronald Adolphus Bradshaw (17357) (Fitter Armourer) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 2 July 1946
Flying Officer (later Flight Lieutenant) Allen Vernon McDonough (407008) (Pilot) PoW, Discharged from the RAAF: 9 January 1946
Corporal Colin Archibald Nott (9358) (Fitter IIA)
Sergeant Harold Sparks (3635) (Fitter IIE)
Leading Aircraftman Ernest George Toe (40613) (Clerk Stores) PoW, Died 14 September 1944
Corporal Phillip Ernest Will (9030) (Fitter IIA)

References:

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9301, 9030; A705 166/1/319 Part 3
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line

Bibliography:

Gillett, R. (Ross) Wings Across the Sea: the first ever complete history of naval aviation from the first world war to the present, Aerospace Publications, 1988