Hec Waller Memorial
Benalla, Victoria, Australia

The Hec Waller Memorial, this memorial was erected in 2010 at the town of Benalla where Waller was born and raised. It is situated adjacent to the Botanical Gardens entrance and Avenue of Honour where several other memorials are also located.

Hec Waller reached the rank of Captain in the Royal Australian Navy during WWII, commanding the destroyer HMAS Stuart and a flotilla of 3 other Australian and 4 British destroyers serving in the eastern Mediterranean.  He proved to be an outstanding and well respected commander whose exploits included resupply of the garrison at Tobruk - the Rats of Tobruk - during April 1940 when Rommel's Africa Korps laid siege to the port city. These aging destroyers, who repeatedly ran the gauntlet under constant attack by Axis aircraft and threat from submarines, were often referred to as the Scrap Iron Flotilla.

Waller was recalled to Australia and in October 1941 posted as Captain of the HMAS Perth, one of three modified Leander class light cruiser of the RAN. The Perth, who had also been serving with the Mediterranean Fleet, was redeployed to Australia and, following outbreak of war in the Pacific, HMAS Perth was one of just a handful of principal allied warships available as the Japanese swept southward through SE Asia.

A fleet of Allied ships headed northward to engage the enemy fleet and the resulting Battle of the Java Sea on February 27 saw all but the Perth and USS Houston sunk or retired due to damage. The cruiser USS Houston had previously survived the bombing of Darwin just 8 days earlier. On February 28, 1942 under the command of Waller, HMAS Perth and USS Houston sailed towards the Sunda Strait, at the western end of Java, while attempting to rejoin other Allied naval forces. However, they encountered the main Japanese invasion force en route to Java and in a night battle that ensued until just after midnight the heavily outnumbered Perth and Houston were both lost following intense torpedo attack and shell fire. Hec Waller was amongst the 357 lost with sinking of the HMAS Perth. The following pictures show the plaques in detail.

(All photos courtesy of Peter F. Williams)
© 2010 Peter F. Williams all rights reserved

Page published Sept. 30, 2013