Paintings speak of tragedy

TWO paintings of HMAS Voyager and HMAS Melbourne have been donated to the historic collection at HMAS Creswell, ahead of the base’s 100th anniversary celebrations.

GIFT: Bob Auston and Barry Brooks with a painting of HMAS Voyager donated to the RAN Historical Collection at HMAS Creswell. Photo: JESSE RHYNARD

GIFT: Bob Auston and Barry Brooks with a painting of HMAS Voyager donated to the RAN Historical Collection at HMAS Creswell. Photo: JESSE RHYNARD

The two paintings were donated by Bob Auston, who served on HMAS Voyager from early 1960 to January 1964, and tell a personal and tragic story.

On February 10, 1964, one month after Mr Auston left Voyager to take up a posting at HMAS Cerberus, Voyager and Melbourne collided off Jervis Bay with the loss of 82 sailors, many of whom Mr Auston had worked with and counted as close friends.

Earlier this year, Mr Auston attended the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the tragedy and it was then that he decided the Creswell Historic Collection would be the ideal home for the two paintings he had personally commissioned.

“These paintings were intended as a reminder for future generations,” Mr Auston said.

“Accidents do happen and there is always a lesson to be learnt. I hope that these works offer future officers in training at Creswell the opportunity to pause and reflect.”

The artist who painted the works, Barry Brooks, was also at Creswell to see his work given to the collection. 

Mr Brooks, who served in the RAN from 1965-1985 and has been painting for 30 years, said he took a lot of time before starting the particular works.

“I like to get involved with the painting to ensure that all aspects of the subject are correct and in dimension,” he said.

“It has been particularly pleasing for me to hear from the survivors of the Melbourne-Voyager collision that my interpretation of the event is an accurate one.”

The historical collection is made up of a diverse range of fascinating objects, each telling a story of HMAS Creswell from a different perspective.

Its value cannot be calculated solely on monetary or historical significance; other considerations are the craftsmanship involved in their creation and, most importantly, the provenance of the items and the often intensely personal stories their history reveals.

Curator Ailsa Chittick said one of the collection’s strengths was donations such as these.

“These paintings are obviously very important to Mr Auston. He commissioned them with a definite purpose and for him to now present them to us makes them invaluable,” she said.

“This bequest, as with many others we have received, represents a means of closure and I certainly encourage anyone who visits the collection to look not only at the objects on display but to also to also consider the personal histories behind them.”

The new display at the Historic Collection at HMAS Creswell is due for completion in June 2015 in time for the 100th anniversary celebration.

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