A voice from the deep: life and death aboard the HMAS Sydney II

Thursday, 26 November 2009

25 November 2009: Australian Catholic University (ACU) graduate, Dr Robert Hoskin, has launched a book and art exhibition reflecting on the life of his uncle, Edward Hunter McHaffie, who died in Australias worst naval disaster.

Dr Robert Hoskin Dr Robert Hoskin

Edward McHaffie was aboard the HMAS Sydney II when it was sunk by the German raider HSK Kormoran in November 1941. All 645 crew members were lost at sea.

Dr Hoskin first began delving into his uncles life as a painter onboard the HMAS Sydney II while completing his Visual Art and Design degree at ACUs Melbourne Campus.

It soon developed into a detailed biography.

"My uncle was one of those 645 men who disappeared without a trace and the location of the ship was a mystery until last year, when it was discovered off the Western Australian coast", Robert said.

Edward McHaffie joined the Navy at the end of the First World War when he was 15 years old, and served until his death in 1941. He left a large volume of poems, stories, photos and letters, which helped Dr Hoskin piece together his life.

"Perhaps I can now put my familys grief to rest and through this exhibition, offer a human account of one of the sailors on the HMAS Sydney II, thus touching a national grief", said Dr Hoskin.

"The degree in Visual Art and Design placed emphasis on digital media and publishing and was invaluable for getting the book together. I was very fortunate to have a group of extremely competent and passionate lecturers who continually stirred my creativity and interest," he added.

"The course itself was an excellent mix of theory and practice and I was stretched to explore many new possibilities in my artistic practice."

Dr Hoskins exhibition will be on display at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne until 25 January, 2010.