Bravery recalled as Canberra overwhelmed Then a ''callow youth'' who had joined the RAN as a 16 year old four years before, he had been closed up in his action station in the ''collector'' when the Japanese struck.
The position, midway up the ship's mast, was an observation post. ''I was a rangetaker, a height finder and an inclinometer operator,'' the vigorous 90 year old retired lieutenant commander said. He will speak at a service in Canberra today to mark the 70th anniversary of the ship's loss. The 10,000 ton County class cruiser, which alternated with HMAS Australia as the flagship of the Australian fleet, was in the Solomon Islands supporting the US assault on Guadalcanal. When the Japanese responded in force, dispatching seven cruisers and a destroyer from New Britain, a major naval battle now known as the Battle of Savo Island, ensued. A Japanese float plane dropped a parachute flare, the flagship launched torpedoes and three enemy cruisers opened fire on HMAS Canberra at close range. Within moments she had been struck by 24 shells, her engines knocked out, all power lost and communications disabled. The former pride of the Australian squadron was dead in the water, on fire amidships and listing heavily to starboard. Her captain was mortally wounded and black oakley sunglasses 74 of the 819 had been killed. Another 10 died later of wounds. It was, in Lieutenant Commander Hall's words, ''hell on earth''. ''The first thing I knew was oakley sunglasses green that we got lit up [from the flare],'' he said. ''The bloke standing next price of oakley sunglasses to me dropped; a piece of shrapnel through his head. My Bakelite headset was smashed [by shrapnel or debris]; I just about shit myself and dropped to the deck. Chaos reigned. ''There were fires all oakly sun glasses over the place; the four inch deck gun crew just disappeared [in the explosions] and there was thunder and lightning [from a storm]. ''You had ampoules of morphine. Once you gave a poor devil a shot of morphine you would write an M on their forehead in blood. There was no shortage of it. This was so somebody else wouldn't come along and give them another dose. You hoped it [the M] wouldn't wash off.'' On reaching safety relatively unscathed he was determined to be of use. ''I attached myself to the surgeon general aboard the American ship, a WWI 'retread' who was a real character, and did whatever he told me to do for the next five days. There were occasions where he would say 'son, you see that man over there, he's dying and there's not a damned thing we can do for him. You go over there and do whatever he wants'.
'' A very proud moment was when, at the end of the five days, the US surgeon said, ''Son, you done well.'' The Australian navy thought so to. Commander Hall was honoured with a ''mention in despatches'' for his efforts.
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