A Remembrance Day to remember for Moree World War II navy veteran Gordon Stanger

Remembrance Day 2019 will certainly be one to remember for Moree navy veteran Gordon Stanger, who was not only honoured with a cap of the ship he served on during World War II, but it was presented to him by his nephew, Member for Parkes Mark Coulton.

Mr Stanger joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1942, halfway through World War II, a few weeks before his 18th birthday.

He was assigned as an able seaman to tribal-class destroyer HMAS Warramunga which was involved in supporting numerous amphibious landings through the South-East Asian region until the end of the war.

During this time, HMAS Warramunga witnessed several kamikaze attacks and came close to being hit by a kamikaze in 1945 - something the now 95-year-old Mr Stanger will never forget.


"We were never hit but we were near missed," he said.

"My access station was at a 40mm aircraft gun and I always thought, when I see a bomb, I'll jump down and hide behind it. But you couldn't move."

Returning to Japan at the end of the war as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, Mr Stanger also witnessed the devastation of the Hiroshima atomic bomb just four months after the August 6, 1945 attack which instantly killed between 60,000 to 80,000 people, while a further 140,000 died from acute effects of the bomb before the end of the year.

"It was a fright to walk the streets of Hiroshima where the bomb hit," Mr Stanger said.

"Everywhere you looked, there was just nothing. The bridges were burnt down to the water line. People had just melted away."

After returning home from the war, Mr Stanger rarely spoke about his time serving. It wasn't until 2015, when he got talking to Moree's Anzac Day special guest, Captain Bruce Legge CSC RAN who was previously the captain of HMAS Warramunga.

When he found out that Mr Stanger served as an able seaman on HMAS Warramunga during the Second World War, Captain Legge wanted to acknowledge him by presenting him with a HMAS Warramunga cap.

"Those that serve today are staunchly proud of those who served before us, many of whom helped carve out the good reputation we enjoy today," Captain Legge said in correspondence with Moree RSL sub-branch senior vice president Roger Butler.

"Mr Stanger may have retired long ago, but he will be forever considered a navy man, and part of our rich and proud history."

However, Captain Legge was unable to remember Gordon's surname and it wasn't until a few months ago that his identity was discovered and arrangements could be made for a cap to be sent.

It was decided that Mr Stanger be presented the cap on Remembrance Day 2019 by his very own nephew, Member for Parkes Mark Coulton, whose mother was Mr Stanger's sister.

"I am delighted that Gordon will have the cap formally presented on Remembrance Day; how apt that the modern navy is using the day to remember one of their own," Captain Legge said.

On Monday, November 11, during Moree RSL sub-branch's Remembrance Day service, Mr Coulton presented the cap to his uncle on behalf of the Australian Government, Captain Bruce Legge and Commander Luke Ryan (the last captain of the Warramunga, which has been de-crewed for a significant re-fit and upgrade).

"I had always known Gordon had gone to war, but it was always funny little stories," Mr Coulton said.

"I remember my grandmother, Gordon's mother, saying the thrill of hearing his footsteps coming up the verandah when he came home from leave unannounced and stepped off the North West Mail in Gunnedah and came home early in the morning.

"I think I can remember Gordon saying to me that he joined the navy because he figured he'd get to sleep in a bed every night, and he wouldn't have to sleep in the dirt if he joined the army.

"But he waited until he got to 92 before he decided to tell anyone what he's done. But it's a remarkable story.

"A young man who was a junior shop assistant in Boggabri joined the navy and found himself in the middle of one of the biggest naval battles in the history of mankind. He witnessed kamikaze attacks, he was in Hiroshima a matter of weeks after the atomic bomb and witnessed the devastation of that.

"But the remarkable story was, he came back after being part of history and took up his life again. He got married, he had a family, he drew a block out here, out of Moree, and my other memory of Gordon is going to visit him as the heat's shimmering across the plain at Kooragama, plowing his new block with a massive tractor with a beach umbrella for shade and living in a fibro caravan with no water or electricity or any conveniences. And he got on with it.

"A man of great humility, a great sense of humour and a thorough gentleman.

"You've got no idea how thrilled I am to present this cap to Gordon today."

Mr Stanger said it was "absolutely special" to finally have the cap, and have it presented by his nephew Mark.

"I'm very proud and pleased that I've got one," he said.

"But, if it's accepted by someone at the museum, I'd like to present this to the museum, along with The History of Warramunga, from when she was commissioned new until when the Japs broke her up after the war."

Meanwhile, a large crowd attended Monday's Remembrance Day service, which marked the 101st anniversary since the historic treaty was signed to end World War I.