I saw an earlier note about Vic Duncan, Chief Petty Officer on the Perth when it sunk. Vic Duncan was the Industrial Arts Master at Heathcote High School when I was there in the 1960’s. He was barrel chested, ruddy complexion and loved running. He spoke nothing of his war experiences, but one sensed he wasn’t too keen on the “tin pot” officers (teachers) heading the school cadets.
His wife was my mother’s bridesmaid before the war (she is still alive but unfortunately blind). They used to visit and while we had a cuppa Vic would go for a run in the Royal National Park for a couple of hours. Vic died of a stroke a number of years ago.
If you ever have the chance, get onto a book by Clay Blair Jr and his wife Joan Blair, called Return from the River Kwai. Clay Blair Jr was a submariner during the war and a journalist afterwards. He did a lot of interviews with Vic, and corresponded with him. His research papers are held at the American Heritage Centre, University of Wyoming, P.O. Box 3924, Laramie, WY 82071. firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.uwyo.edu/ahc
The book is mainly about the submariners in the Pacific, but it has lot on Vic’s experiences. It is also a good read. In summary Vic was responsible for getting a lot of men off the Perth and was awarded the British Empire Medal. He was captured by the Japanese, went to Changi, and survived the Burma Thailand Railway. He was then shipped out to Japan in a Japanese freighter. This was where he was sunk for the second time by the American submarines. He undertook an “epic” raft voyage trying to navigate to the allied Chinese mainland. He was again captured by the Japanese and finally reached Japan, only to be bombed by the US airforce. You will also find references to Vic at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. There is a flag which is made of canvas which was a makeshift sail and at one stage, the only clothing that one sailor had to wear. After its original custodian it made its way into Vic’s hand and he added to the names already on the flag, some three hundred names of the crew of the Perth. He also added a poem.
Quite a man. I think he was underrated in receiving the BEM (not the MBE). I guess he would have had to have been an officer to have received a higher honour, and yet he showed much more leadership and courage than many of the officers who gave up and perished. Thaty will probably start an arguement, but that is my opinion.