Last Survivor of HMAS Voyager II Sinking Recalls Australia's Deadliest Peacetime Maritime Disaster

Brian Hopkins, a 79-year-old navy veteran, was one of the last survivors of the 1964 HMAS Voyager II sinking, Australia's worst peacetime maritime disaster. The tragedy exposed the navy's lack of preparedness and mental health support for survivors.

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Geeta Pillai
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Last Survivor of HMAS Voyager II Sinking Recalls Australia's Deadliest Peacetime Maritime Disaster

Last Survivor of HMAS Voyager II Sinking Recalls Australia's Deadliest Peacetime Maritime Disaster

Brian Hopkins, a 79-year-old navy veteran, was one of the last survivors to escape the sinking of HMAS Voyager II in 1964, Australia's deadliest peacetime maritime disaster. Hopkins served as an engineer on the Voyager II, a ship virtually identical to the HMAS Vampire.

On the night of February 10, 1964, the Voyager II collided with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne II off the coast of Jervis Bay during a training exercise. The collision resulted in the deaths of 82 of the 314 people on board the Voyager II.

Hopkins was in the aft section of the Voyager II when the collision occurred. He was one of the last two survivors to make it off the sinking ship. The cause of the collision was attributed to a lack of situational awareness by the officers on watch.

Why this matters: The HMAS Voyager II sinking remains Australia's worst peacetime maritime disaster. It led to two royal commissions in the 1960s that were critical of the ship's captain, Duncan Stevens, and the navy's lack of mental support for the survivors.

In the aftermath of the disaster, two royal commissions in the 1960s were critical of the Voyager II's captain, Duncan Stevens, and the navy's lack of mental support for the survivors. "The navy was totally unprepared for dealing with it," Hopkins recalled. "There was no such thing as post-traumatic stress disorder. It didn't exist."

As the last living survivor of the HMAS Voyager II sinking, Brian Hopkins' account serves as a touching reminder of the tragedy that claimed 82 lives. The disaster exposed shortcomings in the navy's preparedness and support for its personnel, leading to critical findings by the royal commissions. Nearly six decades later, Hopkins' story keeps the memory of the Voyager II and those lost alive.

Key Takeaways

  • Brian Hopkins, 79, was a navy veteran who survived the 1964 HMAS Voyager II sinking.
  • The Voyager II collided with HMAS Melbourne II, resulting in 82 deaths, Australia's worst peacetime maritime disaster.
  • Hopkins was one of the last two survivors to escape the sinking ship.
  • Two royal commissions criticized the captain and navy's lack of mental support for survivors.
  • As the last survivor, Hopkins' account preserves the memory of the tragedy and its impact.