THE Australian Heritage Festival which will take over Fremantle Prison for the next month came a little early last weekend during a concert by legendary Aussie rockers Hoodoo Gurus.
Frontman Dave Faulkner, a former Perth resident, revealed his father Martin had done three months’ hard labour at the world heritage site back in the 1940s.
The Chook later caught up with Faulkner between recording songs for a new album to tease out a little more of the story; it turned out to be an incredibly moving account.
Martin Faulkner had been a sailor aboard the HMS Canberra when it was sunk during the Battle of Savo Island on August 8 and 9, 1942.
A small fleet from the Imperial Japanese Navy took the Allied naval forces completely by surprise by attacking in the middle of the night, sinking three American ships along with the Canberra.
Martin had swapped shifts with a mate terrified by the thought of the expected battle, allowing him to take over as a stoker in the engine room while he went up to man the magazine.
But both boiler rooms were directly hit and destroyed and Martin perished in the inferno.
Faulkner said after his father’s rescue he returned to Fremantle and was out on the town with a few understandable drinks under his belt when a shore-base officer took him task for wearing his hat at a jaunty but non-regulation angle.
“Dad said something along the lines of ‘well, why don’t you adjust it for me’,” Faulkner said.
There was a scuffle and the officer came off second-best, so his father had to front court where he was given a three-month sentence. Faulkner says these days the trauma his father had faced would likely be taken into account by a court.
“Dad was a very stoic man, and while he was proud of his service, he never really talked about the battle,” Faulkner said.
But inside his demons were working away, which wasn’t helped by what was initially a cover-up; it’s now accepted that one of the most damaging hits on the Canberra – perhaps the first – came from friendly fire.
In later years Martin was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and given a pension, but Faulkner said it almost didn’t happen when his stiff upper lip saw him nearly slip through a psychologist’s assessment with flying colours.
“He was literally just about out the door when the doctor stopped him and asked ‘so how did you feel’. Dad said ‘well, how would you feel if you’ve just seen your best mate burn to death in front of you’. The doctor apparently threw down all his papers and said ‘come back here, we’re going to have to start all over again’.”
But there was a touching end to the story.
After hearing about Faulkner’s connection to the Canberra at a Guru’s gig, a crew member of the ship’s replacement the Canberra (2) told his shipmates and they adopted the band’s song 1000 Miles Away as the ship’s anthem.
The Gurus were then invited to play at the Canberra (2) decommissioning ceremony in Fremantle in 2005, with Faulkner and his father then given a final meal in the mess and a tour of the bridge before playing to the crew at the Garden Island base as they farewelled their ship.
Faulkner says his father couldn’t believe after all he’d been through they were the only civvies to be offered that privilege: “He was just blown away.”
For a bunch of Australian Heritage Festival tours and exhibitions involving Fremantle Prison, head to https://www. nationaltrust.org.au/ahf