The Royal Australian Navy has pulled into the Philippines to pay tribute to the shared sacrifices of both nations during World War II and to reaffirm the relationship between the two nations.
HMA Ships Stuart, Leeuwin and Sirius received a warm welcome when they sailed into Surigao – traditional dancers and musicians performed on the wharf while officers and sailors were greeted with shell necklaces bearing a Seal of Surigao pendant.
Vice Admiral Stuart Mayer, AO, CSC, who was embarked in Stuart for its day long passage from Cebu to Surigao, summed up the importance of the Royal Australian Navy’s visit to the Philippines.
"The Navy-to-Navy ties here are very strong indeed, and that is reflected in the number of ships you see operating here for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Surigao Strait," VADM Mayer said.
The RAN ships were in the harbour as backdrop to the official ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the largest naval battle of World War II.
The Battle of Surigao Strait was one of four key engagements during the four-day Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, when combined American and Australian navies defeated Japan, ultimately driving them from the Philippines.
VADM Mayer added, "We believe in the dynamic relationship of two friends of equal talent with much to learn from one another. We have been friends yesterday, we are friends today, and we will be friends tomorrow because of the shared values and endeavours of our people and our navies."
Ships’ companies were able to take shore leave while in Cebu; with Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics-Support Operations David Wheeler relating that many were able to enjoy a tour of the city’s historic highlights.
For the next two months, 11 ships and more than 1,000 personnel across two task groups are visiting regional partners in north and south-east Asia for multinational exercises and regional engagement activities.