Lismore-born naval officer Lieutenant Commander Francis Edward Smith served on HMAS Yarra which was sunk by Japanese cruisers and destroyers in March, 1942.
Lismore-born naval officer Lieutenant Commander Francis Edward Smith served on HMAS Yarra which was sunk by Japanese cruisers and destroyers in March, 1942.

Naval officer died a hero

AN UNSUNG hero from Lismore is being considered for a Victoria Cross almost 70 years after his death.

Lismore-born Lieutenant Commander Francis Edward Smith will be among 13 naval and military personnel whose bravery will be examined when a Victoria Cross inquiry resumes its public hearing in Sydney today.

More than 50 witnesses are expected to have appeared before the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal when it completes its public hearings next month.

Lt Cmdr Smith was born in Lismore on October 8, 1908 and joined the Royal Australian Navy Reserve in 1926. While serving on the HMAS Yarra in February, 1942, Lt Cmdr Smith was praised by his then captain for shooting down an aircraft while his ship rescued more than 1000 people from the sinking British Transport Empress of Asia.

On March 4, 1942 Lt Cmdr Smith lost his life when HMAS Yarra was attacked and sunk by a force of Japanese cruisers and destroyers.

There are few details of Lt Cmdr Smith's role in the battle but as a senior officer it was more than likely substantial.

However Lt Cmdr Smith did not receive any medals recognising his service on Yarra for either the February or March battle.

Naval Association of Australia president Russell Pettis said no one in the Royal Australian Navy had been awarded the Victoria Cross, considered Australia's highest military honour.

"There have been some wonderful examples of people who are deserving of these awards and it's very gratifying that such a long time after the end of hostilities in World War II that this inquiry is taking place," Mr Pettis said.

"I think it's very important that people who served so gallantly, particularly at sea, should be recognised."

The Tribunal is expected to report to the Federal Government in the latter half of this year.



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