Searching for the USS Canberra's ship's bell and visiting Washington
After my Canberra was sunk in 1942, the USN named a heavy cruiser USS Canberra in 1943, in 1967 when the ship came to Melbourne, the ship's bell was struck from the mainmast and used as the font to christen my then, 6 year old son Raymond Edwin Gregory, Lady Dixon who launched the ship back in 1943 and the ship's Captain Edwin Rosenberg USN became his God Mother and God Father.
After the ship was broken up, I traced the bell to a Naval Warehouse in Williamsburg, visited there, and had the bell uncrated to again view it. I tried to get the bell for Australia, but met with a brick wall.
Onwards to July 5 2001, I visited the then US Ambassador to Australia in Canberra, our National Capital on another matter, then told him my Bell story, and asked him to use his best offices to have this Bell given, loaned, or donated to Australia. He was quite excited about it, and promised to help. On September 6 I had a phone call from the Australian Embassy in Washington DC, inviting both my wife Denise and myself to fly to Washington as Embassy guests on the 8th. Sept. as your US President, on Monday the 10th. of September at the Washington Navy Yard, was presenting the Bell to my Prime Minister John Howard. You can find their remarks at the bottom of this page and two pages from the official program about the Washington Navy Yard and the Battle of Savo Island.
We of course hastily did just that, on that Monday at an impressive ceremony the Bell changed hands, both George Bush and John Howard mentioned me in their speeches, then both left the dais to greet and meet us, Denise trying to take a photograph, was taken by the hand by the President, he took the camera, gave it to a three Star US Marine General ordering him " Take a Photograph." and I hope I have attached a copy to this E-Mail.
We were to join the PM's party to visit Arlington Cemetery the next day, but the events of the 11th. overshadowed and cancelled that event.
On the 12th. of September at a luncheon given us by Admiral Harrington RAN, in charge of the Defence Staff at our Embassy, told us, that both Denise and I were booked on American Airlines Flight No 77, the one that crashed into the Pentagon. At the last moment we were rescheduled to leave Washington later, so we could join the Prime Minister at Arlington.
So, Terry, we were just not ready to leave this planet of ours, it is obviously better to " Be lucky, rather than rich!"
Now that has once more been proven, when out of the Blue my samaritan in the form of your good self comes along.
I am too verbose, sorry.
Raymond Edwin Gregory, christened on board USS Canberra at Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on the 16th. of May 1967. The ship's bell was struck from the mainmast for use as the font. It is this bell, that President George W Bush presented to the Australian Prime Minister the Honourable John Howard MP, at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday the 10t. of September 2001. From left to right: Captain Edwin Rosenberg USN, CO of USS Canberra, and Raymond's God Father, myself, Raymond's Mother, Gladys who died in November 1992, Raymond, Lady Dixon who launched USS Canberra in the US in 1943, and Raymond's God Mother, the ship's Chaplain, Commander Zeller USN.
The USS Canberra's Bell after its presentation to the Honourable John Howard MP, Australian PrimeMinister by the US President George W. Bush on the 10th. of September 2001, at the Washington Navy Yard travelled to Australia. It is now on display in the American Gallery, at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour Sydney.
Here is my only son, Raymond Edwin Gregory with the Bell and its description, when he visited Sydney over the Easter holidays in 2005.
The circle opened on board USS Canberra on Mother's Day 1967, when the ship visited Melbourne Australia, and he was christened then, moved on to Washington DC. for the Bell to be presented to Australia to commemmorate the 50th. anniversary of the ANZUS TREATY, on the 10th. of September 2001, the day before the disaster of 9/11.
Now we close that circle with Raymond's visit to view it, 38 years later, over the Easter holidays in 2005."
From the official program:
September 10, 2001
President and Australian PM Commemorate 50 Year Military Alliance
9:45 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Mr. Secretary, thank you for those generous comments. It reconfirms once again the reason I picked you. (Laughter.) I appreciate your service to the Navy and I appreciate your service to the country.
I'm honored today to join with the Navy to receive a distinguished visitor, and to present a symbol of America's esteem. Prime Minister Howard leads a nation that has been our partner in ANZUS for 50 years, and a friend far longer.
Mr. Prime Minister and Mrs. Howard, it's a real pleasure to have you with us, and also those of you who made the journey with the Prime Minister. Welcome to America.
My thanks as well to Admirals Clark and Weaver, and to all the men and women of the United States military who are with us today. We're sure proud of you.
Those who defend America have always had a special regard for our Australian allies. And I know -- I know -- they're really proud to show that regard today.
Another reason we chose this site, Mr. Prime Minister, is that we have a gift for you. And it's not that easy to move around. This bell that you are going to receive has traveled for almost 25 years aboard the only American ship ever commissioned in honor of an ally's fallen vessel, the U.S.S. Canberra. She no longer sails, but she gave faithful service. And this bell is a reminder of a faithful partner, in times of crisis and in times of calm.
U.S.S. Canberra received her name at the request of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at the height of World War II. The President had received word of an exceptional action in battle by the Australian Navy, which were steaming alongside American vessels at Guadalcanal. His Majesty's Australian ship Canberra did not survive the battle, disappearing into the depths where she rests today.
It was a great loss of life, and much heroism amongst the Australian sailors and marines on board. As a sign of gratitude to those men, and to their country, the U.S.S. Canberra was commissioned the very next year, serving my country and honoring yours, Mr. Prime Minister.
One man who served aboard the original Canberra was Lieutenant Mackenzie Gregory, and we're greatly honored to have him with us today. Where is Mr. Gregory? Thank you for being here, sir. We're honored to have you. (Applause.) You must have been a young guy. (Laughter.)
President Roosevelt knew a trustworthy ally when he saw one. Every President since then has felt and known the same esteem for Australia.
Mr. Prime Minister, it was one of your own predecessors, a wartime leader who captured the spirit that has always made us natural allies. We work for the same kind of free world, observed Sir Robert Gordon Menzies. We govern ourselves in democracy, and we will not tolerate anything less. We cherish liberty and hold it safe, providing hope for the rest of the world.
In the century just passed, Australians served side by side with Americans in every major military commitment. In peaceful times like our own, the alliance between our two nations has helped spare the world from other wars and dangers. Australia is a strong and peaceful presence in East Asia and the Pacific.
Australia is a generous land, mindful of the struggles of poorer nations, always helping when and where it can. Your government and your good people are an example of democracy, individual liberty, and the virtues of free trade amongst all nations.
On this official visit to our country, I know that you will meet with nothing but goodwill. And in meetings with Congress and my administration, you will find willing partners who understand Australia's importance as a strategic and economic ally. Though half a world apart, we belong to a very close community of values and aspirations.
From this visit, Mr. Prime Minister, I hope that you will take away renewed optimism about our shared future. And I know that you will take with you a parcel weighing approximately 250 pounds. (Laughter.) It's a fine bell, with a great history. And once you get it home, it will always stand as a sign of the unbounded respect of our nation for the Australian people.
Welcome to America. May God bless Australia, and may God bless America. (Applause.)
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Vern Clark, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations; Vice Admiral David Shackleton, Chief of the Royal Australian Navy; Rear Admiral Chris Weaver, Washington District Commander; ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen:
Today's simple but moving ceremony in this historic navy yard here in Washington is a very powerful symbol of the ties that bind our two nations. On behalf of the Australian people, Mr. President, I want to thank you and the American Navy for this very kind and symbolic gesture, a gesture that does underline what we have been through, what we have meant to each other in the past, what we mean to each other now, and I know we will mean to each other in the future.
As you have done, Mr. President, may I take the opportunity of saying on behalf of the Australian government how highly my government regards the men and women in uniform who serve in different ways to defend Australia, and to work with our allies when required. Your Navy Secretary mentioned the priority that you had given to budget appropriations for defense in the United States. Can I likewise say that when my government came to office in March of 1996, and we were faced with the requirement of reducing government expenditures, the one area around which we placed a circle and said no reductions would take place was in the area of defense. And at the end of last year, we unveiled a white paper that projects in the defense area, over the next decade, a very significant increase in expenditure for all areas of defense.
And that is a recognition by the Australian government and by the Australian people of the enormous importance of providing proper help and proper recognition to the men and women who look after the defense interests of our nation. It is also a recognition that although we live in a world no longer influenced by the old bipolar divisions between the Soviet Union and the West, led by the power of the United States, we nonetheless live in a world which is potentially very unstable, particularly in the region in which both our nations operate, and where from time to time the deployment of our forces for peacekeeping operations would be necessary.
So today's gathering is not only an historic occasion. It is not only an emotional opportunity for me to say on behalf of the Australian people, and particularly Australian naval personnel -- and can I also acknowledge the presence here of our wonderful survivor from the original Canberra, Mr. Gregory, how wonderful it is that you have been able to make the journey from our homeland to come here for this very special ceremony. It is not only, therefore, an occasion to recognize the symbolism and the importance placed by that symbolism on the association between our two nations. But it is also an opportunity for me to reaffirm, on behalf of the Australian government and on behalf of the Australian people, the great strength and continuity of the defense association between Australia and the United States.
It is 50 years ago this month from that day in San Francisco in 1951 when the ANZUS treaty was signed. And in the half-century that has gone by since then, both the United States and Australia have lived out the covenants of that treaty to the full. We have fought side by side with the United States in many conflicts. We have worked together in peacekeeping operations, most recently in East Timor. And both of us have been forces for the expansion and not the contraction of democracy.
And one of the great dividends of the ANZUS alliance, and indeed, one of the great dividends of the alliances around the world between free peoples, such as the people of Australia and the United States, has been the way in which we have seen democracy expand rather than contract. And by living out the covenants of the ANZUS treaty, our two nations and our two societies have demonstrated to the world that values based on freedom and individual liberty in the end win acceptance. But they only win acceptance if behind the commitment is a determination on the part of nations who believe in those values to defend them, if necessary fight for them, and always be ready to repel those who would seek to take those freedoms away.
Mr. President, your gesture today and the gesture on behalf of your nation is one that touches the hearts of all Australians here today. We value our alliance. More importantly, we value the common things that we believe in. The greatest strength of the American-Australian alliance is that we believe in the same things. We believe in freedom. We believe in democracy. We believe that open societies are better societies than closed societies.
Through the years, we have fought to defend those values. And this token of yours is a warm gesture marking the close World War II relationship between our two countries. And I know it will be very warmly received in Australia, and seen for what it is: a potent symbol of the great affection that exists between our two great societies.