PA3482 Telegraphist Edgar Geoffrey SEDUNARY
Edgar Geoffrey SEDUNARY was born at Victor Harbor on 13 December 1924, the younger of two children of Alfred Lyall and Caroline Agnes SEDUNARY (nee Cakebread). Geoff’s father Alfred served with the Army in both World Wars. His older brother, Flight Lieutenant Alan Joseph Lyall SEDUNARY DFC, RAAF, was killed piloting a Stirling heavy bomber aircraft over Berlin on 24 August 1943.
Geoff, as he was known, completed his education at the Victor Harbour primary and high schools and on leaving school he commenced employment with the Post Master General’s Department at Victor Harbor.
At just over 18 years of age, Geoff signed on (enlisted) as a member of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve on 5 January 1943 to begin his recruit and wireless telegraphists’s training at the Navy’s training establishment HMAS Cerberus, in Melbourne. Telegraphists were communication sailors who sent and received signals by radio using Morse code or by voice, whereas a signalman used a flashing light, semaphore or hoists of flags. Competent telegraphists could send and receive Morse code at the rate of 30 words of plain language per minute. During wartime the “standard rate” was about 20 words per minute as war time signals were encrypted using secret codes. These coded messages were a jumble of numbers and letters arranged in groups of five. Sending and receiving encrypted signals required extreme concentration by telegraphists as they mentally translated the apparently meaningless stream of characters into and out of Morse code.
Geoff’s description from his service record was:
Height: 5 feet 8 ½ inches
Marks: Appendix scar
During World War Two enlistment in the Naval Reserve was for a period of the duration of the war plus 12 months.
On completion of his training in October 1943 and while still in Victoria, Geoff was drafted in November to the corvette HMAS Kapunda, the first of his seven ships. After being aboard for only five days, he was quickly sent ashore to the depot HMAS Lonsdale for five weeks in response to his father contacting the Minister of the Navy. His father was greatly concerned about his remaining son serving at sea so soon after his older brother Alan had been killed in action over Berlin. In February 1944, Geoff was drafted to the Sydney depot HMAS Rushcutter then to Fairmile Motor Launch 807 for a week, which was part of the force maintaining the Harbour’s anti-submarine boom and nets and patrols. By late February 1944, he was in Brisbane where he briefly joined ML 808, one of two Fairmiles stationed there to patrol for and detect enemy submarines in the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay. In mid-March, Geoff was drafted to the converted trawler minesweeper Tongkol for three weeks before returning to the depot HMAS Moreton.
On 19 April 1944, Geoff joined Fairmile (B Class) ML 827 in Brisbane on the day it was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy under the command of Lieutenant Commander Inman RANVR. Lieutenant Ian Downs RANVR assumed command on the 8 May 1944. Having taken 12 months to be built in Brisbane, it was the last of the Fairmile Motor Launches commissioned in the RAN.
With a crew of 17, these wooden 34 metre long launches with two 650 HP petrol engines had a maximum speed of 20 knots but usually cruised at the more economical speed of 12 knots which gave a range of 1500 miles. These versatile small ships were used as convoy escorts, naval gunfire support and to ferry troops and stores, often in enemy held waters and challenging uncharted coastal areas. The armament fitted varied among the 35 Fairmiles commissioned into the RAN with ML 827 equipped with 40 mm Bofors guns mounted fore and aft supplemented by two twin .303 Vickers machine guns and 14 depth charges.
Geoff, as the ship’s only telegraphist, maintained a radio listening watch between the times of 1000-1200, 1400-1600, 1800-2000, 2200-2400 daily, or constantly when the ship was at action stations. These “slots” were the standard times allotted to all single operator ships. His wireless office was directly beneath the ship’s bridge with a voice pipe between the two for passing verbal messages. He also cared for the ship’s chronometer checking the accuracy of its time against the daily noon time signal from Greenwich England. An accurate chronometer is an essential instrument when the ship’s position is being determined by astro navigation.
When ML 827 was at sea the ship’s company split into two watches continuously working four hours on and four hours off. Only when anchored or in harbour could the onerous and tiring two watch system be relaxed to provide more rest.
During October 1944, ML 827 was attached to the Australian Army’s 5th Division for general duties at New Britain where it escorted barges to Arawe and Jacquinot Bay. His time on ML 827 was cut short when it was lost after running aground in Rondahl Harbour east of Waterfall Bay on 17 November. Severely damaged, she was refloated three days but while being towed by a tug on the night 20 November the tow parted and ML 827 sank without casualties. Geoff was officially discharged to shore at Langemak Bay on 21 November 1944 but was criticised for not destroying the ciphers. He was unable to reach their locked safe as it was under water. Following this incident, he understands the position of the safe was changed on other Fairmiles. After spending December at Madang he joined the converted minesweeper Orara on New Year’s Day 1945 for return passage to Sydney.
After two weeks South Australian leave, Geoff joined the armed merchant cruiser HMAS Westralia as it sailed on 31 March 1945. Its departure from Brisbane had been delayed by fire in its holds. This former Australian passenger liner had served as an armed merchant cruiser until mid 1943 when it was converted to a landing ship infantry.
Following work up training at Manus Island, Westralia became a member of the Allied Task Forces, which then made three amphibious landings on Borneo. The first landing on 1 May 1945 was at Tarakan Island with 120 ships engaged where it carried 1047 Army personnel and also towed a Landing Craft Tank (LCT). Landings at Brunei followed on 10 June with Westralia being one of 85 ships in the assault group aided by 50 minesweeping and fire support ships. After a rehearsal at Morotai in late June, the final landing was made at Balikpapan on 1 July 1945. This was Australia’s largest amphibious assault with an attack group of 98 ships with Westralia carrying 970 Army personnel.
While the ship was at Balikpapan, Geoff met two other Victor Harbor men, Sid Dawe who was serving with 2 Squadron RAAF, and Stirling Ashenden, then serving with 2/27th Battalion. For the remainder of the war, the ship carried troops and stores to the Solomon Islands and Papua and New Guinea. After the cessation of hostilities and into 1946, the ship was busy returning service personnel to Australia.
Geoff came ashore in Sydney on 21 March 1946 and was demobilised at HMAS Torrens (the Birkenhead Naval Depot) on 11 July 1946. He was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, the Pacific Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal 1939-1945 and the Australian Service Medal 1939-1945. Geoff rejoined the PMG Department, but soon after he resigned from his employment as the PMG advised him of his imminent transfer to Whyalla. He established a motor garage in 1946, and in 1949 was appointed as the Ford dealer for the southern Fleurieu Peninsula area. Geoff married Margaret Joyce WALLAGE and there were three children of the marriage. Their son Alan was named after Geoff’s late brother who was killed in a flying battle over Germany in 1943. Geoff retired in 1969 after he sold his Ford dealership. He died on 22 March 2015.
Service record of PA3482 Edgar Geoffrey SEDUNARY held by the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ).
- Hermon GILL, Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra (1985).
P Evans, and R. Thompson (editors), Fairmile Ships of the Royal Australian Navy Volume II, Australian Military History Publications, Loftus NSW, 2005.
Royal Australian Navy Ship’s History database.
Australian War Memorial database.
Compiled by the RSL Victor Harbor Sub-branch History Research Team, November 2012.