New Albany exhibition shares the stories of lives lost in Battle of Sunda Strait

Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
Email Sarah Makse
Princess Royal Fortress curator David Theodore with a replica of HMAS Perth.
Camera IconPrincess Royal Fortress curator David Theodore with a replica of HMAS Perth. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

With a course set for Australian shores, the HMAS Perth and USS Houston warships set off across the Sunda Strait in 1942.

After surviving the Battle of the Java Sea, the soldiers were heading home.

But on the night of February 28 and morning of March 1, the ships sailed into the arms of the enemy, an Imperial Japanese Navy taskforce.

The Guardians of Sunda Strait will be a free exhibition at Albany’s Princess Royal Fortress until October.
Camera IconThe Guardians of Sunda Strait will be a free exhibition at Albany’s Princess Royal Fortress until October. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

It became a battle for their lives — one that was ultimately lost — with both allied ships sunk along with 1046 soldiers on board.

Those who survived became prisoners of war, working as slave labourers on the Thai-Burma Railway, in Japanese coal mines and at Sandakan.

A free Australian National Maritime Museum travelling exhibition at Princess Royal Fortress tells the stories and honours the memory of those who paid the ultimate price.

Part of the naval exhibition at the Princess Royal Fortress.
Camera IconPart of the naval exhibition at the Princess Royal Fortress. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

Princess Royal Fortress curator David Theodore said the Guardians of Sunda Strait exhibition had travelled the world and was a welcome addition to Albany.

“The Battle of the Sunda Strait is a stark reminder of the impacts of World War II on our country, and the courage and bravery Australian soldiers displayed during impossible conditions,” he said.

The Guardians of Sunda Strait exhibition at Princess Royal Fortress.
Camera IconThe Guardians of Sunda Strait exhibition at Princess Royal Fortress. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

“The devastation of HMAS Perth losing 375 men and USS Houston losing 696 men while defending their respective countries is not lost, and we continue to honour the memory of those who served through hosting exhibitions like Guardians of Sunda Strait.”

The exhibition will be on display at the Princess Royal Fortress Married Quarters from Saturday until October 10.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails