In war and peace

The letters pages of the Mercury have drawn comment on Japanese attacks on American ships during World War Two. One reference noted the Japanese first used kamikaze planes in October, 1944, at Leyte Gulf, off the Philippines, and among the ships hit was the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia.

Not mentioned but remembered by Holy Trinity supporters was the "war and peace" link with the church in that attack, for on the bridge in command of the Australia that dreadful day was a Tasmanian - Captain Emile Frank Verlaine Dechaineux, son of Lucien Dechaineux, the noted art leader responsible for designing Holy Trinity's beautifully poignant memorial stained glass window to the 101 parishioners who died for their country in World War One.

The Lucien Dechaineux achievements have been told previously in our People and Events section. He was a remarkable figure on the Tasmanian art scene, both in his role as an art educator and as an active painter himself, playing a prominent part in Tasmania's cultural affairs. Clyde Selby, in his Gallery Watch column for the Mercury, has observed that Lucien Dechaineux helped imprint exciting new European trends in Tasmania.

Emile Dechaineux, like his father known as "Dishy", was a career naval officer who became one of Australia's highly decorated war heroes, making his mark in charge of the British destroyer HMS Vivacious as part of the incredible flotilla of ships that performed the miraculous rescue of Allied forces from Dunkirk in late May-early June, 1940. In all, he took his ship across the English Channel on five runs to the hell of Dunkirk.

But it was for efforts in destroying German E boats that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1941. And there were the testing experiences of patrols in the bitter cold of the North Sea in command of another ship. He returned to Australia to warmer but no less troubled waters to play his part in turning back the Japanese threat to his country in 1943-44.

He was given command of a destroyer task force for amphibious landings around New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands, and in March of '44 came the command of the force flagship Australia for landings at Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea and other areas to beat the Japanese.

The subsequent Leyte landing became a key phase of the war because it was supporting the return of US General Douglas MacArthur. On October 21, a Japanese plane, which had been damaged by gunfire from the Australia, made a kamikaze dive into the ship. There was an explosion and fire engulfed the birdge, mortally wounding Emile Dechaineux. He was buried at sea that night.

The United State government recognised his bravery, giving him the posthumous award of an Officer of the American Legion of Merit. And the name of Captain Emile Dechaineux lives on in that of Australia's Collins-class submarine, HMAS Dechaineux - its plaque depicts the Tasmanian tiger, and its motto is "Fearless and Ferocious". How appropriate.

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