In late 2017, I undertook a series of walks around Sydney Harbour from North Head to South Head.  On the third day while approaching Bradley’s Head I noticed a series of sandstone blocks beside the path.  Each held a plaque inscribed with the name of an Australian warship.  HMAS Geelong, HMAS Warrnambool, HMAS Perth and HMAS Sydney were included – twenty-two sandstone blocks in all.  The plaques were inscribed with the names of HMAS vessels, and the date and reason for their loss.  At the end of the row of blocks stood a memorial, dedicated in 2014 by then Prime Minister and local member, The Hon. Tony Abbott M.P.  It read:


This memorial walk commemorates the loss of twenty-two commissioned Royal Australian Navy ships and submarines as a consequence of war since 4 October 1913 when the first RAN fleet entered Sydney Harbour.  This walk was dedicated in 2014 by the Hon Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia and member for Warringah.


Three trees in this walk were planted on the same day the adjacent HMAS Sydney I mast was dedicated on 12 March 1964.  Those trees were dedicated to HMA Ships Sydney II, Perth and Canberra lost in World War Two.


This historic site also serves as a reminder of the sacrifice made by all naval personnel lost or injured whilst serving in commissioned ships, ashore and in the air, both in peace and war.




I walked back along the path beside the blocks which held the plaques of those twenty-two ships.  As I walked, my concern grew!


Where was Lolita - HMAS Lolita?  


She was not there!  Why not?  How could Lolita not have been included – she had been lost in a war zone performing official naval duties before the declared end of the war - and two naval Motor Mechanics from the shore station working onboard Lolita had died?


Surely, this was wrong!  The absence of Lolita from the memorial had to be corrected – not just because it was the vessel on which my father John Blunt had served, but for the other men who served on her and for the two sailors who had died when she was lost.  And for the ship herself.


I wrote to the former Prime Minister and asked if he could explain why ‘HMAS Lolita, and many other HMAS vessels had not been included and recognised in this very important memorial.  There was no answer and thinking he had forgotten, I wrote again.  But Tony Abbott had not forgotten my request and had been making his own enquires.  As a result of his enquiries, he referred me to various NSW Ministers and suggested an approach to the Minister for Defence.  He added a personal message:


[I can appreciate your strong feeling in this issue.]


A week later I received a call from the President of the HMAS Sydney Association.  Tony Abbott had suggested he should call me.  He explained the Association had assisted with the memorial and put forward a list of twenty-six ships for dedication in the memorial.  But he could not explain why the Navy had reduced the list to the twenty-two.  I was told the Association was of the view the memorial should recognise all HMAS ships lost at sea – both ‘in peace and war’ – just as inscribed on the memorial.  The Navy however rejected that purpose and limited the memorial to only those ships lost during wartime.


It was at that time, I became aware that Brian Anderson, a son of Herbert Anderson – commander of HMAS Lolita at the time of the Battle of Sydney Harbour, had petitioned the Navy for his father to be awarded an honour for his deeds during the Battle.  His petition had been refused in 2013.  


That was the year before the Bradleys Head memorial was dedicated – when there was no acknowledgment of the loss of HMAS Lolita!


What I have learnt since, is that HMAS Lolita, like her fellow vessels of the Hollywood Fleet, has a history of action and service that has been forgotten.