Participating in the ANZAC 100 Year Commemoration, members of the Tingira Australia Association recently paid their ‘salute of respect’ to their most decorated Tingira sailor, Leading Signalman John Varcoe, DSM, RAN; East Africa, Mediterranean Station, Royal Australian Navy, British Adriatic Force.
Today John Varcoe is best recognised as the bronze sailor on the Sydney Cenotaph in Martin Place.
“Our Tingira sailor, John Varcoe, is not a fictitious naval image. Australian sculptor, Sir Bertrand Mackennal, created the statues of the soldier and sailor for the Cenotaph. They are both now famous icons of Sydney for where they stand and what they represent, for our past and present veteran communities,” said Tingira Australia President, Lance Ker.
The statues had not been completed when the Martin Place cenotaph was officially dedicated in 1927. They were later unveiled before a large crowd on February 1929 in the presence of Sir John Monash. Many decades later they are viewed by millions of Australians annually every ANZAC Day, passed by many thousands of Sydney commuters, workers and visitors every day in what is one of Sydney’s busiest pedestrian areas of the central business district.
John Varcoe was one of many young Australian 15 year old ‘Tingira Boys’ who trained for 12 months on board HMAS Tingira, Rose Bay, at the out break of WW1. Many of these young sailors found themselves ‘on the gun line’ on board the warships that made up the new Australian fleet of ships. Sailing to many international oceans to seas to battle with the enemy on the adventure of their lifetime, many were to never return to Australia and are remembered today by many memorial across the Australian landscape.
The second generation of 15 year old Tingira boys from HMAS Leeuwin and Cerberus, recruited and trained in the Royal Australian Navy from 1960 to 1984. Today they take up the cause to remember their former shipmates of the first HMAS Tingira training ship and form the membership of todays Tingira Australia Association. Many of these boys are still
serving in the RAN today, some now into their 40th year plus of service.
The Tingira Australia Association conducts several annual commemorations at the Rose Bay Tingira Memorial. They are preparing to have the present memorial upgraded and repaired in the near future to dedicate the complete Tingira story of our nations ‘Boy Sailors’ and let the people of Sydney know that Rose Bay was the ‘Cradle of the navy” for many decades and forms an important part of our early Australian naval history.