Two Royal Australian Navy Sailors are buried in the Russell Cemetery also known as Kororareka Cemetery

Their names are George William LAWTON buried 30 Mar 1950 off HMAS Sydney and James NISBET buried 28 Mar 1950 also off HMAS Sydney.  The question has been asked does anyone remember the reason or the incident which saw these two Australian sailors buried so far from home?

Further research has discovered that there were five sailor travelling in a jeep with a trailer and they met with an accident at Punaruka Bridge, near Whangaruru on the Whangrei to Russell Road returning from Onerahi.  Three sailers were injured and died from their injuries while another Petty Officer was slightly injured and the driver was unhurt.  A copy of HMAS Sydney’s Report of Proceedings (ROP) is attached and makes interesting reading.  Two of the sailors who died are interred in Russell Cemetery and the third was returned to Australia at his wife’s request.

Click HERE to read the ROP.  Para 53 provides details of a race amongst the fleet of which HMNZS ROTOITI and HMNZS BELLONA were the winners.  Nice excuse from the Australian Commander and very similar to what we hear from the rugby…


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  1. Ray Newport says:

    Ray Newport says;
    RAN Sailors buried in New Zealand . There was three who were in a motor accident in Australia on 27th March 1950 James Nisbet S.A.M. FX 66238, Frank Brotherton Chief S.A.M. FX75490 , AND
    George W. Lawton Aircraft Artificer FX82661. The three were involved in a Road Accident in Australia , Lawton is the only one I can find Buried in the Russell Cemetery as he passed away
    (DOI)a few days later. Why buried in NZ who knows??. The Website is http://www.Naval-History.net
    then go to Family History Royal Naval personnel killed and then go to post-war 1945-2008 and click into 1950 scroll down to March 1950 . they are in that period. No other information obtained as to this HMAS Sydney was at the time either in Australia or exercising in NZ. Hope this helps.

  2. MOLE says:

    Thanks for the link Frank a mine of information in there.

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