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Anzac Day: A letter from Johnnie

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Among the treasured possessions of Adelaide grandmother Dorothy Smith when she passed away were the letters she had kept and read regularly throughout her whole life – letters which often moved her to tears.

The letters were from her brother John Burden, sent to her from active duty on the light cruiser HMAS Perth during World War Two.

Melbourne-born John was 19 when he wrote this letter to his beloved sister (read in the video above).

Two months later, just after midnight on 1 March 1942, he was one of hundreds of Australian sailors lost when the HMAS Perth was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese warships in the Battle of the Sundra Strait.

Of the Perth’s crew of 680, 357 men were lost in ship’s last battle at sea. Others survived only to be captured and become prisoners of war in Java, Thailand and Japan. One in three of these men died as prisoners, until the remaining crew of the HMAS Perth were liberated in 1945.

John Burden is remembered by his Great-Niece Judy Rogers from the stories her mother Dorothy told her and she kindly provided the letters and images for this story.

For a list of tomorrow’s Anzac Day services, go here.

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