Captain Frank Edmund Getting

Captain Frank Edmund Getting

Captain Frank Edmund Getting was born in Sydney on 30 July 1899. He was a member of the initial 1913 entry of the newly established Royal Australian Naval College (RANC), then located at Osborne House, Geelong, Victoria. During his time in the RANC, Getting gained his colours for rugby and rowing before passing out in 1916. In 1917 he was promoted Midshipman and subsequently attached to the Royal Navy for consolidation training and sea service. He was promoted Sub Lieutenant in November 1918 and Lieutenant in 1920.

In 1926, Getting became the first Australian naval officer to pass the Royal Navy’s submarine commanders’ course and was promoted Lieutenant Commander in April 1928. Following a period as the First Lieutenant in the submarine HMAS Oxley (I) he was subsequently appointed in command from September 1928-May 1930. Between August 1930 and December 1934 Getting was loaned to the Royal Navy for sea service, further training and staff courses at the Imperial Defence College. He was promoted Commander in December 1933.

Appointments in the heavy cruisers HMA Ships Australia and Canberra followed which saw him promoted to Acting Captain in November 1939. At the outbreak of war with Germany, Acting Captain Getting was appointed in command of the armed merchant cruiser HMAS Kanimbla (I). In 1940, Getting was confirmed in the rank of Captain and appointed Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, a post he held until 1942, when he was appointed in command of HMAS Canberra (I).

On 17 June 1942 Captain Frank Getting was appointed in command of the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, a ship he was familiar with having previously served in her as the Executive Officer. On the 14 July 1942, following an extensive refit and change of personnel, HMAS Canberra took part in offensive sweeps into the Coral Sea as part of Task Force 44, before being assigned to Operation WATCHTOWER, the invasion of the Solomon Islands by US Marines.

In August 1942 Canberra was operating as a component of a large Allied naval force supporting the US landings at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. On the evening of 9 August the Allied fleet was cruising in darkness near Savo Island when a large Japanese cruiser force executed a surprise night attack on the Allied ships. As Canberra's action stations alarms rattled, Getting arrived on the bridge ordering his guns to train on three unidentified darkened warships while increasing to full speed. It was to no avail, for moments later Canberra received the first of 22 hits from enemy gunfire. The second enemy salvo found Canberra's bridge. Shrapnel flew in all directions killing many in its path and injuring others, including Getting who was manning a bearing indicator. When a ship’s medical party arrived at the scene, Frank Getting was found slumped against a bulkhead. His right leg was shattered and he had suffered multiple shrapnel wounds. In spite of his injuries Getting issued orders for the doctor to see to other men first, refusing to be moved.

Canberra had been dealt a knock-out blow. Uncontrollable fires were raging in the ship which soon took on a list of ten degrees. Reluctantly orders were eventually given to abandon ship. Frank Getting and other injured personnel were transferred to the troopship USS Barnett. There, Canberra's surgeon Commander Downward, supported by Signalman ‘Nobby’ Hall, tended to their captain’s wounds until he finally succumbed. Hall later remarked:

To me he was God! I assisted Surgeon Commander Downward to operate on him in an American [destroyer] following Savo Island. He was wounded in many places. What we did was not enough for him. He was kind to his men.

A total of 84 of Canberra's crew was killed in action and the hard decision to scuttle the cruiser was made soon after. Many HMAS Canberra survivors went on to serve in her replacement, HMAS Shropshire, which continued the fight alongside our American allies and was present in Tokyo Bay to witness the formal Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945.