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Hector MacDonald Laws Waller

William Frederick Waller married Miss Helen Duncan at Melbourne in 1879. Their first child, Charles Gordon was born the same year. His birth was followed by that of Robert Duncan in 1881, William Alexander 1884, Arthur James 1886, Henry Boyd 1888, Ernest Frederick 1890, Jessie Margaret 1892, Alice Helen 1894, Donald Maine in 1896 and on Wednesday April 4th 1900, their last child, they named Hector Macdonald Laws Waller was born.

Growing up in Benalla, in the new Commonwealth of Australia, Hector was top receive his education at both Benalla East State School and then from 1912, at Benalla High School, that was initially operated in the St. Andrews Church. Hector was one of the first students to attend the High School. He was to go on to become one of the schools top students.

By 1914, Hec had joined the navy as a cadet, and in his final year in 1917, at Jervis Bay, he won the Prestigious Kings Medal. As a cadet Midshipman, his first appointment was in 1918 to the British Navy where he served aboard H.M.S. Agincourt and then H.M.S. Torch, before returning to Australia on H.M.A.S. Melbourne.

In 1920, as a sub-lieutenant, he left for England once more to further his studies in gunnery, torpedo work, seamanship and navigation. Upon qualifying in 1922, he was promoted to Lieutenant. [And] upon his return to Australia the following year, he took an appointment as signal officer at Flinders Naval Base and in 1923-1924 was the assistant Director of the Communications.

Two years on (once again in England, this time on exchange) he was given the position of Signal Officer on H.M.S. Broke. Still in England in 1929, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander. Returning to Australia in the following year to take up position of Squadron Signal Officer on H.M.A.S. Canberra, where he remained until 1932.

His next move was in 1934 when he took up an appointment at the Naval College as Commander. In 1936 saw him again in exchange in England. There he served on H.M.S. Brazen. and within that same year he was back in Australia on duty for a short time in the Navy Office.

In 1939, with Hector Waller in Command, the ship H.M.A.S. Sturt, led the 10th Destroyer Flotilla in the Mediterranean. His ship was involved in the 1939-1941 Tobruk ferry run, the Layan campaign and the battle of Calabria and Matapan. During this time he was promoted to Captain and it was while serving in the Mediterranean that he won the Distinguished Serve Order and Bar. He left the ship H.M.A.S. Stuart in 1941 and on his return to Australia, was given command of H.M.A.S. Perth. Before taking up this position Hector and his wife (Nancy Bowes died 1977) visited his old school, Benalla High, where he gave the students a most inspiring talk.

On taking command of H.M.A.S. Perth he assisted with the evacuation of Singapore, operated in the Coral Sea in late 1941 and early 1942 and then took part in the battle for the defence of Java. During the Java Sea Battle while in the company of U.S.S. Houston, Wallers ship was sunk by a far superior Japanese force. Captain Waller lost his life during the battle. The survivors were taken prisoner. Only two hundred of the men returned at the end of the war, with one hundred and fifty of those who had survived the sinking of the Perth dying in prisoner of war camps or on the Burma -Thailand Railway.

Rather treasured by Benalla is one of Captain Waller's dress uniform and his medals which are held at the Benalla Pioneer Museum. He is also remembered locally by the naming of Waller St in Benalla West and Waller House at Benalla College, the former Benalla Technical School.

Hector MacDonald Laws Waller's name is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon, United Kingdom, panel 72, column 2. The Benalla Cenotaph and the Australian War Memorial, Panel 6.