Artist’s concept, project description, and symbolism: 14th April 2018.

Project Purpose:

To design a Memorial which commemorates the loss of HMAS Perth (I), dedicated to the lost Crew, the survivors who were imprisoned; enslaved in prisoner of war camps and those who finally returned to Australia bearing the scars of their suffering for the duration of their lives.

 Also, especially to the families of these men, whose lives were changed forever, by the circumstances of this tragic ‘Incident of war’.


  • To create a special space of contemplation and reflection within a memorial setting.
  • To develop the area to its full potential with regard to its function as a sacred site of remembrance, while having the capacity to fulfil its current function as a museum/hall of memory.
  • To create elements and features which will embody all the necessary symbolism and commemorative aspects for this Memorial, to fulfil its function as a Memorial to the 681 crewmen of HMAS Perth (1) and their families.
  • To express particularly the concept of loss and suffering in relation to this terrible tragedy.
  • To create a place suitable for ceremonial occasions, commemorative events, flag raising, wreath laying, in order to facilitate both public and private remembrance.
  • To create a design suited to the existing site and structures, at Navy League HQ, East Fremantle, while allowing for the difficulties of the location with regard to the exigencies involved with integrating new and old infrastructure and services.
  • To allow this space to be utilised comfortably and with suitable access in relation to all age groups and physical abilities.
  • To develop the existing function of the site as an informative area with enhanced narrative elements which serve as educational instruments for the Navy League and Navy Veterans; the Sea Cadets and the general public of all ethnic backgrounds, children and overseas visitors.
  • To incorporate symbolic as well as narrative features.
  • To include the names of all those who served on HMAS Perth (1) for her final voyage.

Artists Concept Statement:

The design of the HMAS Perth (I) Memorial is based on an emotional response on the part of ourselves, the artists, within an extremely practical methodology that seeks to blend both the existing structures and our dramatic development of these into a cohesive entity, that will serve as a fitting memorial to commemorate this major historical tragedy in the history of Western Australia – but crucially, to also represent the whole of Australia, from whence these men (and their families ) emanated  : 681 in total, for that fatal last voyage.

Our approach then, is two-fold: to encapsulate and express the horror and pain of this tragedy and to do so, on a site that has physical restrictions and a pre-ordained purpose: that of a museum containing the salvaged and memorabilia relating to HMAS Perth (I) along with an active Sea Cadets

’ training ship’ and meeting place, for many veterans and their connections.

In that regard, it is a special site in many ways and although ‘modest’ in its current form we have taken great care to preserve its value as a site of historic relevance, enhancing and updating to current 21st Century standards.

The memorial also seeks to commemorate and honour this site as the home of the first Sea Cadets of Australia.

The Memorial is comprised of:

A dramatic glass- walled ‘ship’s prow’ shaped space which is the central symbolic focus and ‘monumental manifestation’ of HMAS Perth (1).

This structure is essentially a simple ‘space frame’ that extends the existing museum building, while also expanding the area to enable more memorabilia and information to be stored and displayed. The design of this structure is based on the prow of the ship, emphasizing the connection with the actual HMAS Perth (1), while also disguising, as it were, the underlying building and transforming it thereby into a total entity, with strong powerful lines thrusting up from the base, which is formed as a double stepped area following the lines of the prow in a triangular arrangement. This glass ‘ prow structure’, will provide a vast canvas into which can be embedded myriad photographs and newspaper cuttings, telling the story of Perth (I) and her tragic downfall in dramatic focus. These glass walls will be constructed in ‘ceramic glass’ comprised of two Laminated layers of 12mm thick glass sheets into which the images and text relating the history and fate of the Perth will be fused with ceramic inks, under extremely high temperature.

The final 25mm thick glass panels will be virtually bullet proof.

The general visual colour ‘mood’ of the images will be grey – blue as most of the photographs coming from this historic period will be Black & White and we feel that this water-like colour cast would be most symbolic and appropriate.

Lighting at night will create a mysterious blue hue which will serve to heighten the dramatic effect.

The images in the glasswork can be viewed and accessed from inside and out, thus enabling not only the dedicated visitors, but the casual observers and passers – by to fully engage and appreciate the Memorial.

At the apex of the ‘Prow’ a flagpole will be inserted, providing a link with the Perth while also serving as a solemn visual reference for ceremonial and memorial occasions and thus emphasizing the memorial aspect of the existing museum. The ‘ship’s prow’ will be set on two steps, providing a formal area for the flag pole and wreath laying for ceremonial occasions.

 ‘Avenue of Honour’

At the right hand entrance into the memorial/museum is a wall of remembrance bearing the names of the entire ship’s company. This will form an ‘Avenue of Honour’, with each name engraved into highly polished black granite, to emphasize the solemn purpose of this place of remembrance.

Australian Navy Cadets-“Training Ship Perth” – Concrete Relief Mural:

This sculpted relief wall – is designed to especially honour and remember the importance of this site as the home base of the Sea Cadets for all of Australia. The design is inspired by a photograph of Cadets in training (Tasmania). For us as the artists, this wonderful image of the Sea Cadets pulling a large rope, tied in perfectly, as a link with the ship’s prow structure of the main symbolic element we are proposing.

This artwork would be produced as a ‘relief’: essentially a shadow play, examples of which, previously produced by Smith Sculptors, we have included.

Title Wall:

We have addressed the wall to the west of the central ‘Memorial’ and created an entrance ‘Title Wall’ faced with polished black granite, that will connect the “Avenue of Honour”. This wall will contain all the insignia and text describing the Memorial, in one place. The ‘wrap around’ visual extension of the  “Avenue of Honour” connects the entire elevation into a powerful, cohesive, ‘whole’.


 Instead of grass we have paved the entire area in 20mm non-slip, flamed surface granite, in two contrasting shades of grey harmonizing with the colours of the architecture and symbolizing ‘Navy Grey’.

Joan Walsh-Smith & Charles Smith:

Memorial Designers Gidgegannup, Perth 2018

Joan Walsh-Smith, Charles Smith