CROSS, Cecil Grant
Cecil Grant Cross was born in 1920 in Corrimal, to parents Frank and Ethel Maud Cross of Wollongong, New South Wales. Cross joined the Merchant Navy, commencing on 5 March 1941 at Wollongong and was the 7th Engineer on the Neptuna, aged twenty-one, on 19 February 1942.
The MV Neptuna was crewed by eighteen Australian Officers, four Cadets, and over one hundred Chinese sailors. She arrived in Darwin Harbour loaded with two hundred depth charges and a very large quantity of anti-aircraft shells for the Navy and Army. When the Japanese air attack began the Neptuna was berthed alongside the main wharf awaiting maintenance. The first bomb hit the ship below the waterline and she began taking on water; she then received a direct hit causing her to catch on fire. When the fire entered No. 3 and No. 4 hatches, the Neptuna blew apart, creating a huge mushroom cloud caused by the explosion of the ammunition she was carrying.
Most of the surviving ship’s company were rescued from the wharf and the harbour and taken aboard HMAS Platypus, a depot ship being used as a casualty clearing station. Thirty-six of the ship’s crew were killed, including the Master, Captain William Michie.
George Boniface was the Neptuna’s 4th Engineer, and is now the only surviving Australian crew member. He was friends with Cross and Fowler, as all three engineers were from Wollongong and had worked together at Australian Iron and Steel, in Port Kembla. It was Boniface, upon his return home to Wollongong, who informed both Cross and Fowler’s parents of the death of their sons, as they had not heard from the authorities. Cross and Fowler were in a part of the ship that received a direct hit, and they were killed instantly.
Cecil Cross is commemorated at The Northern Territory Memorial, which stands in the Adelaide River War Cemetery.
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