ONE of the last surviving members of the HMAS Perth sinking and a giant in the Goulburn community has passed away.
Frank Chattaway, who was also a former Goulburn High School principal, passed away yesterday morning at Goulburn Base Hospital. He had been suffering a heart condition.
His wife Jan described him as a man who just wanted to help people. The 92-year-old had devoted his life to organisations like Legacy and Endeavour Industries.
“He worked in fields that helped people and for which he was never paid, and that was a big thing,” Mrs Chattaway said.
However, his life ended with a tragic accident that he would never get over.
Just three weeks ago a local court magistrate dismissed a charge of negligent driving causing death against him, noting his “outstanding character” and community contribution.
Mr Chattaway was charged in May last year following the April 15 death of local cancer coordinator Barbara Gildea.
The court accepted that the elderly war veteran had not seen the 67- year-old nurse before the collision.
He initially pleaded not guilty to the crime on the grounds of medical evidence but later changed his plea.
Mrs Chattaway said the accident had taken a tremendous toll on her husband.
“Losing a life due to an accident is no small thing and it had a big effect on him. It caused a lot of sadness for him,” she told the Post.
From the time he was born Mr Chattaway sought to do good. He had a strong moral compass and as a young man, his belief in country cost him dearly.
Mr Chattaway was born on February 11, 1920, and he was educated at both Illabo (near Junee) and Wagga Wagga.
He was always a smart kid, with a passion for numbers, and went on to study teaching after graduating from high school.
While studying he met his sweetheart, Nellie Pope, and the pair were engaged.
After completing his training, at the age of 21, he decided to put his career on hold and join his fellow country man in the Pacific.
In an Anzac Day interview with the Post, back in 2005, Mr Chattaway said that while he deplored war he felt it was necessary to be part of it to ensure Australia remained a free country.
He joined the Navy and was assigned to the ill-fated HMAS Perth. After the ship sank in the Sundra Straits in 1942, Mr Chattaway was taken prisoner by the Japanese.
He was taken to Thailand and forced to work on the Thai/Burma Railway.
The Death Railway, as it is also known, stretched 415kms, from Bangkok to Rangoon, and more than 100,000 people lost their lives building it, literally being worked to death.
After the line was completed in 1944, Mr Chattaway was taken back to Japan and forced to work in the coal mines. He was working in Nagasaki the day American forces dropped an Atom bomb on the city.
On August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies. Eighteen days later, the war was over.
Mr Chattaway returned home later that year and married Ms Pope. The pair remained together until her passing in the late 1970s. He later married Jan.
After the war Mr Chattaway reignited his dedication to education, studying economics at Sydney Uni before pursuing a career as a teacher.
He moved to Goulburn in 1968 and became the principal of Goulburn High School. He retired as an executive educator in 1982.
Mr Chattaway was a community orientated man, in fact, his close friend Don Elder described him as “the most civic minded person” he had ever known.
“He was a man who cared for others,” Mr Elder said.
“He was probably the finest bloke I ever met. He was absolutely dedicated to his family, his work and his fellow man.”
Mr Chattaway was the prime instigator of Endeavour Industries and was a committed volunteer for Legacy, Goulburn Mulwaree Rotary Club and Christ Church Anglican Church in West Goulburn, among others.
His civic duties saw him become a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM).
Mr Elder believed his sense of community likely derived from his experience of war, after seeing humanity at its worst he wanted to focus his efforts on doing good.
The retired solicitor said his friend was also a keen sportsman, playing both golf and tennis into his 90s, and that his ability with numbers made him a formidable opponent at cards.
Mr Chattaway passed away at 8am yesterday morning at Goulburn Base Hospital. He is survived by his wife Jan; children Vicki, Ken, and Judy; step children Tiffany and Joe; and his beloved grandchildren David, Joshua, Michael, Simon, Olivia, Peter, Harry, Samantha and Matthew.
His funeral service will be held at Christ Church, Addison St, at 2pm on Monday.