Devotion to duty

Newstead local Trevor Mitchell has been recognised for his bravery during a devastating fire aboard petrol tanker ship HMAS Westralia in 1998.
The publican, Forty Acres Brewing co-founder and former Navy sailor was presented with a Conspicuous Service Cross by Victorian Governor the Hon Linda Dessau AC at Government House in Melbourne on September 5.
The prestigious medal recognises meritorious achievement or devotion to duty in extreme circumstances during non-war situations.
Trevor said he was recognised by the Navy with a citation for bravery and commendation from former Governor General Sir William Deane in the year following the May 5, 1998 fire, but fellow Navy personnel had been striving for the past 20 years for formal recognition with the presentation of the medal, which is usually reserved for officers.
“It’s pretty special. Lots of people are familiar with the Victoria Cross but this award is also pretty esteemed,” he told the Express.
The HMAS Westralia was en route to Bali when the fire broke out. Trevor, a Leading Seaman at the time, was among three Hose Team Leaders who led the fire fight.
Trevor led his team into the main machinery space where there was intense smoke and zero visibility. Using a thermal imaging device he was able to confirm hot spots everywhere to the extent the screen whited out.
Despite the threatening conditions where boots were sticking to the plates and molten plastic was dripping on members of his team, Trevor led them to the top plates handrail area, cooling oil drums and directing foam over hot spots.
“We just jumped into action. It’s something you receive ancillary training for but you hope will never happen. The ship carried 45,000 litres of fuel and 98 crew. Our teams probably helped save 70 people.”
The humble father of two said that in the 20 years since the fire he relived the incident every day.
“We lost four shipmates that day. It was pretty traumatic.”
In tribute to his time in the Navy, Trevor and his team host an annual fundraiser to support the work of charity Soldier On Australia at his pub, Railway Hotel Newstead.
“It’s great the community really gets behind it. Our third annual event is coming up on Saturday November 3. We have five or six bands which all donate their time, we donate the beer and the community gets on board donating prizes to give away. We have raised $10,000 so far.”
Be sure to put the date in your diary and get along and support the fundraiser.

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