Eulogy by Commander Philipp Owen


Eulogy by Commander Philipp Owen, RAN (Ret'd)
at the State Funeral and Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Rear Admiral Sir David Martin, KCMG, AO, KStJ, RAN (Ret'd)

I knew David for the best part of half of a century. When I returned from my four year stint in Japan as a prisoner of war, "Jim" (David's mother) asked me whether I knew what happened to "Pincher", David's father, who was Executive Officer of HMAS PERTH when she sank after midnight in the Action in Sunda Strait. I had no idea but made enquiries of such of any shipmates who were available and one of them said he heard the Commander giving cheer to anyone in hearing distance and singing songs. After four years of agonising waiting, David's mother then seemed much relieved of her anxiety for the following year - 1946 - she told me that David was applying for a Naval College cadetship and asked me whether I would give him some instruction in sailing. I did so whenever I had the opportunity and David gained some proficiency using a VJ housed in SCOT'S boat shed at Rose Bay.

He was bright and keen and always cheerful - the apple of his mother's eye. Commander George Halley, a term mate of David's, says even in their first year at the College he displayed leadership qualities and was a natural athlete. A good rugby player who subsequently became 1st XV Captain, he was also a good boxer. At sea, as a Midshipman, David served in HMAS SYDNEY during the Korean War under Captain D.H. Harries - "DARBO" as he was called.

Captain Harries was the same entry into the Naval College as David's father. "Darbo" was a reticent man. After several months in the ship "Darbo" asked David whether he was W.H. Martin's son. David thought, "At last the great man will talk about my father." When David replied "Yes Sir", the great man grudgingly released three words - "I knew him!"

After completing Sub Lieutenants' courses at Greenwich and Portsmouth, he returned to Australia in the Orient liner ORCADES where he met Susie, his wife to be later in 1957.

David's service career was quite impressive. He qualified as a Gunnery Officer and subsequently commanded four large ships - HMAS QUEENBOROUGH, TORRENS, SUPPLY and MELBOURNE.

He was selected to attend the Royal College of Defence Studies as a Senior Officer.

Later as a Rear Admiral he served as Chief of the Naval Personnel and then as Flag Officer Naval Support Command in Sydney, where he and Susie entertained extensively, never forgetting their old Naval friends. At Tresco, the highlight was the Fleet Review in 1986. David had a calmness about him and was never "rattled" - quite an aura - I can feel it about me now. He loved his fellow men and women. I never heard him denigrate other people.

Two and a half months ago when David came out of hospital, he rang me early in the forenoon to tell me, " 'Polo', I have bad news. And so that you will not be shocked by hearing it publicly, I have decided to tell you. They have found a little cancer. I am determined to fight the thing and to have any treatment available. You need to be strong in this job."

I said, "David may God give you strength".

When I saw him on TV, standing on the steps of Government House in obvious distress with his breathing, I was reminded of a painting I saw as a child of a Roman Centurion, standing guard in a porchway in the orange-red glow of flames from an awful fire, subtitled "FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH". On Friday last at St. Vincent's Private Hospital, with his son-in-law Lieutenant-Commander Vince Di Pietro RAN seated beside his bed, he awakened and said "what are we supposed to be doing now?" Vince replied, "Resting."

Sir David responded: "Well - let's get on with it then."

And then he died.

The achievements of this caring and courageous man could not have been attained and sustained without the unremitting love and strength of Susie, his wife, no less a lover of people herself. For New South Wales, the Queen of Australia could never have installed better representatives than Sir David and Lady Martin.