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Submariners recognised for bravery in high seas rescue.

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Issued by Ministerial Support and Public Affairs, Department of Defence, Canberra, ACT Phone: 02 6265 3343, Fax: 02 62656946

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MSPA 272/09 Monday, 17 August 2009


Three Australian submariners have been awarded Bravery Medals by the Australian Bravery Decorations Council for their extraordinary efforts to rescue shipmates who had been washed overboard in bad weather during a night operation. The medals were announced today by Her Excellency the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Chief Petty Officer Rohan Pugh, Petty Officer Greg Langshaw and Leading Seaman Steven Rowell did not hesitate to respond when five personnel were washed overboard from HMAS Farncomb by a large wave on the night of 19 March 2007. The three Bravery Medallists were members of the recovery party and entered the turbulent water at great risk to themselves to ensure that their shipmates were all safely recovered.

Farncomb, a Collins class submarine, was conducting a dived open ocean transit when she surfaced to clear fouling on her casing and propeller. The sailors who were washed overboard were part of a team working to free the obstructions. A full safety assessment had been conducted but rapidly worsening weather conditions meant their clearing operations were cancelled soon after they started. However, before the fouling party could return to the ship, the single wave washed them into the sea. The recovery teams worked for an hour and a half in extremely difficult weather conditions to recover the men overboard.

Chief Petty Officer Pugh, Petty Officer Langshaw and Leading Seaman Rowell displayed remarkable and selfless bravery in swimming to, supporting and helping bring their shipmates back on-board.

Several other members of the Ship’s Company received Commendations from Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane, AM, CSM, RAN, for their actions during the Farncomb man overboard recovery.

“All of Farncomb’s personnel who were involved showed significant fortitude, teamwork and courage to ensure that all sailors were returned to the submarine without major injuries and no loss of life,” Vice Admiral Crane said.

“Among them, the courage and actions of Chief Petty Officer Pugh, Petty Officer Langshaw and Leading Seaman Rowell are worthy of the highest admiration from all of us.”

The Bravery Medals will be presented at an official investiture ceremony in the near future.

Media note: More information about the Australian Bravery Medal is available online at

Media contact: Defence Media Liaison: 02 612 71999 or 0408 498 664