Surgeon LCDR Samuel Stenning: An (almost) forgotten hero

Posted on: Mon 26 Feb 2018

At the outbreak of World War II, Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Samuel Stening enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy. He served in the Indian Ocean and then in the famous ‘Scrap Iron Flotilla’ in the Mediterranean where his ship, the Waterhen, was sunk in June 1941.  Sam was posted to HMAS Perth for the cruiser’s deployment to Java and her subsequent sinking in Sunda Strait on 1 March 1942.

Dr Sam Stening’s life story is certainly about the Royal Australian Navy at war, and about being a Japanese Prisoner of War, but more than that, it’s a love story.  Surprisingly, it’s also about the early days of advancements in paediatrics in Australia and the triaging of premature babies – deciding who would live and who would not.

Naval historian Dr Ian Pfennigwerth (CAPT RAN Rtd) who wrote Sam Stening’s biography, says, ‘Writing it was a struggle, but the story was too good to abandon just because I found the facts extremely confronting‘.  Ian engages us in a great insight into this Australian Naval hero’s life.

Producer Helen Meyer

Pfennigwerth, Ian Elvins, In Good Hands, The Life of Dr Sam Stening, POW, Longueville Books, Australia, 2012.

Image provided by Ian Pfennigwerth.

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