She’ll be Apples 

In December 1999, a seemingly innocent game of cricket at HMAS Albatross at Nowra took a tragic twist when 29-year-old batsman LSEWL Philip (‘Apples’) Appelbee fell down out of the blue, and appeared to stop breathing. 

The quick thinking of others around him (on and off the field) saw CPR and EAR administered within a short space of time. Ambulances were soon on the scene and desperate efforts were made to revive Philip who had fallen into a coma. 

Even the Base Commander became involved in the drama, as he happened to observe the incident unfolding from his office. He ordered a helicopter to be made ready in case an air evacuation was required. 

As it turned out, the helicopter was not needed. However, it took several ambulance crews about 40 minutes to stabilise Philip’s condition sufficiently to transfer him to hospital. 

Philip was first taken to Shoalhaven where he stayed for about 8hrs before being transferred to Wollongong hospital in NSW. Countless tests were run and all came back inconclusive as to what had happened and what the future now held for him. 

Courtesy of the RAN, his parents Kay and Barry were flown to Sydney and were by his side within 12 hours of the initial incident. 

A month in Wollongong did not make any marked improvement in Philip’s condition and he remained in a coma like vegetative state. The medical opinion was that during the initial incident Philip had received brain damage and was not likely to recover. A decision was made to take Philip back to his home state of Western Australia where he could be closer to his family. 

After a period of time at Royal Perth Hospital, Philip was transferred to Mercy Hospital (a private hospital). 

As the diagnosis for Philip was not good and it seemed Philip was going to need constant care, Philip’s parents decided to take him home and provide this care for him themselves – this included moving into a house suitable to accommodate a disabled person. Philip’s mother became his almost constant companion as she prepared for the role of primary carer, whilst his father and siblings talked about what role they would play in his care. 

Unfortunately Philip developed pneumonia and passed away in November 2000 before the time to go home. His parents were with him during his last hours – he never regained consciousness. 

A fitting funeral was held at HMAS Stirling at Garden Island in Perth, where his sister, niece and members of the RAN reflected on Philip’s life. 

Philip joined the RAN in 1991 and completed his basic training at HMAS Cerberus after which he went to Cabablah in Qld for further training and soon found his niche in the area of Electronic Warfare. It was then on to Canberra for 2˝ years before being transferred to HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin. During this time he also spent 5 months in Melbourne completing an Indonesian Language Course. After Darwin he was transferred to HMAS Albatross. 

Philip had his first sea tour (fortunately) on the HMAS Perth – the last overseas tour for the ship (through South East Asia) before it had one final tour of Australia and then decommissioned. After his sea tour, Philip returned to Albatross where he spent a short time before replacing another EW aboard the HMAS Success – at the time the Success was on its was to the East Timor area. Whilst in the East Timor area, Philip was transferred to several ships including the Adelaide and the Tobruk. For his service in East Timor, Philip was awarded a Service Medal with the East Timor Clasp – a medal his parents proudly display.

Philip returned to HMAS Albatross on the 16th of November 1999 (about 3 weeks before the incident) and exactly one year to the day he passed away (16th November 2000).

Although at the time of his death Philip was a Leading Seaman, the paperwork he left behind revealed he was only a couple of signatures short of his promotion to Petty Officer. He mentioned to his family shortly before the initial incident that he had a ‘surprise’ for them – but never ever told anyone what this surprise was. They assume that this surprise was his impending promotion. 

Philip was never married and left behind his two parents, a brother and four sisters. 

If there is one legacy Philip has left us, to take advantage of today because who knows which will be our last. For Philip, his last conscious day was spent doing what he loved – playing cricket on Navy soil. 

RIP Apples 


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