1. Australian Navy Foundation Day
2. Reserve Forces Day - CDRE Peter Habersberger RANR

3. Nelson and Trafalgar


2001 was the Australian Navy Foundation Day - Foundation Day on 1st March 1901
, the day when 14 ex Australian States Naval vessels were formally transferred in accordance with the new Australian Constitution, thus forming the new Australian Commonwealth Naval Forces (ACNF) - Victoria providing six, Queensland 4, South Australia two and NSW two.
They waited until 3rd September 1901 for a new Australian flag design to be chosen, and then proudly flew this new Australian blue ensign as their naval ensign until 1911 when the ACNF name was changed to 'Royal' Australian Navy (RAN) and with this went the right to fly the Royal Naval White Ensign.
Melbourne, Victoria was Australia's first Federal Capital City and remained so for the first 26 years of Federation with Navy Office remaining in Melbourne up until 1960. Melbourne, Victoria was also the birthplace and focus of the new Australian Navy.

The day 1st March commemorates many significant events in the history of the Australian Navy:-

  • 1st March 1901 - Australian Navy Foundation Day.
  • 1st March 1904 - Establishment of the Australian Commonwealth Naval Administration.
  • 1st March 1913 - Foundation of the Royal Australian Naval College at Osborne House, North Geelong, Victoria.
  • 1st March 1942 - Loss of HMAS Perth and Captain Hec Waller and many of the crew as they fought to the last to stem the Japanese advance in the Battle of the Java Sea and Sunda Strait.
  • 1st March 1967 - Australia's new White Naval Ensign raised for the first time, replacing the 56 year old Royal perogative issued in July 1911, granting the right to the RAN to jointly fly the Royal Navy White ensign, introduced into the RN as a standard ensign in 1864.

A NUMBER OF MEMORABLE EVENTS OCCURRED OVER THE YEARS
1914 - September -The year 1914, marked the commencement of world war 1 and with it came the involvement of Australia's armed forces.
One of Australias first engagements in the war was in the German territory of New Guinea. An Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary force was sent to the area to destroy German wireless stations thought to be transmitting messages to German naval vessels operating in the pacific.
Some of the Australian naval ships ordered to the area included HMA SHIPS - Australia Sydney Encounter Protector Warrego Parramatta Yarra Submarines -AE1 and AE2 Amongst the naval personnel participating in the destruction of the enemy's wireless stations was a young midshipman whose name became very familiar to the Navy League of Australia - Victoria Division of which he was a member, CMDR.R.S.(Stan) Veale CMG VRD*** RANR.
1915 - 15th October - Victoria Branch of Navy League formed.
1918 - November - NSW Branch of Navy League formed.
1920 - NSW Branch of Navy League publishes the first issue of the 'The Navy League Journal of NSW' later title 'The Navy' now in its 77th year of pulication.
At the same time they started the first Navy League Sea Cadet Unit in Australia (now known as the Australian Naval Cadets under direct Navy sponsorship from 1972).
1926 - September The former Victorian navy turret ship HMAS Cerberus was scuttled in Port Phillip Bay at Blackrock, to be used as a breakwater. HMAS Cerberus remains there to this day, unfortunately rotting and rusting away.
1932 - Navy League Sea Cadets started in Victoria - Geelong being one of the first few units.
1940 - World War 2. SS Automedon captured by a German suface raider together with the only copy of the Most Secret British War Cabinet minutes that detailed, in 87 paragraphs, the indefensibility of the Far East. The British now fighting the war with Germany, detailed in this document all the weaknesses of the Far East and that they could not supply the promised Far East Fleet for protection. These captured War Cabinet minutes were given to the Japanese in late 1940 and at a time when Churchill was informed by his own intelligence operatives that the Japanese had them. He did not inform the Netherlands Government-in-Exile, Australia, New Zealand or the USA of this intelligence loss. This disaster denied these Governments the opportunity to plan, during 1941, for a better response to an inevitable invasion of the Far East by Japan. This resulted in Pearl Harbour in late 1941 and Australia, Netherlands and New Zealand only having eight short weeks to provide a defence. Result - loss of many Allied armed force personnel and ships, submarines and equipment, Navy, Army and Airforce, with thousands of unnecessary POWs as troops were sent to the indefensible Singapore. Churchil concealed this loss and it was never recorded nor files kept. (Read - Betrayal at Pearl Harbour by Nave and Rusbridger 1991)
1942 September 2nd - HMAS Voyager ran aground at Betano, Timor. HMAS Voyager could not be refloated and was subsequently demolished by her own crew together with assistance from Japanese aircraft. The crew of HMAS Voyager were taken off Timor in the Bathurst class corvette - minesweepers HMAS's Warrnambool and Kalgoorlie and returned to Australia.
1943 The former Japanese motorised sampan Kofuku Maru, renamed Krait, with a mixed crew of service reconnaissance department and ran personnel, participated in an attack on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour, either sinking or severely damaging a total of 7 ships.
1944
A convoy of Japanese transports and escorts which included the Rokuyo Maru with many Australian and British prisoners embarked including survivors from HMAS Perth, was attacked by allied submarines during a voyage from Singapore to Japan. The subsequent sinking of the transports resulted in a heavy loss of the allied prisoners lives. Out of a total of over 2000 prisoners involved only 152 were eventually picked up by the US submarines Queenfish, Sealion, Pampinito, Barb and Growler, some other s were picked by Japanese Naval units and taken to Japan as military slaves and were released after the unconditional surrender of Japan. One survivor from Japan, Harold Ramsay, will publish his book in late 2002 outlining his wartime experiences of fighting the Middle East, returning to Australia, landing in Java, capture by Japanese, transferred to Changi gaol, Burma railway, transported to Japan in merchant ships which were sunk by US submarines which sank the entire Japanese Convoy. Picked up by a Japanese destroyer, a prisoner in Japan, located in third city targeted for the atom bomb, released and nearly crashed in US plane on flying to Philippines on way home. Don't miss the book when it comes out.
1945
On the 2 September 1945 the official document of the unconditional surrender of the Japanese was signed on board the American battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, thus formally ending hostilities with Japan. Australia's naval representatives at the surrender ceremony included Commodore J.A. Collins, together with Rear Admiral G.D.Moore RAN and HMAShips Shropshire, Hobart, Warramunga, Bataan, Napier, Nizam, Ballarat, Ipswich and Cessnock.
1947
Australia suffered her last world war 2 casualty when HMAS Warrnambool was sunk after hitting an Australian laid mine off the Queesnland coast. The Bathurst class minesweeper corvette suffered the loss of 4 of her complement with the remainder of Warrnambool's crew taken off by HMAS Swan.
Frank McCarthy Vice President Navy League of Australia - Victoria Division

NAVY LEAGUE OF AUSTRALIA - Victoria Division
Email: navyleag@netspace.net.au

Address by
Commodore Peter G. Habersberger AM RFD RANR.
to
Commemorative Service at Shrine of Remembrance
St. Kilda Rd., Melbourne
on
RESERVE FORCES DAY
This service was held at the conclusion of the Reservists' march along St Kilda Rd to the Shrine.
Reserve Forces march in all State Capital cities on this day.

Reserve Forces Day is when many Reservists participate in the march and the Commemorative Service. This turn out of past and present soldiers, sailors and airmen, and although we are all only part-time, we are still a very professional group.
Part-time military service has a long and honourable history in Australia. There were militias formed in every colony before Federation, in response to perceived threats from the Russians and the French. The first of these Reservists or part-time soldiers was formed in 1800 when the "Loyal Association" was formed in Sydney and Parramatta. In 1860 Victoria raised the "Melbourne Volunteer Rifle Regiment".
After Federation, schemes for universal military training led to the raising of militia units in many towns all over the country, and military service in their spare time became a reality for most Australian young men. At the time of Federation there were 27,200 members of the militia and only 1,544 permanent members. These same young men, including my grandfather, a gunner who paid the supreme sacrifice at Passchendale, became the core of the First AIF. In 1900, part-time members of the Naval Brigade's of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales sailed to take part in the Boxer rebellion.
The Citizen Airforce was raised in 1925, and 2000 was its 75th anniversary.
Between the Wars the militia was still a strong feature of national life, and when the Second AIF was raised in 1939, many members formed the basis of this force. Within several days of the commencement of the Second World War, HMAS YARRA sailed from Williamstown, and HMAS STUART sailed from Garden Island with crews largely comprising Naval Reservists.
Many Reservists commanded small ships, including CAPT Stan Darling, OBE, DSC with two bars, who commanded a frigate in the Atlantic and sank three U-Boats. LCDR Goldsworthy RANVR was the most highly decorated man in the RAN during World War 2 and for his work in mine clearance, won the George Cross, Distinguished Service Cross and George medal.
On 1 July 1948, following the Second World War, Citizen Military Forces were re-raised and part-time military service again became an integral part of Australia's defence structure. Although needs have changed since then, so has the structure of the force, but the common thread has always remained constant, namely Service. There is no doubt that the Reserves of Army, Navy and Airforce will be playing a greater role in the future in the defence of Australia.
Part-time service has always been seen as a cost effective way of meeting defence needs. However, there are benefits of service to the individual which have always been recognised.
The key elements of Reserve Service are commitment and self sacrifice - commitment to an idea of service and to a practical form of patriotism, but although we undoubtedly gain many personal benefits, as well as experiencing a totally different environment.
In my own case I have been a Reservist for thirty-two years. I initially joined the Royal Australian Naval Reserve at HMAS LONSDALE, closed down in 1992 and now apartments, as I felt strongly about the Vietnam war and wished to go as a medical officer. My brother in law at the time was a navigator in the Navy, so I knew a little about naval service, and most of the medical officers at the Alfred Hospital, where I was on the staff, were members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve at that time.
Unfortunately I never got to Vietnam, but I was posted to East Timor.
In many respects, it is difficult to be a Reservist. For the majority, this is our second job, and often it is a completely different job to that which we do during the rest of the week. It always amazes me that there are so many individuals in this country who are prepared to form the Reserve portion of our Military Services, and if necessary will go and fight for the defence of this country if called upon to do so. To be able to continue to undertake such a task in this dav and age is an incredible challenge.
Military technology has changed enormously, and one of the great challenges to Reservists these days is to obtain the knowledge and expertise to operate sophisticated technological equipment with a minimum of training. In fact, I believe that that is the greatest challenge and difficulty that we have to face, although in my own case, the care of patients is more or less the same for me, in war or peace, most Reservists do not undertake military activities in their peacetime job.
There are other difficulties that face Reservists. Employers are becoming much more demanding on the services of their staff, and although there undoubtedly many employers who encourage and find the advantages in employing Reservists, there is a limit to the degree of cooperation in this cut-throat business world in which we now seem to live.
During the Gulf War when I was recruiting doctors to go and serve in the Gulf, I had many active discussions with their employers, who felt that their need overshadowed the need for doctors on a United Nations deployment. The fact that it was government policy to support United Nations forces in the Gulf, did not seem to cut any ice with many of them. Although we are considered only part-time members of the Australian Defence Forces, regretfully our permanent service colleagues do not always seem to totally accept us.
Rockies, weekend sailors, are terms frequently bandied about, which I find disappointing, as although often made as a bit of a joke, occasionally there is some malice behind them. Perhaps we are not as good as permanent service personnel in the military sense, but we, who come from all walks of life, are the interface between the community, industry and the Australian Defence Forces. This has been recognised as being an invaluable asset to the Defence Forces and the community, and is why government is keen to enlarge the Reserve component of the ADF.
I
encourage Reservists to stick with it, as although there are times when the going seems to be tough, there are other advantages to us all, and we should all be trying to recruit just one person to join the Reserves. If in fact we did so, then we could double the number of, Reservists overnight, which would be a tremendous effort. Some country units of the Army Reserve are being closed down purely because of lack of numbers. This may reflect demographics in country areas, but perhaps really reflects lack of enthusiasm of some of the younger members of our generation.
There were more 600 or so Reservists who served in East Timor, Bougainville and other deployments throughout our troubled world, with some Army Reserve members in the band participating in the Edinburgh Tattoo.
We remember the ultimate sacrifice that many Reservists have made over the years.
The first Australian killed in World War 1 was a Naval Reservist taking part in a landing party to seize German New Guinea in September 1914. In more recent years, units have not seen so much active service, so their sacrifice has not been one of life or limb, but has been, and continues to be, one of personal resources, effort and commitment. These are gifts for which the nation can only benefit, and Australia salutes Reservists and thank tem for their sacrifice and commitment.
Peter Habersberger

NELSON & Trafalgar
Our forebears in England had been at war with France for 12 years from 1793 and when in the aftermath of the French revolution Napoleon became Emperor, the one thing thwarting his ultimate ambition of defeating Britain, was the British Fleet. Spain joined Napoleon in his invasion of Britain. Britain's Naval policy was to bottle up and destroy French ships even if it meant losing many of their own ships.
The French and Spanish policy was to protect their fleets and keep them intact. This resulted in quite different Naval tactics being employed by each side.
VICTORY:
She was the fifth ship of the name. The first dates back to 1680 and was given the name, VICTORY, by Queen Elizabeth. The traditions of the ship are older than any British Regiment, older than any other ship in the British Navy.
Keel laid - 1759 in Chatham Dockyard before the constitution of the United States of America, before Australia was settled by white men, when South Africa was a Dutch possession.
Launched in 1865 and later copper sheathed to add speed to her sailing.
Complement: Over 800 men - 181 were volunteers. It cost nearly 100,000 to build Size 2,000 tons, length 186 feet, 56 feet broad, 102 guns. Nelson repainted Victory Black and yellow with scarlet decks.
"Victory" (in England today) is the last survivor of the wooden ships which won the Empire. She saw thirty-four years of war and of the fourteen Admirals who flew their flag in her were Nelson, St.Vincent, Hood and Keppel.
Horatio Nelson, son of a Norfolk parson in 1758, was one of a family of eleven children. From an early age he was absolutely sure of himself, and his vanity would have spoiled his character had he not been so totally devoted to his duty.
At 19 he was a Lieutenant.
At 21 a Post Captain commanding 20 gun ships.
He became famous in Naval circles as a brave but difficult man who when he chose would disobey orders, but fortunately he was invariably spectacularly successful.
He had a bad patch fighting on shore at Corsica when a shell just missed him but the pebbles it raised blinded him in one eye.
At 39 years of age he was in the fleet that defeated the Spanish at Cape St Vincent when he again disobeyed orders and engaged seven enemy ships one of which was the largest 4 decker ship ever built and he succeeded in boarding and capturing her and, with the aid of other British ships, captured three more. Not censured but congratulated by Admiral Jervis, Nelson was made Kt of the Bath.
Two months later he lost his arm.
1798 August 1st
A year later, Nelson followed and caught the French fleet at Aboukir Bay, off Egypt, destroying 13 of the 17 ships in the Battle of the Nile.
At the Battle of Copenhagen against Napoleon's ally, the Danes when signalled to retreat by his fleet CO he clapped the telescope to his blind eye and said "I really do not see the signal". Finally, sickened by the slaughter of the Danes who had lost 6,000 men compared with 900 British, he called for a truce. Nelson was now made a Viscount and the King of Naples made him Duke of Bronte.
1805 -The uneasy Peace was shattered by another outbreak of war with Napoleon. Two days later Nelson was made Vice Admiral of the Blue, and the British fleet was divided into three sections:
the Rear - under the Blue Admiral;
the Centre - under the Red Admiral and
the Vanguard - under the White Admiral.
Nelson chased French Admiral Villeneuve's fleet to the West Indies and back again thus minimising the damage the French could inflict on British trade. The French and Spanish fleets' 35 sail-of-the-line, eventually rendevouzed in Cadiz harbour. A long wait ensued and Nelson, not well, headed for England for a rest.
Within 4 weeks he was summoned back to duty to take over the fleet command from ADML Collingwood as VADML of the White and with him he brought fleet reinforcements.
Nelson wanted to lure the French out of Cadiz harbour so he positioned his fleet 50 miles away and stationed a chain of fast frigates between him and Cadiz so that he could receive a rapid signal by flag or signal light, ship to ship over the 50 miles when the French and Spanish fleets sailed, which they did - and Nelson pounced and pursued them.
Nelson arrived at Trafalgar to find the wind changeable, (at one stage his ships were reduced to a walking pace), sea rough, visibility down to two hundred yards.
His seamen were drawn from 15 nations besides Britain, and most were press-ganged men. One turned out to be a woman dressed as man, wife of a Maltese seaman.
England's greatest Admiral, one hour before the British Fleet went into action against the combined fleets of France and Spain, went down on his knees in his cabin committing to God this prayer -
"May the Great God, Whom I worship grant my country, and for the benefit of Europe, a great and glorious Victory! And may no misconduct in anyone tarnish it! And may humanity, after victory, be the predominant feature in the British Fleet! For myself individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my country faithfully! To Him I resign myself, and the Just Cause which is entrusted to me to defend! Amen. Amen. Amen!"
"Prepare for Battle" was now Nelson's command as he determined not only to defeat but to annihilate the enemy.
The ships of Nelson's and Collingwood's fleets sailed about 450 yards apart from each other, it was going to be a close packed engagement.
Nelson planned a novel grand mix up, with every ship engaging in battle at the first opportunity, each captain controlling their own individual attack plan.
Lord Nelson's vanguard of ships sailed in and attacked the centre of the French line, ADML Collingwood attacking the rear.
At this point Nelson hoisted the signal "England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty".
The French were acknowledged as being as brave and skilful as the British, but Nelson's men were better drilled, better used to the sea and better gunners.
October 21st. Trafalgar - The battle raged. At the conclusion of which 1,600 British seamen were killed and wounded, the French and Spanish suffering 16,000 casualties. British ship losses were serious but the enemy lost 15 ships, including the two flagships. Nelson, aged 48, fell mortally wounded - one of the 1,600. -
His successful leadership and tactics in attacking the enemy in the Battle of Trafalgar ensured England remained safe from invasion by Napoleon and continued to be able to freely send its sons and daughters and merchandise all over the world.
Three days after the battle the British fleet crawled into Gibraltar. Victory was towed in with the dead Nelson still on Board. He had requested that his body not be thrown overboard as was the custom during battle. Fourteen days later Victory sailed for England with ADML Collingwood accompanying Nelson's body preserved in a cask of spirit.

Nelson's fleet won through because of his -

  • Leadership skills,
  • The love his crews had for him;
  • His different battle strategies - French gunners aimed to destroy mast and rigging; Nelson's gunners aimed to destroy French guns and crews and thus annihilate the enemy permanently; British gunners fired a broadside a minute - the French one every three minutes and Spaniards slower still;
  • Generally British seamanship was superior to that of the enemy;
  • Nelson's battle tactics Kept the enemy guessing.

Back in London his funeral cortege passed before a totally silent population before his burial in St Paul's Cathedral in the unused casket prepared for the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey long long ago. As the coffin was lowered and the Victory's flag interred with him his sailors tore pieces off it thrusting these keepsakes into their clothing, honouring Nelson in a way that he would have approved of.
Toast the memory of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Horatio Nelson, Vice Admiral of the White, Kt of Bath, Duke of Bronte, Victor of Battle of Trafalgar, hero of Britain and the British Navy whose traditions are part of our Naval traditions.
Toast his determination in using his creative energies to ensure that those who waged war to to enslave the minds and bodies of other nations, were unsuccessful.
Toast his courage to be more than he was expected to be, becoming a great changer of the fabric of history, a great naval hero.
Toast Nelson the man who followed in the steps of the Elizabethan heroes at a time when Columbus, Magellan, De Gama had already opened up the world to travel and British sailors like Hawkins, Frobisher and Drake had progressively destroyed or contained the power of the Spaniards.
Toast the Naval Battle of Trafalgar for history states Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo but in fact he was defeated the day the Battle of Trafalgar ended for we still commanded the seas.
Toast the more recent history of the Battles of Jutland, Scapa Flow, Java Sea, Coral Sea, Lingayen and Leyte Gulfs, followed by Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. All fought in the tradition of Trafalgar.
Toast our Navy today - 200 years later, as we all benefit from the many civil liberties passed down to us because of irrevocable changes wrought in the fabric of history by all these naval actions to preserve our rights to live under just laws and order.
Toast the memory of Nelson and the 1600 British sailors who fought and died at Trafalgar and let our compassion also extend to the 16,000 casualties of the misguided Napoleonic French fleet - Lest We Forget - the terrible price of war.

Naval toast for Saturday - "Wives and Sweethearts - may the sweethearts become wives and the wives remain sweethearts"
The old aside "may they never meet" was never meant to be the toast but it caught on and the tradition became a little blurred along with the eyesight as the evening progressed.

CMDR John Wilkins RFD* RANR Ret'd

 

 

 

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