Australian Navy Foundation Day
Forces Day - CDRE Peter Habersberger RANR
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
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.
day 1st March commemorates many significant events in the
history of the Australian Navy:-
March 1901 - Australian
Navy Foundation Day.
March 1904 - Establishment of the Australian Commonwealth
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
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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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
LEAGUE OF AUSTRALIA - Victoria Division
Peter G. Habersberger AM RFD RANR.
Commemorative Service at Shrine of Remembrance
St. Kilda Rd., Melbourne
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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 -
The love his crews had for him;
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;
British seamanship was superior to that of the enemy;
battle tactics Kept the enemy guessing.
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
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
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.
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